Botswana Industry Spotlight
An overview of Botswana’s industries and the state of the financial sector as it pursues continued economic growth
Author: Ed Budds | Project manager: Krisha Canlas
Botswana as a nation remains one of the least populated countries in the world, with approximately 12% of its population living in the capital and largest city, Gaborone.
Once one of the poorest countries in the world, Botswana has been busy transforming itself into an upper-middle-income nation, with one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
With an ambitious government mandate encompassing everything from investment promotion and attraction, export promotion and development, and national brand management, Botswana is making commendable progress towards realizing these aspirations.
Botswana has enjoyed one of the longest economic booms in the world, with the country’s economic growth since the late 1960s remaining on par with some of Asia’s largest economies. The government has consistently maintained budget surpluses and accumulated large foreign exchange reserves. This impressive economic record compared to some of its neighbours, has been steadily built on a foundation of diamond mining, prudent fiscal policies and a cautious foreign policy. Botswana’s economy is heavily dependent on diamond mining, which contributes around 50% of government revenue. It is also ranked as the least corrupt country in Africa according to the Corruption Perceptions Index by the international corruption watchdog, Transparency International.
Interview: Botswana Investment and Trade Center (BITC)
Keletsositse Olebile, CEO of BITC, talks to us about the current challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the difficulty of the global recession
The Botswana Investment and Trade Center (BITC) is at the forefront of transforming Botswana into a globally recognized trade and investment destination.
Through its pivotal role within Botswana’s economy, BITC encourages domestic investment and expansion, promotes locally produced products in regional and international markets, contributes to improving the investment climate through advocacy policy, increases citizens’ participation in the economy and creates sustainable employment opportunities.
Dedication to proactive and ongoing collaboration with key stakeholders is at the forefront of BITC’s strategy. This includes a partnership with Botswana’s Foreign Missions Abroad, which has significantly expanded Botswana’s footprint in international markets and provides a platform through which businesses, beneficial partnerships and industry associations can be identified. by providing an information exchange point for international and domestic investors.
We evoke the origins of the company since its creation in 2011, its evolution and its progress. Keletsositse Olebile, CEO of BITC, talks to us about the current challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the impact of the global recession on the organization’s mandate. It also details the company’s development plans over the next five years. Olebile strongly believes that Botswana has great potential to establish itself as the economic hub of Africa, which requires the nation to be innovative, nimble and visionary.
Africa Outlook (AO): Can you tell us about the origins of BITC, where it came from and its initial vision?
Keletsositse Olebile, CEO (KO): BITC was established by an Act of Parliament in 2011/12 through the merger of two entities: the Botswana Export and Investment Development Authority (BEDIA) and the International Financial Services Center (IFSC). This organization was created with the mandate to promote local and foreign investment, encourage and facilitate the development of exports and promote the national brand.
AO: Since its inception, how has BITC grown and progressed in relation to its key objectives and the messages it tries to convey?
KO: BITC began operations in April 2012 and over the years, BITC has focused on growing domestic and foreign direct investment through a targeted approach, developing industry value propositions to sell investment opportunities in priority sectors of Botswana. BITC has also developed a market strategy that informs our approach to investment promotion missions, for example choosing which markets, sectors and companies to target. BITC has also established its presence in some of the world’s key markets; with offices in South Africa targeting the wider African region, India targeting the Asia-Pacific region and the UK targeting Europe. This aims to increase our global footprint to raise awareness of Botswana, opportunities and offers.
Due to the advent of COVID-19, BITC has prioritized domestic investments by developing a strategy to stimulate economic activity from local investors (start-ups and expansions). The primary objective of the organization was to provide market intelligence to empower Batswana and domestic investors with factual information to help them make investment decisions. Partnerships with local authorities have been established and strengthened to enhance local business expansion through investment facilitation services. BITC has successfully leveraged the opportunity presented by the ongoing Expo 2020 Dubai, to take the lead in securing the country’s positioning globally and promoting Botswana’s compelling value proposition.
Trade promotion and development
Our goal is to align with the government’s goal of transforming Botswana into an export-led economy. BITC’s main initiatives involve the development of an exporter development program aimed at building the capacity of local businesses for export readiness. BITC also facilitates access to export markets through targeted export promotion missions and the management of the Botswana Trade Portal. BITC invests in global research and market intelligence to inform government priorities and guide our strategic direction and identification of investment and export opportunities.
National brand awareness and management
To build a strong national brand, BITC has intensified its efforts towards global awareness by taking a holistic view of Botswana through a three-part approach; live, work and invest in Botswana. Key initiatives include active participation of global citizens where Batswana in the diaspora engage in promoting awareness of Botswana wherever they are. Nation Branding is also at the heart of all investment promotion missions. The ongoing PUSHA BW campaign is another effort to create a strong national image and promote awareness and trust in local products and services.
In order to create a conducive investment environment, BITC has established the Botswana One-Stop Service Center to assist new and existing investors to enable them to easily obtain different government clearances and approvals. The BITC Aftercare and Advocacy program aims to increase the contribution of the private sector to government decision-making on the conduct of business in Botswana.
BITC’s key message is to make Botswana the most attractive destination for foreign direct investment, trade and tourism. Further, to transition Botswana from a middle income country to an upper middle income country by 2036, in line with the National Vision 2036.
AO: What excites you most about working in Botswana’s industrial sector?
KO: Firstly, BITC is key to driving Botswana’s economic development agenda, and an even more exciting prospect is BITC’s tripartite mandate of investment promotion, trade development, promotion and national branding. Botswana has great potential to establish itself as the economic hub of Africa.
AO: On the other hand, what are his biggest challenges?
KO: In terms of challenges, BITC is entirely dependent on the government grant for the implementation of its strategy, which continues to be reduced in relation to the growing expectations of stakeholders on the organization to fulfill its mandate. Other challenges relate to the ever-increasing needs of investors, as well as global competition for FDI and export markets.
Additionally, we face an uncertain operating environment (pandemic outbreaks, global economic downturns, climate change, etc.).
AO: How have local industries handled the COVID-19 pandemic?
KO: The government’s COVID-19 relief measures have included the adoption of e-commerce for the sale and marketing of their products and services. The implementation of the transformation and economic recovery plan is underway and the private sector has also reoriented its product range in response to the pandemic.
AO: How do you see BITC evolving over the next five years?
KO: First, by becoming APEX’s investment and trade promotion agency in Africa. As well:
– Leading Botswana’s transformation journey towards an export-driven, knowledge-based economy.
– Form collaborations and partnerships with strategic partners of the ongoing Dubai Expo 2020.
– Decreased use of government subversion.
– Innovate to attract investment and facilitate exports.
– Maintain our status as a performing institution.
AO: What trends are currently transforming the sector? How do you respond to them?
KO: Some recent trends that continue to transform the sector include the introduction of the African Continental Free Trade Area, as well as the general global economic recovery.
Another influence on this transformation is the government reset program.
Our response includes developing a strategy to leverage the ongoing Expo Dubai 2020 (return on investment will be tracked over a five-year period). We also plan to implement a mid-term review of our strategy, to inform our strategic direction, the continued implementation of the domestic investment strategy and we are also currently developing the national brand strategy of the Botswana. This is accompanied by continued alignment with national priorities such as: ERTP, National Transformation Plan and National Reset Program.