With as many zeros as it has, P50 million sounds like a lot of money but Business Botswana would like to see the Citizen Entrepreneurship Development Agency (CEDA) to double that amount if its revised guidelines are to have the desired economic impact.With COVID-19 having had a debilitating effect on the national economy, the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry has recalibrated CEDA guidelines as one of the counter-measures to stimulate the economy.
The revised guidelines set a ceiling of P50 million for proposed large-scale projects. First stating that the guidelines come at the right time and dovetail with the current economic recovery plan for the post-pandemic era, Business Botswana’s spokesperson, Patience Lebotse, then expresses one misgiving.“The only issue is the ceiling of P50 million,” says Lebotse whose position is Public Affairs, Marketing and Communications Officer. “It should be increased to P100 million, with a 10 percent contribution. That will enable Batswana to participate in large-scale projects.”
Even in the ICT age where a lot happens in the digital realm, some businesses still need to literally take shape in a brick-and-mortar realm – which need land. As a matter of fact, the new CEDA guidelines state that “promoters are required to secure necessary land and premises from which the project is to operate prior to funds disbursements.” Sunday Standard enquired whether the new CEDA would not be hindered by access to land, which it adjudges to be an unresolved problem. In response, Lebotse said that land is available and that the one gap that needs to be filled is to put in place a proper land management system that would see to the servicing of such land.
“The land for commercial venture activity is available for Batswana, especially in rural areas. The major constraint has been funding which, to a large extent, has been addressed by the new CEDA guidelines. If you go to the industrial or commercial zones of any land board, you will find undeveloped plots due to lack of targeted funding. Francistown is another area where the commercial and industrial plots are available but the problem is over the pricing.”The latter notwithstanding, Lebotse says that there is still need for the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services to recalibrate its operational systems and processes in order to align them with the imperatives of the new CEDA.
She mentions three priorities in that regard: an asset register for developed and undeveloped land; encouraging strategic partnerships between land owners and landless people with “vibrant and viable projects”; and staffing the Ministry with land management professionals – especially those who specialise in real estate management.“Botswana is the only country that doesn’t know the value of its land and its contribution to GDP,” adds Lebotse with regard to the latter.
On the whole, she says that the recalibrated CEDA guidelines are “a welcome development” because they deal with issues of security and the interest rates are competitive. There is a caveat though. Lebotse says that like other government departments and agencies, CEDA has “struggled” with implementation and adds that that particular aspect will determine whether the new guidelines are successful or not.