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Home » News » Business » Experts lecture Botswana on FDI

Experts lecture Botswana on FDI

Publishing Date : 06 November, 2017

Author : REARABILWE RAMAPHANE

National mindset change has been touted as an important factor in Botswana’s journey to realizing its dream of being an investor friendly destination of choice.


This came to light at the 5th Botswana Investment & Trade Conference held in the sidelines of the 2017 Global Expo in Gaborone on Tuesday where international experts, academics and experienced business people in the area of trade, finance, economic and investment shared their thoughts and expertise on Botswana’s current Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) attraction agenda and action plan, challenges and mitigation thereof.


Leading the plenary session titled “What paradigm shift is needed in order to position Botswana as a destination of Choice for FDI?” renowned international investment specialist & Managing Director of Quantum Global Research Lab, Switzerland Professor Mthuli Ncube said Botswana’s ranking in the African Investment Index is attractive to investors until they come to Botswana and get pushed away by a number of issues in the local business environment.


He said Botswana needed to package itself as a Southern African Investment Hub arguing that a country cannot remain a middle income state for decades whereas  it has one of the best coal deposits in the world, has livestock population more than that of  human population, stable political conditions and low interest rates as well as low exchange rate risks. Ncube said these factors and many others that distinguish Botswana from other African continents were more than enough to position Botswana as the best FDI destination globally.


Botswana has over 200 billion tonnes of coal deposits reserves. The former Investec Botswana Chief Executive Officer said Botswana must invest in its Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) capacity to have a readymade and easily interpreted framework on the concept of PPPs. He asserted that progressing middle income countries like Chile, Taiwan have explored the PPPs as an investment mechanism and it bore fruits.


Ncube further grilled Botswana on lack of skilled personnel for industrial investment undertakings like manufacturing, packaging and agro processing. “If an investor comes here and finds no job ready labour, looks next door in Namibia and finds the former they will take their money to the latter,” he said underscoring that Botswana needed to invest in rigorous skills development if it is to attract foreign investors.


“Government needs to take deliberate actions in resourcing and equipping the vocational & technical institutions, you cannot continue investing money in academic institutions that produce graduates that are unskilled and not job ready,” he said. He highlighted that progressive economies have invested billions in human capital and are training their young citizens to acquire trades and vocational technical knowhow not degrees and theoretical certificates.


He further wondered why Botswana, a country with over 3 million cattle and over 30 years multibillion pula beef industry continues to be behind countries like Ethiopia, Brazil and Namibia in the area of diversified livestock and beef industry value chains. “Why is Botswana lacking behind in exploring the leather business even up to date after so many years?” Why is Botswana not using this natural advantage?’’ he asked. According to the shrewd and learned investment expert Botswana has various initiatives at its disposal, such as the AGOA and USAID of which other African countries were already by far making use of.


He commented on the ease of doing business in Botswana saying there was still a lot more that needed to be done. “Together with neighbouring countries Botswana needs to look further into the issues of inter-border trade and advocate for one stop border as it actually reduces time and makes business easy.”


Botswana was also advised not to abandon the services sector, as a peaceful and political stable country the expert asserted that apart from wildlife and environmental events tourism, Botswana could look into the area of education and Health tourism to attract investors. He cited advanced economies like Dubai, noting that getting into private public partnerships to develop world-class health facilities and academic institutions can actually lead to an economic revolution.


Consulting Director, Public Sector & Government Consulting, at Frost & Sullivan (Singapore), Abhinnet Kaul observed that generally a mindset paradigm shift was pivotal. He shared the experience of Asian tigers observing that the major change in the quest to attract foreign investors was change of mindset by natives and the citizenry “everyone has to be at the party and actually understand what is at stake and actually move with the national course,’’ said Kaul.


He highlighted issues such as lifestyle and safety saying investors can be so fragile that they can look elsewhere when  they find the way of life of  people in one country so different to their own lifestyle urging that Batswana‘s lifestyle needed to be accommodative. “The issue of mindset paradigm shift speaks to changes such as the local citizenry knowing how to relate with investors in a business cultivating manner, some investors I consult would tell me how they can’t put their money in a certain country because the people are lazy thinkers and are not entrepreneurial and business spirited, so we need to make sure this culture of foreign investors attraction is also cultivated amongst the general population,” Kaul explained.


Mr Xavier Furtado, Country Representative of the World Bank Group warned about the wealth and income equality that continues to rise. He observed that as per what happens in other countries especially in Africa when the gap between the rich and the poor widens poses risks of waking up to political instabilities and civil unrests. Furtado asserted that around 30 % of Botswana population had no access to business, wealth cultivation and income generating opportunities, saying that for a population of 2 million people -that was a worrying figure.  He said Botswana needed to look with utmost caution the area of education because their research indicated that Botswana was not getting return of investment from billion of pulas pumped into the education sector.


Another renowned pan African investment expert Gift Simwaka, former regional manager for Southern Africa at the African Export Import Bank, now Regional Manager Client Relations with Afrexim Bank in Egypt said that Botswana was a case study for African economic revolution. He noted that despite the demographic variable of being a small population, Botswana was well positioned in the SACU free trade region, housing SADC headquarters and being stable like other speakers asserted, needed to use these advantages to look beyond its borders for market. He underscored that Botswana needed to identify sectors that it had competitive advantage on and run with those for rigorous economic transformation.


Meanwhile, Botswana’s very own shrewd business revolutionary, and one of the most celebrated young executives Bashi Gaetsaloe, Managing Director of Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) highlighted that Botswana needed to use its attributes for investment attraction. He said the fact that Botswana was a small country can be viewed from an angle of saying Botswana was small enough to do everything effectively and easily. “We need to package ourselves as manageable to attract investors and actually walk the talk’’.


The government investment and industrialization arm boss also shared that Botswana can transform Gaborone into Africa‘s first green city. “We need to take deliberate actions in order to actually distinguish us from other attractive investment destination like Kenya, Rwanda and Namibia, why can’t we have free broadband internet for everyone, why can’t we have free visa for every genuine investor at airport entrance?”

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