Botswana is a small country with a population of about 2.35 million (World Bank, 2020) and nestled between South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Its central location in southern Africa enables it to serve as a gateway to the region. Botswana has historically enjoyed high economic growth rates and its export-driven economy is highly correlated with global economic trends. Development has been driven mainly by revenue from diamond mining, which has enabled Botswana to develop infrastructure and provide social welfare programs for vulnerable members of the population, and these programs will be maintained despite financial challenges in the current financial year, which runs from April 2022 to March 2023. The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was significant as evidenced by an economic growth of negative 8.5 percent in 2020; economic growth was estimated to reach 9.7 percent in 2021. Unemployment also rose from 22.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 (prior to the pandemic) to 26 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021. The fiscal impact of the pandemic has also been significant, resulting in large budget deficits of $1.4 billion in 2020 and $0.87 billion in 2021 compared to the $0.68 billion surplus that the government had forecasted for 2021 in its National Development Plan (NDP). In the first quarter of 2021, diamond revenues recovered, but international tourism revenues did not. In recent years, inflation has remained at the bottom end of the central bank’s three to six percent acceptable range; however, since the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation rose to a 13-year high of 10.6 percent in January 2022 and stayed at that level in February 2022. The World Bank classifies Botswana as an upper middle-income country based on its per capita income of $6,405 in 2020, although it declined from $7,203 in 2019.
Botswana is a stable, democratic country with an independent judiciary system. It maintains a sound macroeconomic environment, fiscal discipline, a well-capitalized banking system, and a crawling peg exchange rate system. In March 2021, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) maintained Botswana’s sovereign credit rating for long and short-term foreign and domestic currency bonds at “BBB+/A-2” with a negative outlook, which reflects the risks COVID-19 will continue to pose on Botswana’s economic and fiscal performance over the next 12 months. In November 2021, Moody’s revised its credit rating for Botswana from A2 to A3 with a stable outlook. These agencies’ ratings are highly influenced by Botswana’s continued dependence on diamonds, which contribute to at least a quarter of Botswana’s GDP and are susceptible to external shocks which places the country at a much higher risk. The diamond industry has however been experiencing a recovery, setting Botswana on a positive trajectory.
Botswana has minimal labor strife. The country has been cited in the 2020 Global Competitiveness Report as one of 30 countries out of 141 in which hiring of foreign labor has become significantly harder than it was in 2008. Botswana is a member state to both the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention and the 1958 New York Convention. Corruption in Botswana remains less pervasive than in other parts of Africa; nevertheless, foreign and national companies have noted increasing tender-related corruption. The Government of Botswana (GoB) created the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) to assist foreign investors. Botswana offers low tax rates and has no foreign exchange controls. The BITC’s topline economic goals are to promote export-led growth, ensure efficient government spending and financing, build human capital, and to ensure the provision of appropriate infrastructure. GoB entities, including BITC, use these criteria to determine the level of support to give foreign investors. The GoB has committed to streamline business-related procedures, and remove bureaucratic impediments based on World Bank recommendations in a business reform roadmap. Under this framework, the GoB introduced electronic tax and customs processes in 2016 and 2017. The Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) built and successfully integrated the Online Business Registration System (OBRS) with Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and the Immigration Office. OBRS is designed to reduce the business registration process by more than 10 days. On March 2022, Parliament passed the Intellectual Property Policy to leverage Botswana’s IP potential for inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development. The Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) will from April 1, 2022, be transitioned to Public Procurement and Regulatory Authority (PPRA) and no longer adjudicate on government tenders. The GoB also established the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) to streamline sector-targeted investment in Botswana’s different geographic areas. The Ministry of Investment, Trade & Industry (MITI) is developing a Trading Service Strategy to facilitate economic diversification and is also working on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Implementation Strategy.
Due to COVID-19-related economic shortfalls, Botswana drew down heavily on its foreign exchange reserves and government savings. Sectors such as mining, tourism, trade, hotels and restaurants, construction, and manufacturing suffered significantly; however, rough diamond sales recovered somewhat in the second half of 2020. In April 2021, the government put in place several interventions to raise revenues including a Value Added Tax (VAT) increase from 12 percent to 14 percent, an increase on Withholding Tax on dividend income from 7.5 percent to 10 percent and increases in several fees and levies charged for government services (source: 2021, Budget Speech). The government moved swiftly to implement relevant statutory instruments to curb the likelihood of companies exploiting COVID-19 to collude to set exorbitant prices. The 2020 statutory instrument 61 regulated the prices of essential supplies and basic food commodities for the duration of the 18-month COVID-19 related state of emergency. Interventions like the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (ERTP) and the Reset Agenda augmented the short-term economic relief package that included wage subsidies, tax amnesties, waivers of certain levies due to government, loan guarantee schemes to support firms’ access to bank credit, and provision of food relief. The president’s Reset Agenda seeks to adjust some priorities in light of new and unexpected challenges and to find smarter ways to implement projects in a timely manner and within stipulated budgets. The ERTP aims to reinforce support already given to affected businesses and also to take advantage of opportunities that have emerged because of the pandemic such as digital services and e-commerce.
Botswana is committed to reducing greenhouse emissions to 15 percent by 2030 through renewable energy projects already underway and listed in the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). Botswana also adopted a Climate Change Policy in 2021 which seeks to promote access to carbon markets, climate finance, and clean technologies.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2021||45 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|Global Innovation Index||2021||57 of 173||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions)||2020||21.0||https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2020||6,640 USD||https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
6. Financial Sector
The government encourages foreign portfolio investment, although there are limits on foreign ownership in certain sectors. It also embraces the establishment of new and diverse financial institutions to support increased foreign and domestic investment and to fill existing gaps where finance is not commercially available. There are nine commercial banks, one merchant bank, one offshore bank, three statutory deposit-taking institutions, and one credit union operating in Botswana. All have corresponding relationships with U.S. banks. Additional financial institutions include various pension funds, insurance companies, microfinance institutions, stock brokerage companies, asset management companies, statutory finance institutions, collective investment undertakings, and statutory funds. Historically, commercial banks have accounted for 93.7 percent of total deposits and 93.5 percent of total loans in Botswana. Access to banking services measured by the number of depositors on adult population improved from 72 percent in 2019 to 76.6 percent in 2020. Additionally, banks introduced new products and services that included enhancement of transactional accounts, introduction of cross border payment services, collaborative arrangements with money-transfer service providers to widen the financial inclusion efforts for the unbanked population.
The central bank, the Bank of Botswana, acts as banker and financial advisor to the GoB and is responsible for the management of the country’s foreign exchange reserves, the administration of monetary and exchange rate policies, and the regulation and supervision of financial institutions in the country. Monetary policy in Botswana is widely regarded as prudent, and the GoB has historically managed to maintain a sensible exchange rate and a stable inflation rate, generally within the target of three to six percent. But the COVID-19 pandemic pushed inflation to new heights, reaching 10.6 percent in January and February 2022, the highest level on record in over a decade.
Banks may lend to non-resident-controlled companies without seeking approval from the Bank of Botswana. Foreign investors usually enjoy better access to credit than local firms do. In July 2014, USAID’s Development Credit Authority (now DFC – U.S. International Development Finance Corporation), in collaboration with ABSA (formerly Barclays Bank of Botswana), implemented a seven-year program to allow small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to access up to US$ 15 million in loans in an effort to diversify the economy. So far, the program that was initially scheduled to come to an end in June 2021 is at 83 percent utilization and has been extended to July 2024. To date ABSA has disbursed US$ 12.5 million and has up to June 2023 to disburse the remaining US$ 2.5 million.
At the end of 2020, there were 24 companies on the Domestic Board and eight companies on the Foreign Equities Board of the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE). In addition, there were 46 listed bonds and three exchange traded funds listed on the Exchange. The Domestic Company Index (DCI) declined by 8.2 percent in 2020, while it declined by 4.6 percent in 2019, reflecting how the pandemic affected the economy. According to the BSE 2020 Annual Report, all sectors in the domestic equity board experienced a decline which contributed a negative 8.4 percent points to the DCI’s depreciation of 8.2 percent except for one sector, Retail & Wholesale. The total market capitalization for listed companies at year-end 2020 was US$ 33.5 billion, with domestic companies’ capitalization standing at US$ 3 billion while foreign companies’ capitalization stood at US$ 30.5 billion. The Mining and Minerals sector continued to dominate the foreign equity board as it contributed 94.7 percent of the foreign companies’ market capitalization in 2020 and contributed 0.97 percentage points to the Foreign Company Index (FCI) depreciation of 1 percent. The BSE is still highly illiquid compared to larger African markets and is dominated by mining companies which adds to index volatility. Laws prohibiting insider trading and securities fraud are clearly stipulated under Section 35 – 37 of the Securities Act, 2014 and charges for contravening these laws are listed under Section 54 of the same Act.
The government has legitimized offshore capital investments and allows foreign investors, individuals and corporate bodies, and companies incorporated in Botswana, to open foreign currency accounts in specified currencies. The designated currencies are U.S. Dollar, British Pound sterling, Euro, and the South African Rand. There are no known practices by private firms to restrict foreign investment participation or control in domestic enterprises. Private firms are not permitted to adopt articles of incorporation or association which limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation, or control.
In general, Botswana exercises careful control over credit expansion, the pula exchange rate, interest rates, and foreign and domestic borrowing. Banking legislation is largely in line with industry norms for regulation, supervision, and payments. However, Botswana failed to meet the compliance requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), resulting in a grey listing in October 2018. Botswana worked to implement the necessary regulatory legislations to address the identified technical compliance deficiencies and was subsequently removed from the FATF grey list in October 2021, and then in February 2022, removed from the EU blacklist of high risk third countries with regard to AML/CFT. The government continues to work on its regulatory environment to avoid falling back into the grey list. The Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) was established in 2008 and provides regulatory oversight for the non-banking sector. It extends know-your-customer practices to non-banking financial institutions to help deter money laundering and terrorist financing. NBFIRA is also responsible for regulating the International Financial Services Centre, a hub charged with promoting the financial services industry in Botswana.
The Bank of Botswana maintains a long-term sovereign wealth fund, known as the Pula Fund, in addition to a regular foreign reserve account providing basic import cover. The Pula Fund was established under the Bank of Botswana Act and forms part of the country’s foreign exchange reserves, which are primarily funded by diamond revenues. The Pula Fund is wholly invested in foreign currency-denominated assets and is managed by the Bank of Botswana Board with input from recognized international financial management and investment firms. All realized market and currency gains, or losses are reported in the Bank of Botswana’s income statement. The Fund has been affected severely by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the GoB making withdrawals to address significant COVID-19-related revenue shortfalls. As a result, the Pula Fund, which provides long fiscal cushion against economic shocks, is significantly depleted from 20 percent of GDP in 2011 to seven percent of GDP as of mid-2020 – from $1.69 billion to $510 million – a decline of more than 70 percent. Botswana is a founding member of the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Fund and was one of the architects of the Santiago Principles in 2008. More information is available at: https://www.bankofbotswana.bw/sites/default/files/BOTSWANA-PULA-FUND-SANTIAGO-PRINCIPLES.pdf