A new broom sweeps clean: Can BITC’s Olebile turn into that broom?

20 Aug 2018

Through most of the last several years, there has been one near certainty in Botswana whenever key national economic indicators stats are shared. It was this – Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) eludes Botswana. Throughout the same years, the country continued to wobble in attracting Foreign Direct Investment despite is international good ratings. Even “good governance” that Botswana is known of has not been of much help.  

For some time, Botswana has concentrated so much on the pillars of FDI, but economic indicators such as the level of employment attest to the fact that a few investors have been lured into the country. The private sector mouth piece, previously BOCCIM, now Business Botswana has in the past called on the government to consider marketing Botswana not alone but rather at regional level.

This was after the realisation that Botswana has done much in pursuing its own strategies and assembling its own baskets of incentives to attract new investments, however, not much FDI inflow has been realised to date.

Available figures show that the country’s FDI decreased to P965 Million in the first quarter of 2015 from P1860.92 Million in the fourth quarter of 2014. Other historical figures shows that FDI in Botswana averaged P906.86 Million from 2007 until 2015, reaching an all time high of P3368.73 Million in the second quarter of 2011 and a record low of P-23.27 Million in the first quarter of 2012.

At a recent media gathering in the capital Gaborone, Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) new Chief Executive Officer - Keletsositse Olebile told journalists that his entity attracted Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) amounting to P6.2 billion while Domestic Investment (DI) was at P5.9 billion from 2013 to 2017.

The state owned entity, BITC has been positioned as a robust organisation, taking a different form after the merger of Botswana International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) and the Botswana Export Development and Investment Authority (BEDIA) more than five years. So far BITC has had just one founding Chief Executive – Letsebe Sejoe who was shown the door in March 2017 and replaced with Meshack Tshekedi on acting capacity.

Olebile, the new broom that is expected to sweep clean at the CBD headquartered agency was confirmed to his position in July 2018.

This week he rolled the ball by presenting BITC’s five year strategic plan that seeks to attract atleast P8 billion worth of FDI, P7 billion of Domestic Investment (DI) as well as creation of the much needed jobs for the domestic economy.

“We want to secure full implementation of Doing Business Reforms and also establishing a greater market share for Botswana products internationally. There is need for continuous, effective monitoring and evaluation,” Olebile told journalists.

Quizzed on the Botswana’s performance in comparison with her peers across the continent in terms of FDI attraction, Olebile admitted that Botswana is still not yet in the top five best performing countries adding that one of the factors is the size of the market compared countries such as Angola, Mozambique and Egypt.

The new broom says BITC has an ongoing exercise that entails the alignment of its operations to the national plans and strategic priorities. In the past, BITC, as noted in an internal report compiled by the agency and Investec Botswana – and seen by this publication detailed how the highest office in the land – the office of the President (OP) has been a stumbling block in the progress of investment in the country.

Amongst its findings, the confidential report, which was presented to the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI) in October 2017, was that OP has not helped the country’s efforts to lure foreign investors into the country. The report accused the highest office in the land as the lead singer in a chorus of contributing factors as well as “bureaucratic tendencies” which has since led to Botswana losing competitive edge over its peers in attracting investors. As a result, a recommendation was also made at the time to the effect that the government should afford BITC powers to issue most investor requirements onsite. As part of administrative interventions needed, the report did not shy away from stating the need to position and empower BITC as a true one stop shop. As an integrated investment promotion authority (IPA), BITC serves as a focal point for investment promotion, export development and nation branding.

With a fresh strategic plan now on top of his desk, it is yet to be seen whether the Olebile as the new BITC broom will sweep better than his predecessors. Olebile has been on the agency’s payroll for some time now and possibly knows his ways about.

[WHAT IT MEANS: Botswana continues to wobble in attracting Foreign Direct Investment despite good international ratings]

 

[BITC Timeline]

2013: BITC founded

2013: Letsebe Sejoe appointed BITC founding CEO after the BEDIA/IFSC measure

March 2017: Meshack Tshekedi appointed Acting CEO

July 2018: Keletsositse Olebile announced as new substantive CEO