Import bill hits P68 billion

SHARE   |   Tuesday, 22 September 2015   |   By Kabelo Adamson
Seretse Seretse

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Vincent Seretse, has this week urged the private sector to assume a leading position on entrepreneurial development in the economy.
Seretse was speaking on Tuesday at the Business Botswana’s 43rd Annual General Meeting (AGM) where he spoke on the theme, “the central role of the private sector in the economic diversification drive initiative”.

The minister, who is also the chairperson of the National Economic Diversification Council (NEDC) that is mandated to drive the economic diversification strategy, raised concerns about the huge import bill the country is faced with.

At the moment the bill estimated at P68 billion which Seretse said it is the role of the private sector to identify products with significant volumes and growing market demand that would allow them to set up sustainable and competitive industries that would exploit and benefit government preferential procurement policy under the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD).

Seretse said the development of globally competitive industries; the development of world class businesses in special economic zones and the transformation of cooperatives businesses into profitable enterprises are not within the remit of the government, but the private sector.

The minister emphasized that the role of the private sector is to penetrate world markets with exports while the government’s role through Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) is to develop and support companies to be export ready by way of improving their product quality and image. He said the private sector should develop exports that can compete effectively in world markets.

Seretse urged the private sector to take advantage of the available market opportunities. The opportunities include the duty-free quota free market access to the EU through the SDACEC Economic Partnership Agreement, the duty free quota-free market access for over 6000 product lines into the US market under African Growth and Opportunity (AGOA) and free market access into regional markets under SACU and the SADC.

SEE ALSO: BITC beats targets

When giving his welcoming remark, Business Botswana president, Lekwalo Mosienyane said by end of this month, Business Botswana will take over the implementation of the Private Sector Development Programme (PSDP) from Centre of the Development of Enterprises (CDE) which is facing imminent closure. The PSDP was launched in 2013 by Business Botswana, Ministry of Trade and Industry, the European Union (EU) and the CDE.

Mosienyane said the PSDP aims to stimulate and sustain growth through diversification of the economy while building the capacities of institutions and human resources that support the private sector. He said all the work that was started last year to restructure and rebrand Business Botswana is part of the PSDP.