The Selebi-Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) was founded many years ago to help diversify economic activities in the town over fears that the area will turn into a ghost town when the main economic driver – copper mining – ended. With that fear now a reality – after the closure of BCL mine last year – SPEDU is under intense pressure to deliver on its mandate. CEO Dr Mokubung Mokubung fields questions from KEITEBE KGOSIKEBATHO
Recap SPEDU’s diversification plans and its achievements so far?
SPEDU: The company plans on diversification, investment promotion and trade investments have taken off in the region with the intention to create employment, and enhance business efficiency and competitiveness of the SPEDU region. A number of milestones have been reached in this regard. The approval of the setting up of one stop shop service centre for investors, to facilitate ease of doing business; Companies setting up in the region as a result of SPEDU facilitation and investor missions; SPEDU region incentives, which are aimed at attracting investments into the Region; Signing of SLA with SPTC on service provision; particularly use of land and facilities around the town for investment.
Review of Selebi-Phikwe Development Plan
In partnership with SPTC, the spatial plan of the town was reviewed to incorporate economic sectors envisioned for the town as well as to mark the town boundary to avoid issues of encroachment.
Refurbishment of Selebi-Phikwe Airport
The airport refurbishment was triggered by the state of the infrastructure, which needed an upgrade. This entailed the refurbishment of the Selebi-Phikwe airport runway, taxiway and apron. We believe this will increase air traffic into the region for both passengers and cargo.
Motloutse Farm Electrification
This project is near completion. It involves a stretch of over 40km of power line from Selebi-Phikwe to Bobonong/Gobojango bridge. The project will improve operational efficiency of diesel powered irrigation pumps resulting in improved crop yields. The project will also benefit future farmers who. The power connection will enable use of electricity for irrigation, directly affecting the production in terms of cost and output.
Letsibogo Dam Master Plan
The dam tourism activities planned for Letsibogo Dam in Mmadinare have made some strides with the completion of the master plan. The master plan provides a layout of the envisioned activities for the dam site.
How are potential investors responding?
SPEDU: They are responding positively. We have companies that are in advance stages of setting up in Selebi-Phikwe. Some are still negotiating and as soon as information is ready for public consumption we will share.
SPEDU recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Brite Star Aviation, to set up in Selebi-Phikwe. What does the deal entail?
SPEDU: Brite Star Aviation is the investor and operator having demonstrated keen interest and commitment in setting up its operations in Selebi-Phikwe and it shall be responsible for the setting up of an aircraft manufacturing plant, aircraft service maintenance facility, hotel and conferencing facility, a pilot training institute and related infrastructure for the achievement of this project. This means Brite Star Aviation shall be responsible for the establishment of an aircraft manufacturing plant, composite manufacturing plant, aircraft service and maintenance centre, research and development centre in the area of aviation engineering, pilot and flight training center, eco-safari centre, hotel and conferencing facilities at the Selebi-Phikwe airport utilising the existing land at the said airport and related infrastructure. The project shall be undertaken within a reasonable period of time, in stages or phases to be determined by Brite Star and agreed upon by the all parties and its contracting partners within a reasonable period of time. The first initial stage will comprise of the aircraft manufacturing plant and related infrastructure. The investor shall be sub leased a total land area of not less than ten (10) hectares of land as required adjacent to Selebi-Phikwe airport. The additional land outside and adjacent to the present airport reserve, shall be utilized for future expansion of the project and related activities.
How many jobs do you anticipate to be created by the deal?
SPEDU: The project once fully operational will create about 3000 jobs.
Quantify in monetary terms how the deal will benefit both Phikwe and Botswana.
SPEDU: The investment value of the project is estimated at P1.4 billion.
What other deals of this magnitude do you have in the pipeline?
SPEDU: We will communicate once we have finalized our negotiations with investors.
How are your investments efforts in Botswana and outside the country doing?
SPEDU: We are doing very well as we receive many enquiries for project setup in the region.
In your view, would you say the local private sector is embracing the need to invest in Phikwe and your mandate as SPEDU in general, and why?
SPEDU: Yes, the local private sector does embrace the mandate of the organisation. The private sector continues to engage SPEDU on strategies that can work for the region. The local private sector has also shown interests on the upcoming projects in the region, on how to prepare for the upcoming developments.
What other government organs and enterprises do you work closely with to achieve your mandate and what has been their contribution so far?
SPEDU: Collaborations on investment promotion have been long established between SPEDU and BITC, with the revitalization strategy the collaboration has been intensified. The collaboration of recent has seen the commencement of Brite Star, the aviation company as a result of the joint efforts by BITC and SPEDU. CEDA has committed to reduction of turnaround time for assessment and approval of business plans; they have also as a way of expediting the process of funding, relocated an officer to Selebi Phikwe, responsible for assessment of funding proposals from Selebi Phikwe and the surrounding areas. The Botswana Development Corporation has reduced the rental of their factory shells as a way of supporting startups. The Department of Lands has a long-standing relationship with the department of Lands on land allocation to investors. For investments that are in line with the SPEDU mandate they are allocated land through the process of direct allocations. The arrangement is in place whilst SPEDU awaits the land bank agreement yet to be reached to facilitate speedy allocation to investors. The Selebi-Phikwe Town Council (SPTC) as the main administrator in the town, most services are offered in the town, service level Agreements and MoUs have been signed to facilitate ease of doing business in the town. SPEDU and SPTC continue to collaborate in economic diversification and business development initiatives.
How is your working relationship with the informal sector?
SPEDU has made deliberate efforts to engage the informal sector through the department within SPEDU known as Community Economic Facilitation, the department works directly with communities, in which the informal sector falls within. SPEDU recognizes that the sector is a player in the economy hence the strategies that are being put in place by this department to see to it that the informal sector contributes to the economy of the region.