Trade protectionism which is the economic policy of restricting imports from other countries through methods such as tariffs on imported goods, import quotas, and a variety of other government regulations has been mentioned by panelists at the ongoing Botswana –South Africa Business Forum as a double-edged sword which can do both good and harm.
Gorata Lekau, Country Manager, Woolworths Botswana who was participating in a sectorial roundtable session discussing the Supply Development Program in the Retail Industry of both South Africa and Botswana highlighted that while import restrictions allows the local producer to grow and gives the country an opportunity to export, they can also be exceedingly detrimental to businesses.
“Consultation with key stakeholders before applying border restrictions is crucial to ensure that there is availability of produce before closing borders as well as to establish if farmers can indeed supply retailers with the quality produce that the retailer is looking for. The important question to ask is while the local supplier is still perfecting his or her trade, what is the retailer selling in the meantime. Restrictions cause a disruption in the supply chain and ultimately a lack of choice for the consumer which can lead to losses for the retailer,” Lekau said. Lekau who was speaking on the effects of the horticultural ban on retailers also called for cooperation between retailers and local suppliers in order to ensure that capacity matches quality and demand.
Agriculture- Sector Chair at Business Botswana, Gaothobogwe Radikwata, told forum delegates that while they face many challenges key among those being market access and financing, local horticulture farmers have the capacity to produce for local consumption and export. She further stated that there were areas like agro-processing, which can be an area of collaboration between South Africa and Botswana and highlighted the need for benchmarking by Batswana producers from their South African counterparts given the experience they possess.
Earlier when opening the business forum, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, Naledi Pandor had highlighted that both Botswana and South Africa can benefit from an agricultural exchange. “Botswana has abundant fertile land, yet it imports a lot of the food it consumes. This is a trend across much of the continent which we can work together to address so that we can produce more of what we require without importing from beyond our shores. Through economic discussions, we could further investigate the production of animal feed, fruit processing, as well as vegetable and fertilizer production,” she stated.
The business forum facilitated by Botswana Investment and Trade Center (BITC) together with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) of the Republic of South Africa allowed for intimate engagements between businesses of both countries. It focused on key sectors namely Agriculture, Mining and Mineral Beneficiation, Light Industry and Automotive Component Manufacturing.