Venture Partners Botswana, one of the country’s fledgling companies, has signed onto a money spinning tobacco project, under the flagship Benson Graig, whose products are targeted to the regional markets.
Antony Siwawa, the Chief Executive Officer of Venture Partners Botswana, a company which has committed P 390 million in 18 projects, told The Sunday Standard that they had invested in a tobacco manufacturing company operating from Gaborone.
“This company will produce new brands (of cigarettes) which are relatively established in southern Africa,” he said.
The tobacco industry is one of the world’s most profitable industries worth hundreds of billions of US dollars per annum. The move by Venture Partners Botswana to invest in the industry comes at a time when there is a monthly demand gap of about 1 billion cigarettes in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) alone.
The plant, located in Gaborone West Industrial, currently produces three brands, namely: Life, Tshaka and Shasha. The three products, which are already available in Botswana, are expected to hit the Angolan and South African markets by next month.
Tobacco is imported from Zimbabwe and is processed and rolled into cigarettes in Gaborone.
“Tshaka and Shasha are definitely for export to Angola and South Africa. And exports will start in October,” said Siwawa. “I think there is a unique opportunity in the region because there is a demand gap of 1 billion per month in the SADC region.”
Siwawa added that they had already developed relations with distributors and suppliers who have been long established in the region.
He said the advent of the plant would assist the country in import substitution, which is already costing this country millions of pula and, at the same time, work towards correcting trade imbalances with major trading partners of Botswana.
“This will work towards import substitution and we also see a huge opportunity to export into the region. We want to be producers of the niche market in the region,” he said.
However, at the current rate of production of 10 million cigarettes, the plant is not expected to make a huge dent in the demand gap across the SADC region. The plant has brought in a number of skilled technicians from Europe and Zimbabwe as part of skills’ transfer.
Some of the 80 Batswana employees are currently in Europe for training.