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Refine trade policies to protect local industries

Publishing Date : 22 December, 2014

Author : NGONIDZASHE DZIMIRI

BEMA President Nkosi Mwaba


The Botswana Manufactures and Exporters Association (BEMA) has reiterated the need to refine trade policies in order to cushion and protect local industries from outside competition.


The association says it is not against foreign competition rather it observes that the policies in place somehow do not protect the local manufactures in the awarding of tenders and even the procuring process itself.


“Botswana needs to consider taking a harder stance on the structure of its trade policies in relation to regional trends and recognise that industries amongst regional trade member states have not matured at the same rate,” said Nkosi Mwaba, the BEMA President.


Mwaba said there are instances where some BEMA members have qualified for tenders in South Africa and have lost out on these bids simply because they did not meet the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) requirements.  
Policies similar to BEE in South Africa are inclined towards promoting participation of SA companies and encourage growth of their local industry.  


“The fact that it is almost impossible for a Botswana companies to win tenders in South Africa and yet companies from SA and other countries are find it much easier to enter the Botswana market is concerning to BEMA members.  It highlights an imbalance in our respective trade policies and shows that there is very little reciprocation in enabling free trade,” said Mwaba.


He also noted the internal challenges that are brought about by the country’s own procurement processes; codes and documents within the tendering processes hinder growth of the manufacturing sector.  


“Some of our members who are bona fide, registered and qualified manufacturers lose tenders to traders, agents and fly-by-nights as a result.  This happens despite the fact that certain tenders are reserved for manufacturers or producers,” he said.
  The local manufacturing industry has been grappling with the issue of quality of goods which has to a large extent hindered the goods to penetrate into the global market.


BEMA strongly believes that the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) has to play a more prominent and meaningful role in promoting local beneficiation and industrial growth by addressing current loopholes in the process.
 Mwaba said in attracting Foreign Direct Investment, the government must be conscious that current players in the industry are also potential investors in their own growth and thereby in the growth of the economy.  


“There is extensive effort and expenditure in programmes that attract FDI in the form of new investments.  Our sentiments as BEMA are that existing businesses must be awarded similar effort in order to encourage growth and export development,” he said.  


BEMA says more attention should be given to the industries that are failing and enterprises that are shutting down within Botswana and similarly, make an elevated effort to ensure their survival and competitiveness.
Mwaba added that they believe that Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) is an excellent programme which is a necessary catalyst for the growth of the manufacturing sector in Botswana.  


“With the country’s buying power averaging P20 billion per annum, the efficient implementation and management of such programmes and policies is critical,” he said.


Latest export data show that 90% of the country’s exports are from mining with 80% being diamonds while Copper and Nickel contribute another 10%.  Botswana’s exports for the second quarter of 2014 was just over P66 billion.
“This paints a clear picture of how much work still needs to be done within the local manufacturing industry to enable meaningful diversification through exports,” emphasized Mwaba.  


He said in order to encourage this capability and growth of manufacturing sector , programmes such as EDD and CEE, trade policies and Industrial development legislation must be cohesive, effective and in line with the current state and maturity of the local industry.


Meanwhile the Association has formulated a roadmap that will see the effective implementation of a new direction.  “We have identified key enablers and strategic partners who we will work closely with to share experiences and find mutual ground in building a more robust public private partnership in developing Botswana’s industries’” said Mwaba.


He says he is confident that the efforts from both sides of the table will see local producers and exporters build companies that will bring about a more positive impact on the economy of Botswana.  
 

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