A coordinated and rigorous plan of action between Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA) and Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) could compliment Botswana’s efforts to secure high value export markets by exposing manufacturers, exporters and service providers to trade and export opportunities.
A joint and symbiotic working relationship between the two organisations will ensure that BEMA members receive targeted and appropriate interventions aimed at developing and improving their capacity to satisfy the export market.
While BEMA and BITC have a long standing formal agreement in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), there are certain loose ends that deprive the two export promotion and development institutions of a chance to derive maximum value by actualizing and increasing export ties for local companies. The first issue that should be addressed is whether it is necessary for a company to be affiliated to both BEMA and BITC. This is important because companies have to decide whether it is profitable to have joint affiliation or whether benefits of affiliation are duplicated.
Responding to Sunday Standard questions regarding the MoU between BEMA and BITC, Corporate Communications Director at BITC Kutlo Moagi said the two institutions enjoy a strong working relationship.
“BITC is currently reviewing the existing MoU with BEMA with a view to intensifying actualisation of export deliverables within the collaborative arrangement that the two organisations have had for many years. The revamped MoU will facilitate standardized processes, policies and procedures for use by clients to and from both BEMA and BITC,” she said.
She added that the exercise will, through BITC’s export development programme, enhance skills and provide mentorship for BEMA members. On its website, BITC provides useful contacts of local organizations and institutions such as Bank of Botswana and Statistics Botswana, which can assist local manufacturers and exporters in identifying new markets and breaking new ground.
However, BEMA does not appear on the list of contacts, which suggests that the MoU has not necessarily harnessed closer working relations with BITC. Both institutions have a database of companies that are affiliated to them, but very few companies appear in both lists. While both institutions offer services on export development and promotion for affiliated companies, their sharply defined structural differences fail to convince a company to seek joint affiliation.
BEMA uses membership subscriptions to empower members with trade skills that will enable them to penetrate export markets. BITC on the other hand is an investment promotion and attraction agency, which offers export development and promotion services to local companies. For companies to qualify for BITC assistance they must have a minimum annual turnover of P500, 000 and demonstrate solid dedication to exploiting export markets. On the level and frequency of engagement between the two organisations, Moagi said BITC relies on BEMA to drive its programmes through its database of member companies in the trade and export sector.
“It is on this basis that BEMA is always invited to our exporter engagement activities, meetings and conferences. These include the Exporters’ Retreats, where BEMA normally demonstrates products like the e-market platform to exporters, and also assist BITC in capacitating manufacturers,” she said.
She further revealed that BITC is working on establishing the Botswana Trade Portal, a web based platform that will track and avail data on imports, exports and cross border product transit for use by exporters and importers.
“BEMA was roped in to provide insight on development of the trade portal,” she said.
Concerted efforts towards aligning BEMA and BITC operations are imperative in the face of a tough operating environment in which the manufacturing sector has been operating in recent times. The threat of job losses, especially in the manufacturing sector could be diluted if both BITC and BEMA rigorously improve the business environment and cultivate opportunities for export.