Botswana has started on reforming business environment in order to create conducive investment climate for both foreign and domestic investors.
Already a number of bills regarding business reforms in the country are expected to be brought before the July parliament sitting amongst them is immigration reforms bill.
The country has over the years been criticised for its stiff laws which are considered to be inhibiting the ease of doing business in Botswana.
Despite constantly performing below par over the years as shown by different indicators of doing business, Africa Investment Index 2016 ranked Botswana as the most attractive destination for investments flowing into the African continent.
At the same time, the 2017-2018 Global Competitiveness Report ranks Botswana at number 63 out of 137 countries. Botswana’s competitiveness has slightly improved in the last 3 years from 71 in 2015-2016, to 64 in 2016-2017 and further improved to 63 in 2017-2018.
Business Botswana’s Director of Policy Advocacy, Dichaba Molobe says in September 2015, the Doing Business Reform Roadmap that entailed 45 commitments was launched-which is now Botswana’s top priorities. This is a benchmark of what competitor countries are doing to improve their investment climate.
As a result, the business community has been urged not to lose hope in business reforms as they are at different levels of their implementation.
Molobe says, “Such issues won’t easily go away, but we should keep highlighting them to the policy makers for improvement. Some may look simple in the naked eye but they are not easy to deal. Imminent reforms that are needed are registration of companies online applicable to both local and foreign investors and our expectation is by July 2018 we should have these in our statutory books. These will cut the bureaucracy and help attract foreign direct investment.”
Business Botswana also calls out for an urgent attention to improvement of work and residents permit systems, which he said should be streamlined so that the points based system creates certainty for those who will be renewing or applying for their permits. With these, the business community expects that by end of year or before, business confidence would have ticked up.
Molobe acknowledged the government by so far improving on the public procurement system to reduce the paperwork, where one no longer have to certify the national identity documents when submitting the tender bids; tax clearance certificates no longer have to be submitted at PPADB, as they can now check directly at BURS if one is complying with tax.
Another exciting development he cites is the one stop shop centre which was recently launched by the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre, which he said the feedback given by the business community has been a positive one.
Molobe indicates that, “we are seeing an uptake in business confidence despite the challenges in the business environment. They are beginning to find their way around the challenges they encounter.”
According to the latest Business confidence survey of September 2017, the business confidence is anticipated to rise in the first half of 2018, following a marginal decrease from 48 percent in March 2017 to 46 percent in September 2017.
It is expected that a successful implementation of the Doing Business Reform Roadmap would place Botswana among the best performers in terms of doing business rankings in the world.
For her part, HATAB CEO, Lily Rakorong although she acknowledges the reforms she is worried that it takes time for government to actualize the reforms. “All industries are trendy, we need to be competitive,” she says.
The Specially Elected Member of Parliament (SEMP), Bogolo Kenewendo notes another concern that not all businesses require inspection and trading licenses and is hopeful that this matter will be dealt with and approved in parliament by April.
The former economist from E-consult, expresses that, “Immigration reforms have direct linkages in doing business in Botswana and foreign investors who are also bringing expertise to this country, we need to let our immigration in a more fragmented sphere. If you coming for quality assurance or meeting in Botswana, you should not be asked for permits. There should be free movement for SADC citizens and for countries that have bilateral agreements together.”