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Kazungula bridge behind schedule

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The construction of the multi-million Pula Kazungula Bridge across the Zambezi river that started with the laying of a temporary bridge over three months ago is behind schedule, Business Trends learnt recently. 

Ministry of Transport and Communications’ Permanent Secretary, Neil Fitt said the contractor is behind schedule with only a couple of months. “The site offices, staff houses are behind schedule with three months. However, critical parts are the items of the bridge.

The work on the temporary bridge delayed over the delivery of the cranes to the site. We are expecting another set of equipment to come in soon. There are no additional costs that the government will incur in these delays,” Neil clarified. Although the original site started in the Zambian side over three months ago, the ministry’s most senior technocrat indicated that Botswana site was expected to start this week.

Fitt’s political boss, minister Tshenolo Mabeo told this publication that, “the contractor has since put up a catch up plan to ensure that progress is put back on trail. It shows the contractor will be able to catch-up by June/July 2016. He will be able to reach the target indicated in the original programming.” What is behind schedule, Mabeo said was mainly the construction of the staff houses. The minister said the temporary bridge is to facilitate trade between countries before the construction of the main bridge.

The Kazungula Bridge is aimed at facilitating effective trade between Botswana and other Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries through reduced transit time for freight and passengers. The bridge is being undertaken by Zambia and Botswana with financial assistance from Japan International Co-operation Agency and the African Development Bank.

The contractor, Daewoo Engineering and Construction of South Korea is already on site and has employed about 300 workers from both Zambia and Botswana. The project is expected to take four years to complete. The bridge is being constructed at a cost of about P1,4 billion.

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‘Manufacturing holds key to economic growth’

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Barclays bank’s economist Naledi Madala has urged the country to consider manufacturing, as a key tailwind to drive the economy and reduce inequality.

She was speaking at a gathering organised by the bank which focused on economic outlook for 2019. “We should not make a mistake of leapfrogging without manufacturing,” said Madala, lamenting that the country’s diversification remains a pipeline dream, as the diamond is still the economy’s mainstay. She bemoaned that mining activities in the country could not spring forward diversification, though non-mining GDP has been steady over the years.

“Extractive industries are not good stepping stones for diversification, the sector does not prepare us for the next step,” said Madala at the Barclays’ Economic Outlook Forum Review 2019. The economist further noted that government should confront head-on challenges of productivity and competitiveness to attract the much needed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Though diversification efforts continue to hit a brick wall, Madala said the country should expect increased activities in the mining sector hinged to ramp up in coal production in the year ahead.

She also implored government to consider a welcoming attitude towards foreign investors and generous tax incentives to businesses that set up in the country. Madala is also upbeat that the use of public private partnership model could also help diversify the economy coupled with privitisation. “Privitisation will offer opportunities for growth, through the renewed optimism from government, as business confidence has improved,” said Madala.

She implored the government and the business community to access what is going to drive and hinder growth highlighting that key headwinds to growth are income inequality, diversification challenge and productivity, among others. “The pace of poverty reduction has slowed down, while income inequality goes up,” said Madala

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MINISTER BEWAILS BAD REPAYMENT BY YOUTH

Keikantse Lesemela

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Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tshekedi Khama has told parliament his ministry continues to face challenges on the repayment of Youth Development Fund (YDF) loans.

Recently presenting the budget to Parliament, Khama said this financial year the ministry has received a total of 2582 YDF applications and approved 983of them to the value of P98 million. He said the programme attracts a high level of interest from youth but the ministry is only limited to funding a maximum of 1200 youth projects annually due to budget limitations.

“However the greatest challenge for the Fund is the repayment of the loan component by the majority of the youth businesses. The youth have advanced number of challenges for this including high rentals for operating spaces, low market access owing to tight competition and limited production capacities,” said Tshekedi, adding that they continue to pursue beneficiaries to repay the loans.

Out of the 919 businesses funded 1058 jobs have been created. The minister highlighted that disbursements of funds will continue to be undertaken until the end of the financial year. “The YDF is currently under review in line with the pronouncement made by the President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi in the State of the Nation Address, to improve beneficiaries through training, and encourage consortia and cooperatives,” said Tshekedi.

The ministry assists YDF beneficiaries in marketing their products and services through fairs and exhibitions. The ministry also runs entrepreneurship-training seminars for youth and in the past year 3692 young people were trained. Over 600 youth businesses attended fairs and exhibitions to market their products and services. Currently the ministry is collaborating with Local Enterprise Authority (LEA), First National Bank Botswana and Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) on training in entrepreneurship development and mentorship of YDF beneficiaries.

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