Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) has defied challenges of underfunding, surpassing targets in creating jobs, business expansion and capital investment in the 2014/15 financial year. BITC board chairman Victor Senye said despite the shortfall in the government subvention, which increased to P111.7 million in 2014/15, but was still not enough to sustain increased operational activities, BITC performed exceptionally well. The 2014/15 organisational performance versus the corporate score card registered a 13% improvement in level of performance in comparison to the 2013/14 financial year. The organisation exceeded targets with respect to measures of job creation, business expansions and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) attaining over 100% achievement.
In a statement accompanying BITC annual report 2015 Chief Executive Letsebe Sejoe declares: "Our investment attraction and domestic investment during the period under review resulted in total capital investment that surpassed P3 billion and stood at P3.2 billion against an annual target of P1.160 billion. The Financial and Business Services sector represented the largest contribution to this performance delivering P1.8 billion which is more than 50% of the capital investment realised. This is a significant growth of 68% compared with the 2013/14 total capital investment of P1.9 billion. Of the P3.2 billion, the FDI companies raised a total investment of almost P1.5 billion with business expansions contributing P1.4 billion and domestic investment valued at P238.4 million. Total capital investment was realised in several sectors that included manufacturing, business and financial services, retail, automotive component manufacturing, agriculture, mining, engineering and construction".
It is reported that over 3 000 jobs were created during the period under review also surpassing the annual target of 2, 400 with a majority of jobs created through business expansions, which contributed 73% to the overall total. Companies that expanded significantly during the period included an automotive harness manufacturing plant which created 900 jobs. During the period under review, BITC initiated negotiations with 46 companies which have expressed an intension to establish a presence in Botswana. The companies are from South Africa, India, Canada, the United Kingdom, Zimbabwe and China and are involved in various sectors. BITC also embarked on a project to develop an investment promotion strategy and value propositions for the cargo/ logistics, leather and leather products and automotive components manufacturing sectors. "This project will ensure that BITC is able to strategically market Botswana to leading multinationals with increased prospects of attracting capital, investment, technology and intellectual property into the country," said Sejoe.
He said exporters continued to receive assistance from BITC through promotion of their products to foreign markets, and export revenue generated through BITC's efforts during 2014/15 reached P1.8 billion. A notable development in this regard was the diversification of the export products with the introduction of 10 new product lines to the export portfolio, which increased BITC export product lines to 21, Sejoe explained. These included leather bags into Namibia; contemporary furniture exported to Israel and France; lounge suites and bed sets exported to Zambia, RSA and Namibia; farm implements to RSA; clay bricks exported to Zimbabwe; meat products, offal exported to Zimbabwe and UK; bathing soap exported to Zimbabwe. Sejoe hailed Brand Botswana's decision to launch "Doing Business in Botswana" programme on CNBC Africa, saying it has created international attention, awareness as well as promote and position the country to the international audience as an ideal destination for investment. BITC plans to increase international coverage further by launching another campaign on BBC in the next financial year.
Plans to implement and establish special economic zones (SEZs) in Botswana are reported to have made considerable progress with legislation expected to be finalised by end of 2015. The SEZ will overcome barriers to trade, investment and attraction of FDI through decisively addressing restrictive policies, excessive bureaucracy and limited access to serviced land, ultimately creating a more competitive and condusive business environment, growing exports, foreign earnings and creating jobs, said Sejoe. He said eight sites in Botswana have been identified through detailed research and a SEZ mapping study. The basis of the selection considered comparative advantage, available infrastructure and proximity to market by the respective locations. "The selected sites include Gaborone at SSKIA, Gaborone within Fairgrounds area, Lobatse, Greater Palapye, Selebi Phikwe, Tuli Block area and greater Francistown," said Sejoe.
Under the corporate social investment programme BITC has continued to target children "as they are the most vulnerable members of society". Following the construction of a Guidance and Counselling Centre at Ikageng Junior Secondary school during 2013/14, BITC shifted focus from education to health through refurbishment of the children's ward at Raikops Primary Hospital and donation of a children's playground and clothes to under privileged in the community. The project was handed over in March 2015.