“We are committed to a modern Botswana that is not only open to but is also able to compete with the rest of the world” – H.E. Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana
In less than four decades after its independence, Botswana has quickly climbed the ranks from a poor country to an upper middle-income country, proving to be a development success. Setting out a compelling vision for the nation, the government has now introduced Vision 2036, placing strategies to take Botswana even further from an upper middle-income country to a high-income country. “Our National Vision 2036 is anchored on four pillars of sustainability–economic development, human and social development, sustainable environment and governance, and peace and security,” says His Excellency Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, President of Botswana. “If you look at the Standards and Poor rating, I think the short-term rating is A2 and the long-term investment is triple B plus. Botswana has been growing for about 5% per annum over the last 30 years and the employment market has grown by about 10% over the last 30 years,” says Reinette Van der Merwe, CEO of First Capital Bank.
Botswana’s rich mineral resources are often credited for its strong economic performance, with 80% of export earnings coming from diamond mining. “Botswana is significantly endowed with mineral wealth, whether you’re talking about base metals like nickel or copper, precious metals, coal, not just thermal coal, but also metallurgical coal, which is used in steel making,” notes Matome Tsholetsa Malema, CEO of Minerals Development Company Botswana. The nation has been working on a project that aims at establishing a mineral exploration fund to drive more benefits from mining.
Botswana has made use of its wealth to build a robust social welfare system in the country, providing free education to its citizens and availing reliable health care. The mere existence of diamonds, however, is not the secret to Botswana’s miraculous growth. Oduetse Motshidisi, CEO of Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority says the role of Botswana’s institutions made the definitive difference in the country’s success. “Our institutional strength and legitimacy assures that there is proper governance, rule of law and most importantly, stops corruption and other activities that are harmful. The institutional structure and the resilience of those institutions and their ability to withstand challenges and threats makes a great difference,” he says.
Apart from mining, Botswana also relies on tourism and agriculture. Combining a land of rugged and untamed beauty, pristine landscapes, spectacular wildlife and river deltas, the country is truly a place of enchantment. “We have a strong heritage and culture, not just heritage sites to visit. We have a culture that is inclusive and convenient for investors and tourism. We have a history of prudent management of our natural resources,” says Hon. Philda Kereng, Minister of the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism. In terms of the agriculture sector, the government has introduced different programs that are geared at supporting people cultivate their land and promote food security. “Early this year, we imposed a two-year import ban on horticultural products. Now tomatoes, ginger, garlic, potatoes are locally produced and it is encouraging how people have responded to the ban,” states Fidelis Molao, Minister of Minister of Agriculture, Development and Food Security. “The agricultural sector currently contributes 2% to the GDP. The sector is undergoing transformation and there are a lot of opportunities. We are targeting communities who seem to be low on the economic ladder because agriculture is a major employer for these groups of people,” mentions Professor Julius R. Atlhopheng, CEO of National Agricultural Research and Development Institute.
Botswana has a business landscape that is remarkably friendly. The government has been providing incentives for investors with a focus on the export sector. “We allow investors a 99-years land lease. We also allow investors to continuously train their teams with a training rebate of 200%. Any raw materials or machineries we need to start businesses are imported duty free,” notes Lonely Mogara, CEO of Special Economic Zones Authority.
“We’ve run prudent macroeconomic policies over the years such that we can run deficits that are sustainable in the medium to long term. We have been able to build a buffer of foreign exchange reserves,” says Andrew Maatla Motsom, Managing Director of Debswana Diamond Company, explaining that the government is committed to building a knowledge economy, providing opportunities for investment in digitalization.
Digitalization expanded significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic with the government functioning online, and the education sector delivering much of the curricula and teaching through digital technologies.
“We are working very hard to bring down the cost of data in this country. We are now second after Morocco in terms of reaching the target for 2% of gross national income,” says Hon. Thulagano M. Segokgo, Minister of Minister of Communications, Knowledge and Technology. This successful practice in digitalization has expanded to the investment sector. “We have set up an online business registration system, which is linked to people’s IDs. We have also ratified the Trade and Industrial Development Act, which established the One Stop Service Centre for all investment authorisations. We’re granting permanent residence to investors who have value. We have decentralised the visa issuance to our embassies across the world, so they can do it instead of us,” states Hon. Mmusi Kgafela, Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry.
Botswana holds access to international markets through the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the EU and SADC economic partnership agreements and the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. This is one of the many appealing elements of Botswana as a business destination for foreign investors. “As a foreign company, we have easy access to our funds with no restrictions, and the government is the least corrupt government in Africa. The government facilitates everything and things get done in the right manner. We pay our investors dividends with no issues,” says Naseem Lahri, Managing Director of Lucara Diamond. “We have a very good system and structure in place. Everything works in this country. The laws and the systems are much more business friendly in the region,” adds Ramachandran Ottapathu, CEO of Choppies.