The Ministry of Trade and Industry Permanent Secretary, Banny Molosiwa, this week stated that it was important for the ministry to keep a regular contact with the private sector that is known for keeping government in check on policy issues.
Speaking at a Trade Dialogue between the ministry’s departments, parastatals and the private sector on Monday, Molosiwa said although they meet regularly on High Level Consultative Council (HLCC) and Trade Committee, the feeling was that such a dialogue will be more appropriate.
“We thought it was not enough and felt it was better to come together in a more relaxed way to discuss how we can move our economy (forward),” she said.
“We want to see a vibrant and well diversified economy,” Molosiwa added.
Molosiwa revealed that the ministry will be redundant without the engagement of the private sector.
The ministry has more than six departments, including Industrial Affairs, International Trade, Trade and Consumer Affairs, Cooperatives and Office of the Registrar of Companies, amongst others.
The parastatals that fall under the ministry are Botswana Export Development and Investment Authority (BEDIA), Local Enterprises Authority and Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBs).
Briefing the private sector, a representative of Department of International Trade stated that Botswana has entered into trade agreements with other countries that ‘the private sector needs to take advantage of’.
Such agreements are the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), with a market size of 53 million people that private sector can penetrate.
SACU have other agreements like SACU/MERCUSOR, where companies in the customs union, namely Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland can export to under 450 product lines.
The private sector was also told that they can tap onto the SADC FTA, emanating from SADC Protocol on Trade, that was attained in 2008. Although the rules of origin are restrictive, the market size is 230 million people.
The other trade agreement is AGOA under which Botswana companies can export to the US market.
“The problem is that there is low uptake of AGOA,” said the official, stating that only two industries; textiles and furniture are utilising the market although ‘rules of origin are flexible’.
“The challenge is to improve quality. The manufacturers need to meet the standards of the market,” he added.
The Acting Registrar of Companies and Intellectual Property, P. Masena, stated that they are planning to interface their computers with the ones at the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) to save companies time when tendering because it takes time to photocopy certificates.
He also revealed that the other work they do is that of protecting intellectual property rights, which the private sector and the public is not aware of.
He said after protecting the rights, the owners can commercialise what they are doing and charge royalties.