The Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) is seizing the mandate to transform Botswana’s middle-income economy to a high-income status by setting up industries that will attract foreign direct investment to designated zones towards growing the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
According to the organisation’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Lonely Mogara, eight special economic zones have been demarcated and are mostly at master planning level, ready to propel Botswana to a capacity to produce for the global market.
Mogara was speaking in a televised media address earlier this week on the parastatal’s role and progress in its economic transformation agenda. “We are looking for companies that will catalyse policy development,” he said. “And they should invest in the most depressed areas (of the economy).”
The zones are Sir Seretse Khama International Airport and Fairgrounds in Gaborone, Pandamatenga, Palapye, Lobatse, the Tuli Block, Francistown and Selibe-Phikwe. It is envisaged that directed investment will help diversify the economy and set Botswana apart as a leading exporter to the SADC region and beyond.
“We will assess investors to measure their capabilities,” Moraga said.
By demarcating these zones, Botswana aspires to create a one-stop-service centre for seamless processing of work and residence permits for investors directed to set up in the SEZs where they will benefit from several incentives, including tax holidays for multinational corporations (MNCs).
Speaking with admirable gumption, Moraga said things are falling into place at SEZA because the organisation is working closely with Business Botswana and Government Enclave is fully behind the programme of economic transformation, which mainly defines SEZA’s mandate. “With all the support we are getting, we will be able to help Botswana become a high-income country,” he said.
Neo Mahube, SEZA’s Director – Investor Facilitation said successfully luring foreign investors to the special zones is also aimed at growing the private sector. She noted that efforts to transform the economy took centre stage after SEZA was established by an Act of Parliament in 2015 and began operations in 2018.
Other SEZA managers explained that a study conducted in 2015 showed that FDI and local investment had gone down due to bureaucracy, hence a need to jack up the ease of doing business and facilitate processes for multinationals with investment ambitions.
However, they noted that foreign investors will be required to work with local companies in business linkages. To that end, investors will be compelled to identify Batswana within their value chain.
A special economic zone is an area in a geographic location within a country set aside for purposes of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). The model first emerged in Ireland in the 1950s and was subsequently adopted by Latin American and Asian countries.
It is hailed for China’s economic reform which experts argue would not have been possible without its special economic zones.
Botswana aims to become a lead player in the fields of agriculture, financial services, manufacturing, diamond beneficiation and knowledge by means of this model, in the process achieving a healthier balance of trade and reducing its hefty import bill, especially for consumables.