BY JOSEPH BALISE
Following the abrupt closure of the Selibe-Phikwe BCL mine, the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) has been exploring several industries that it believes the SPEDU region has a comparative advantage in. To this end, the agency undertook a holistic research to guide and advise potential investors in addition to supporting those already in businesses to help revive the township and preventing it from becoming a ghost town.
Responding to Sunday Standard enquiries on what CEDA is doing to help resuscitate Selibe-Phikwe since the closure of the mine which was the life blood of the township, CEDA acting communications manager Neo Tumelo said his agency has identified investment potential through its holistic research that recognized the areas of fodder production, manufacturing, citrus fruit farming and horticulture as areas that have potential to resuscitate business activity in the township.
According to Tumelo, CEDA has a close working relationship with the Selibe-Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) where potential investors and business people are introduced to the Selibe-Phikwe region by SPEDU, assisted in securing premises, licenses, advised on incentives and any other service that they are able to deliver.
Tumelo emphasized that CEDA has explored several industries that it believes the SPEDU has a comparative advantage in. The goal of the holistic was geared towards guiding and supporting potential investors, supporting those already in businesses and seeking ways of maximizing job creation in the area. The research was wide ranging with particular emphasis on fodder production, manufacturing, citrus fruit farming and horticulture among others.
“The primary objective of CEDA is to facilitate the establishment and growth of citizen-owned businesses throughout the country, as well as across all sectors of the economy. This mandate remains constant in all our branches. In maintaining s presence in Selibe-Phikwe, CEDA is demonstrating its intention to assist Batswana who have been adversely affected by the closure of the BCL mine to start grow their own businesses. It must be pointed out that whilst the closure of the mine had adverse consequences, it did, however, present business opportunities for some retrenched employees and other entrepreneurs; and it is those people that CEDA seeks to assist”, said Tumelo.
He explained further that of particular interest is the latest CEDA offering of Mabogo-Dinku programme that was recently launched. The office of Selibe-Phikwe is one of the lead performers in extending this service to the residents of the SPEDU region. Furthermore, CEDA Selibe-Phikwe has a working relationship with the Selibe-Phikwe Town Council and Bobirwa sub-district council to assist entrepreneurs who have secured government purchase orders or local purchase orders without the need for collateral.
Tumelo added that it must be appreciated that CEDA does not work in isolation but has other stakeholders in the small and medium enterprise development space and key amongst those is Local Enterprises Authority (LEA) whom it partners with in providing business advisory services for the development of both entrepreneurs and their enterprises.
Explaining CEDA’s mandate in terms of tilting the economic landscape in favour of citizen-owned business, Tumelo said given the agency journey as a domestic finance institution (DFI), CEDA seeks to significantly enhance its foot print and brand as a SMME centre of excellence. This is as a result of enhanced maturity and understanding of the DFI sector, with many years’ experience within the Botswana market. Specifically, CEDA considers initiatives that set up a lending environment geared towards financing SMMEs, which where the most impact will be made in terms of job creation and economic growth.
Turning to areas of economic importance and opportunity that investors are implored to tap in, Tumelo explained further that CEDA has also targeted the Chobe region which has to date accessed more than P415.7 million in financing of business projects to help improve the country’s food security status. In evidence of the agency’ concerted efforts in helping to grow the country’s food security, of the more P400 million disbursed to business projects in Chobe, P271.5 million financed agricultural projects.
In Chobe the agency has also financed tourism projects to the tune of P21.2 million particularly that the tourism industry has been identified as an alternative engine of economic growth away from mining especially diamond mining which has sustained the local economy for decades.
Tunmelo explained that CEDA is also monitoring opportunities that will arise through the Pandamatenga Zambezi Integrated Agro-commercial Development especially in the areas of fodder production, dairy farming, vegetable and fruit production, agro processing, increased agricultural production.
In term of public education regarding its operations for easy access to the remote areas, Tumelo said CEDA has mobile offices with the primary purpose of increasing the agency’s brand presence across the country, particularly in places that are far from CEDA branches.
The mobile offices help sensitize and educate potential investors on the agency’s mandate, products and services. The agency also engages with various community leaders that will help in communicating CEDA’s mandate in future as well as assisting communities in understanding how to acquire CEDA funding.
Furthermore, the agency has embarked on a series of entrepreneurship engagement days set to be held across various less urbanized areas throughout the country. The engagements form part of CEDA’s efforts to sensitize the nation at large on CEDA’s products and services, as well as highlight the agency’s contribution to national priorities. The inaugural event was held in Kazungula last month.
The agency also has a show on Duma FM coined “tricks of Trade” which creates a platform for listeners to engage with CEDA on a host of issues every week. Listeners are given the opportunity to listen in on various issues surrounding the particular topic for the day.
Tumelo added that during the course of the year, the agency will continue to increase platforms of public educations to ensure that not Motswana is left out in information dissemination.
On challenges, the acting communications manager said CEDA has faced numerous challenges in delivering on its mandate and the challenges range from the submission of sub-standard business plans thereby leading to longer period of decision making, poor and or absent management by prompters, thereby resulting in poor performance of projects and financial mismanagement by some project owners.
In order to reduce exports of vegetables and edible fruits into the country, CEDA also finances a lot of primary production and intends to skew financing towards agro processing in order to create a market for the primary producers. Experience has shown that the horticultural sector value chain is diverse and can create a lot of opportunities. In order to achieve the above, all that is required if for farmers to cooperate in their cropping plans to avoid flooding and saturating the market with a single product.
“The horticultural sector is an area in which the agency has invested significantly in. Although the sector faces a lot of challenges ranging from the experience of farmers, as well as the ever changing climatic factors, the agency continues to note some growth in the sector. Because the sector requires significant water resources, a majority of the financed businesses are based along the major rivers of Botswana from the Thamalakane in Maun, Shashe and Tati rivers in Francistown area as well as the Motloutse river in the Selibe-Phikwe and Bobonong areas and the Limpopo river in Tuli Block. In a bid to grow the sector further, preparations are at advanced stages to allocate land for agriculture in the area around the recently commissioned Tune River which will also add to the already growing pool of farmers in the sector”, said Tumelo.
The designation of the Tuli block as a Special Economic Zone for horticulture will also go a long way in giving impetus to the growth of the sector as government provides an enabling environment within which the agency can finance the core activities of farming as against the current practice where finance is required for land preparation and related costs according to Tumelo.
He added that the agency’s view is that given the country’s abundant land resources, going forward the horticultural sector will continue to play a pivotal role in guaranteeing food security for the country.
CEDA is also active in financing manufacturing projects as a total of 130 manufacturing to the tune of P46.3 million has to date been financed and in turn created 344 jobs for Batswana. With regards to agro processing, CEDA has a purposeful collaboration with Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board to ensure that local products are increased, so as to empower local entrepreneurs.
Agro-processing is a key component of the country’s economy and is a driving force for many households to pick themselves up from poverty. As a development financier, CEDA’s responsibility is to continually find initiatives to support Batswana across all demographics to play their part in ensuring food security.
In conclusion Tumelo implored CEDA beneficiaries to always take into account that the agency as a revolving financier, it was established by government to provide financial and technical support for business development with a view to promote viable and sustainable citizen owned business enterprises.
Therefore CEDA relies on its customers to ensure that they service their loans and fulfil the agreements that they have entered into with the agency. The fund can only grow and in turn assist others on provision that its customers play their part of fully serving their debt obligations with the agency.