Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) commenced its operations in April 2012 following the merger of the Botswana Export Development and Investment Agency (BEDIA) and the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC).
And for the last 10 years, Olebile says the Centre has performed above the excellence threshold and added that it is a trend they intend to increase upwards. “Export earnings over the last 10 years performed at 97 percent, domestic investment performed at 96 percent and for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) exceeding 100 percent, same as job creation which exceeded 100 percent,” said Olebile during a stakeholder briefing on Tuesday this week.
“The initial launch of our founding strategy was in 2013 and that is the strategy that has carried us until the new strategy which commenced this year.” According to Olebile, over the last decade, BITC presided over the creation of 29126 jobs against a target of 27450. When it comes to export earnings, the centre slightly missed its target of P24.09 billion, recording P23.24 billion instead, whereas domestic investment and expansion amounted to P13.14 billion against a target of P13.72 billion.
Having set a target of P13.09 billion in FDI, BITC surpassed that target to record P15.24 billion. Some of the achievements that Olebile highlighted include being ranked the best performing parastatal for two years running in 2017/2018 and 2018/2019. “This was quite commendable because we were appraised against all other parastatals in the Ministry of Investment Trade and Industry as it is called now.”
One of the key mandates of BITC is to facilitate the setting up of companies here in Botswana and over the last decade, the Centre has facilitated 583 companies from the investment side. “For export side, we can talk about 80 companies, and for companies that are now being facilitated under PushaBw, we can talk about 531 companies,” revealed Olebile. Notable key projects that can be attributed to BITC include Selibe Phikwe Citrus Project and Travelodge in Kasane which the Centre assisted with land allocation.
Even though Olebile presented impressive numbers, it is not a bed of roses for BITC. “Obviously when we operate there will always be challenges and most notably is the declining government subvention, in fact for the next three years, we have been given what is called budget ceiling and it indicates that our funding will be going down by 5 percent year on year until the situation improves.” Other challenges that he highlighted are global geopolitics like the uncertain environment created by developments such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict. “So, these will always have an impact on what we can achieve in the global space and we would be looking with a keen eye at what interventions are brought to the fore,” he noted.
However, the worrying challenge that Olebile noted is the lack of Investment Law in the country, pointing out that they are pushing for its enactment. This type of law will define an investor, stipulate how an investor ought to be facilitated, and set timelines for facilitating an investor. “It’s still a back and forth but we have seen the new appetite by the government to bring this law back to the table so that once it is enacted, it will go a long way in improving our ease of doing business.”
“One of the issues currently that is really giving us trouble is the recent law on property Transfer Duty because it is hindering when investors come from outside. But because of the law that says when somebody acquires land, leases land, or transfers shares to a foreigner, they have to be levied up to 30 percent. It is really chasing away a good number of investors that we are engaging.” Olebile stated that they are engaging the relevant authorities to make sure that appropriate interventions are brought to the fore and hopes those discussions will bear fruits.
Following the lapse of its old strategy, BITC has rolled in a new one this year which runs until 2026. “Some of the strategic themes for our current strategy; we are emphasizing sustainability. We have recently approved through our board what we call property investment strategy. The Act that underpins BITC allows us to develop property, and we see that as an avenue where we can also raise income for the sustenance of strategic activities that we want to drive.” Further, he said they will be actively engaging the government to improve the ease of doing business as they are informed on what interventions need to be brought forward. “We are also going to intervene a lot in automation and digitization.”