Saturday, December 9, 2023

A glimmer of hope for Phikwe as investment trickles in

As the rest of the country grapples with COVID-19 sponsored economic crisis, the Selebi Phikwe town – a pre-pandemic 19 crisis ailing economy has not been spared.

The once copper mining town’s economy has been hit hard by the pandemic while still trying to recover from the closure of the BCL mine which was the backbone of its economy.

In March 2021, Phikwe town mayor – Lucas Modimana said that many businesses have collapsed and had to lay off employees due to the COVID 19 pandemic.

Fast forward to September, Modimana is now happy that despite the economic challenges a number of investors are showing interest in setting up businesses in Phikwe.

Giving a State of the Town address last week at Modimane said some prospective businesses still have interest to operate in the district regardless of challenges in place.

“The Department of Environmental Affairs has reviewed 13 project briefs from different sectors such as chemical, metal, paper, tourism, glazy, textile and food processing. A total of 147 formal licenses and 348 informal licenses have been issued, creating approximately 629 jobs,” he said.

While there were no applications received for tourism related licenses, Modimana said there was substantial increase accrued from tourism training levy for the first quarter of the financial year 2021/ 2022 of P58 810 compared to P14 160 for the previous year during the same quarter. He said this shows that tourism facilities are being utilized in the district although such is not at full capacity. Touching on the informal sector, the Mayor said the Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) continues to administer the Industry Support Facility (ISF) to assist them with grants. He said the funds are important as they ease the impact of the lockdowns and depressed business environment for the informal sector.

Selibe Phikwe suffered a devastating blow after BCL mine which was the backbone of its economy shut down its operations in 2016. The economy was also adversely affected by the current Covid 19 pandemic.

Modimana also said that Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) Company continues to promote economic diversification in the region to resuscitate and diversify the economy. To date, he said the company is involved with 90 companies, an increase from 72 companies in the past. He said these companies have been able to create 2 184 jobs compared to 2 069 from the last quarter. He further said the district is committed to resuscitating the local economy and reducing unemployment. He also said there is potential by the region to increase employment to 7 000 by unlocking potential in some of the business projects.

“We have the Selibe Phikwe Citrus Project. This is a huge investment and job creation vehicle as ultimately the project will create 1000 new direct jobs and up to 1 500 seasonal jobs once operational in the area,” he said.

The mayor said the 18km perimeter fencing of the project has since been completed and 150 hactares has been planted, which comprises of 94 000 of grapefruit. He however said planting was suspended in July 2021 to escape the cold weather and will resume in August 2021. Modimana also revealed that a total of 800 hectares will be planted by end of June 2022 which will mark completion of phase 1 of the project.

“There is also the Oxgen Gas (Pty) Ltd Air Separation Plant which intends to produce 10, 615 tonnes of Oxygen, 3 054 tonnes of Nitrogen and 876 tonnes of Nitrous oxide per annum. A financial agreement valued at P25 881 376.00 was signed with Botswana Development Corporation for construction of warehouses and offices. The promoters are also in talks with with CEDA for funding of the plant, equipment and operations.

Among other important issues he said CEDA continues to make remarkable progress in providing financial and technical support for business development with a view to promote viable and sustainable citizen owned enterprises. Modimana said the Agency has invested a total of P242 million for over 2 589 projects with a total employment of 5 325 in the entire Greater SPEDU region. He explained that the funding has been skewed towards services sector followed by agribusiness and manufacturing sectors.

“CEDA launched the revised guidelines in July 2020 that continue to offer citizens subsidized loans at interest rates below the prevailing bank rates, in particular for priority sectors such as manufacturing, mining, energy, agriculture technology and innovation, creative industry and tourism,” he said.


Read this week's paper