Govt doors are open

SHARE   |   Monday, 14 March 2016   |   By Mokgweetsi Masisi
Govt doors are open

This conference comes at an opportune time for the Exchange and its stakeholders to interrogate opportunities for enhanced economic diversification in our country driven by private sector development. This is, of course, critical if we are to obtain the ultimate vision for our country. In the coming decade we all want to progress to a more prosperous, productive and knowledge based Botswana that leaves no Motswana behind. Beyond graduating to high income status and from cattle post to stock exchange, we are committed to achieving a society free of unemployment and absolute poverty. Achieving our noble vision will not be easy, but it is both necessary and possible. It can and will happen if our private sector is unleashed through greater market capitalisation as well as Government's delivery of an enabling environment, to profit from innovative opportunities. I invite the private sector to always engage government and not wait for conferences to raise issues. While we take justifiable pride in our nation's five decades of progress during this year of our Golden Jubilee, we remain mindful of the need to change the balance between public and private sector investment if we are to continue to move forward. This transformation must be supported by an increasingly robust local capital market.

I am reliably informed that more than 200 organisations are represented here today, including private unlisted companies, companies already listed on the BSE, the capital market regulator, Government departments, asset management firms, and foreign corporations from within the region and ordinary citizens who strongly believe in this important initiative. This diversity of participation reflects one of the central tenets of this conference, which is that the development of Botswana's capital market requires commitment and contributions from all stakeholders. This conference further coincides with the closing of the IPO of Botswana Telecommunication Corporation Limited (BTCL) which, as many of you may already be aware, resulted in a record number of applications from investors from across the country. This surge included many who were purchasing shares in a listed company for the first time. There is no better example of citizen economic empowerment. In this context, I welcome this opportunity to reaffirm Government's own commitment to the development of capital markets, not only through privatisation of Public Entities and provision of infrastructure support, but also by further public sector reform to provide a more enabling environment for private companies to flourish.

It is my understanding that the underlying aim of this conference is to attract as many companies as possible to list on the Exchange. By so doing, such companies will be better positioned to raise capital to pursue investment opportunities nationally, regionally and internationally and in the process, create more employment for Batswana, as well as contributing to the growth of the country's Gross Domestic Product. This is in line with the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) which I trust you all follow in your supply chain processes. Here let me take this opportunity to further emphasis that EDD has been fully incorporated into the guidelines that govern the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) which falls within my mandate. ESP has already begun to finance initiatives, such as Special Economic Zones (SEZ), as well as infrastructure projects that will enhance the operating environment for majority of the businesses represented here. The SEZ will provide additional incentives for our country's development as a regional hub for investment, human resources, communications, to name but a few.

Beyond countering the immediate challenge of lower global growth, the delivery of ESP will be of long-term, sustained, benefit to existing companies, including domestic as well as foreign investors. I therefore urge members of the private sector to not only embrace the opportunities on offer but partner with Government to maximise the programme's full potential. Please be assured that the doors of Government, including my own Office, are open to engage in dialogue as well as provide any additional information about ESP. You are the people to make it all happen. Government is an enabler, the drivers of our economy and mandate of the ESP is the private sector. Collectively, your daily operations ensure an efficient economy with great potential for growth. I urge you to engage more with government and find out how you could utilise the Public Private Partnership (PPP) and all other programmes available. As you were made aware in the 2016/17 Budget Speech, Botswana has been adversely affected by the continued slowdown of growth in the global economy, particularly in the major markets for our diamonds. Consequently, average growth projections for the economy are no longer as optimistic as those experienced in the last five decades.

It is in response to such circumstances that Government recognises the urgent need to provide additional infrastructure and support for the private sector during such challenging times as these. Today's convention is a welcome opportunity to explore such trans-national possibilities as you would hear from Chief Executives of companies that have aggressively searched for growth opportunities within the region; as well as from experts who study African markets and analyse them extensively to highlight emerging trends and business opportunities. Over the years, Africa has witnessed an influx of investors from several parts of the world. This was as a result of several African markets becoming more accessible than ever before due to improving governance, political stability and improving economic growth and continued investment in infrastructure. One of Africa's greatest strengths is its estimated population of 1.1 billion people, with the middle class population making up an estimated 313 million people or 30% of the population. Based on the growth in the population over the recent decades, it is estimated that by 2060, Africa's middle class population alone will reach 1.1 billion people.

This transition in the projected population brings with it anticipated positive shifts in demand and consumption patterns; and businesses such as yourselves and those listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange should be positioning themselves to do a lot more to service the increasingly sophisticated needs of Africa's growing middle class. By extension, these trends will probably equally manifest here in Botswana. Government is committed to the development of Botswana's capital market. In 2008 Government made a significant investment in the Botswana Stock Exchange with the establishment of the Central Securities Depository Company of Botswana (CSDB), which operates the Central Securities Depository (CSD) system. The latter is an electronic share register or share depository bank and a custodian bank of listed securities, which has replaced the necessity to issue paper share certificates. In 2012 Government further funded the introduction of the Automated Trading System (ATS) at the BSE. By any measure these are milestone infrastructure investments that have transformed the Stock Exchange and the domestic capital market in a tremendous way. In addition to increasing productivity and efficiencies at the BSE, the CSD system has helped reduce systemic risk in the market whereas the ATS has helped promote the BSE's reach and accessibility.

These are some of the key public sector contributions that have made the Botswana Stock Exchange, and indeed the domestic capital market, attractive to foreign investors, giving the BSE the muscle to register the impressive levels of trading activity that have been alluded to. Botswana's record of good governance is reflected in our ongoing efforts to promote a better business environment. A number of forums exist in the country where businesses are afforded an opportunity to develop policies and contribute to formulation of National Development Plans, Budget Processes, recommended policies and critique existing policies with the intention of making Botswana an attractive investment domain and the best for doing business. In the same vein, the investment in the infrastructure has ensured that listed companies benefit extensively from being a part of the Exchange. With this existing infrastructure base, you are certain that the BSE will give you value for money once you are listed. In 2015 the BSE's Domestic Company Index (DCI) outperformed Emerging Markets as measured by the Emerging Markets Index (MSCI EM), including Johannesburg Stock Exchange All Share Index (JSE ALSI) and the Stock Exchange of Mauritius Index (SEMDEX). The DCI appreciated by 11.6%, whereas the JSE ALSI appreciated by 1.9% and the MSCI EM and SEMDEX lost 12.7% and 17% respectively.

Various reputable indices, including those of the World Economic Forum, World Bank among others continue to consistently credit us for our prudence managing the macroeconomic environment and the strength of our public institutions and the rule of law. It was these factors that allowed us to weather the storm of the Financial Crisis of 2009/10. I urge all businesses to utilise the existing consultative forums to interact more among yourselves and with Government. In this way you can be partners in the implementation of appropriate strategies that will further enhance this country's competitiveness, as well as this market's involvement in facilitating financing of companies through the Stock Exchange so as to position Botswana as a premium investment destination. In conclusion, I would like to urge you to participate extensively in the dialogue that will take place today. Be open to new ideas and innovative approaches for sustainable business development, particularly around utilizing the BSE to raise capital for growth. An innovative, growing and optimistic business sector is in everyone's best interest.

*Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s address at the opening of the Botswana Stock Exchange’s (BSE) Inaugural Listing Conference.