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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Botswana has a population of 2.2 million and is centrally located in Southern Africa, enabling 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 provide infrastructure and social services.  The economy grew by 2.3 percent in 2019 after registering growth of 4.5 percent in 2018, driven by performance of the mining sector (GDP 2019 report – Statistics Botswana). The COVID-19 crisis is expected to decrease 2020 diamond sales by nearly 70 percent, which could lead to severe economic contraction, increased unemployment, and government deficits. In recent years inflation has remained at the bottom end of the central bank’s 3 to 6 percent spectrum.  According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the total stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Botswana reached USD 4.82 billion in 2018. Botswana is classified as an upper middle-income country by the World Bank based on its per capita income of USD 8,259.

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 2020, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) downgraded the country’s sovereign credit rating for long-term foreign and domestic currency bonds from “A-” to “BBB+”. Botswana has minimal labor strife.  It 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 commented on increasing tender-related corruption.  The World Bank ranked Botswana 87 out of 190 economies in the category of Ease of Doing Business in 2020, falling by one place from 86 in 2019. The country also fell in the 2019 World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index to 91 out of 141, from 90 out of 140 in 2018.

The Government of Botswana (GoB) created the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) to assist foreign investors, offers low tax rates, and has no foreign exchange controls.  Its topline economic goals are to diversify the economy, create employment, and transfer skills to Botswana citizens.  GoB entities, including BITC, use these criteria in determining whether it assists foreign investors.  The GoB drafted an investment facilitation law in 2016 with the support of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), but the law has yet to be enacted. The GoB has committed to streamline business-related procedures, and remove bureaucratic impediments based on World Bank recommendations as part of a business reform roadmap; under this framework, it introduced some 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. The GoB also set up the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) to streamline investment in sector-targeted geographic areas in the country.

It is still too early to determine the full economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on Botswana, however, the GoB’s COVID-19 relief program (wage subsidies, loan guarantees, tax and payment holidays) is garnering positive initial reviews from the international community.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings 
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 34 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 87 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 93 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 N/A https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 $7,750 http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment 

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GoB publicly emphasizes the importance of attracting (FDI) and drafted an investment facilitation law recommended by the 2014 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Investment Review. The draft was completed in 2016 with technical assistance from UNCTAD but was never enacted. The GoB plans to revise the draft in 2020 before presenting it to Parliament. The GoB has launched initiatives to promote economic activity and foreign investment in specific areas, such as the establishment of a diamond hub which has brought more value-added businesses (i.e., cutting and polishing), into the country. Additional investment opportunities in Botswana include large water, electricity, transportation, and telecommunication infrastructure projects.  Economists have also noted Botswana’s considerable potential in the mining, mineral processing, cattle, tourism, and financial services sectors.  BITC assists foreign investors with projects intended to diversify export revenue, create employment, and transfer skills to Botswana citizens. The High Level Consultative Council (HLCC), chaired by the president, and an Exporter Roundtable organized by BITC and Botswana’s Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA), are mechanisms employed by the GoB to maintain a focus on a healthy businesses environment for FDI.    

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Botswana’s 2003 Trade Act reserves licenses in 35 sectors for citizens, including butcheries, general trading establishments, gas stations, liquor stores, supermarkets (excluding chain stores), bars (other than those associated with hotels), certain types of restaurants, boutiques, auctioneers, car washes, domestic cleaning services, curio shops, fresh produce vendors, funeral homes, hairdressers, various types of rental/hire services, laundromats, specific types of government construction projects under a certain dollar amount, certain activities related to road and railway construction and maintenance, and certain types of manufacturing activities including the production of furniture for schools, welding, and bricklaying.  The law allows foreigners to participate in these sectors as minority joint venture partners in medium-sized businesses.  Foreigners can hold the majority share if they obtain written approval from the trade minister.

The Ministry of Investment, Trade, and Industry (MITI), which administers the citizen participation initiative, has taken an expansive interpretation of the term chain stores, so that it encompasses any store with more than one outlet.  This broad interpretation has resulted in the need to apply exemptions to certain supermarkets, simple specialty operations, and general trading stores.  These exceptions were generally granted prior to 2015 and many large general merchandise markets, restaurants, and grocery networks are owned by foreigners as a result. Since 2015, the GoB has denied some exception requests, but reports they have approved some based on localization agreements directly negotiated between the ministry and the applying company.  These agreements reportedly include commitments to purchase supplies locally and capacity building for local workers and industry.  BITC conducts due diligence on companies that are looking to invest in the country and the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) handles background checks for national security.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In December of 2014, the OECD released an Investment Policy Review on Botswana. (http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/finance-and-investment/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-botswana-2014_9789264203365-en ).

Botswana has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995. As a member of the Southern African Customs Union, the WTO last conducted a trade policy review in 2016. (https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp322_e.htm )

Business Facilitation

To operate a business in Botswana, one needs to register a company with the GoB’s CIPA through the OBRS at: https://www.cipa.co.bw/home.html 

According to CIPA, the company registration process can be completed in a day and is integrated with BURS which allows for a fast-tracked tax registration in 30 days. Additional work is required to open bank accounts and obtain necessary licenses and permits.  The World Bank ranked Botswana 159 out of 190 in the ease of starting a business category.

BITC (www.bitc.co.bw ), the GoB’s investment promotion agency, was designed to serve as a one-stop shop to assist investors in setting up a business and finding a location for operation.  BITC’s ability to streamline procedures varies based on GoB entity and bureaucratic requirements.  The organization’s criteria for support for investment projects is whether the project will diversify the economy away from dependence on diamond mining, and whether it will create jobs for, and transfer skills to, Batswana citizens.  BITC also hosts the Botswana Trade Portal (https://www.botswanatradeportal.org.bw ) that is designed to ease trade across borders.  It is a single point of contact for all information relating to import and export to and from Botswana, and represents a number of ministries and parastatals.

Botswana has several incentives and preferences for both citizen-owned and locally based companies.  Foreign-owned companies can benefit from local procurement preferences which are usually required for government tenders.  MITI instituted a program in 2015 to give locally based small companies a 15 percent preferential price margin in GoB procurement, with mid-sized companies receiving a 10 percent margin, and large companies a five percent margin.  Under this policy, MITI defines small companies as having less than five million pula in annual revenue reflected in their financial statements, medium companies with 5,000,001 to 19,999,999 pula in revenue, and large companies with 20 million pula or more. The directive applies to 27 categories of goods and services ranging from textiles, chemicals, and food, in addition to a broad range of consultancy services.

For Companies Act registration purposes, enterprises are classified as follows: Micro Enterprises – less than six employees including owner and annual turnover of up to 60,000 pula; Small Enterprises – less than 25 employees and annual revenue between 60,000 and 1,500,000 pula; Medium Enterprises – less than 100 employees and annual revenue between 1,500,000 and 5,000,000 pula; Large Enterprises – more than 100 employees and annual revenue of 5,000,000 pula or more.  This classification system permits foreigner participation as minority shareholders in medium-sized enterprises in the 35 business sectors reserved for citizens.

Outward Investment

The GoB neither promotes nor restricts outward investment.

2. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties 

The United States and the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), which includes Botswana, signed a Trade, Investment, and Development Cooperative Agreement (TIDCA) in 2008.  The TIDCA establishes a forum for consultative discussions, cooperative work, and possible agreements on a wide range of trade issues, with a special focus on customs and trade facilitation, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, and trade and investment promotion.

SACU has free trade agreements with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, and the European Free Trade Association. SACU countries and MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay) signed reciprocal preferential trade agreements (PTA) in December 2008 and April 2009, respectively.  The PTA establishes fixed preference margins as a first step towards the creation of a free trade area between SACU and MERCOSUR.  Botswana has ratified the agreement and is awaiting remaining Member States to complete ratification for the agreement to be implemented.

For more information on SACU’s tariff regime see the WTO document: http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s222-00_e.doc .

Botswana is also a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and is currently implementing the SADC Protocol on Trade. For more information about SADC, visit: www.sadc.int .

In June 2016, Botswana signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union as part of the SADC EPA Group.  The EPA guarantees access to the EU market without any duties or quotas for Botswana, and gives asymmetric access to the SADC EPA Group.

Botswana has a trade agreement with Zimbabwe, which provides duty-free access for goods that meet the 25 percent local content requirement.

In 2018, Botswana signed the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) agreement consisting of 26 countries of the three Regional Economic communities of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Commission (EAC), and SADC.

Botswana was also the 51st country to sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in February 2019, which will improve intra-regional trade and provide access to a market of 1.2 billion people.

3. Legal Regime 

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Bureaucratic procedures necessary to start and maintain a business tend to be open, though slow, and regulatory procedures can be cumbersome to navigate.  In 2018, Botswana launched a Regulatory Impact Assessment Strategy that will work to improve the regulatory environment and ensure legislation is necessary and cost effective, reduce administrative burdens imposed by the regulatory environment to businesses, improve transparency, consultation, and government accountability.  Foreign investor complaints generally focus on the inefficiency and/or unresponsiveness of mid- and low-level government bureaucrats.  The GoB has introduced a Performance Management System to improve the service and accountability of its employees.  Unfair business practices or conduct can be reported to the Competition Authority, which seeks to level the playing field for all business operators and foster a conducive environment for business.  Bills in Botswana, including investment laws, go through a public consultation process and are available for public comment.  Bills are also debated in Parliament, whose sessions are open to the public.

The Companies Act of 2004 requires all companies registered in Botswana to prepare annual financial statements on the basis of generally accepted accounting principles.  It further requires every public company, including non-exempt private companies, to prepare their Financial Statement in accordance with the International Financial Reporting Standards.

The Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) oversees all government tenders. Prospective government contractors are required to register with the PPADB.  The PPADB maintains a process by which tender decisions can be challenged; bidders can also challenge a tender procedure in the courts.  The PPADB publishes its decisions concerning awarded tenders, prequalification lists, and newly registered contractors. Since 2014, PPADB has partnered with the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) in the Global procurement Initiative, a shared commitment to utilizing best-value determination procurement practices and promoting professionalization in procurement.

PPADB successfully implemented the Integrated Procurement Management System (IPMS) to level the procurement playing field by automating contractor registration, e-bidding and other operations.  This has enabled them to introduce a Procurement Plan Platform where government entities list all their procurement plans for the year, allowing companies to plan ahead.  An e-bidding system, still being developed, will allow companies to compete for and submit tenders online.

Online services are available at: www.ppadb.co.bw/Pages/Publications.aspx#WebPartWPQ3 

The PPADB Act calls for preferential procurement of citizen-owned contractors for works, service, and supplies, as well as specific, disadvantaged women’s communities, though it states that such preferences must be time-bound, phased in and out as necessary, and consistent with the country’s external obligations and its “market-oriented, macroeconomic framework.”  When a procuring entity wishes to reserve a tender for citizen-only participation, it is required to publish a notice to that effect either in the bid document or the pre-qualification notice.

Health and safety laws, embodied in the Factories Act of 1973, provide basic protection for workers from unsafe working conditions.  Minimum working conditions required on work premises include cleanliness of the premises, adequate ventilation and sanitation, sufficient lighting, and the provision of safety precautions.  Health inspectors and the Botswana Bureau of Standards carry out periodic checks at both new and operating factories.

International Regulatory Considerations

Botswana is a member of SACU and SADC.  Neither has authority over member state national regulatory systems.  Botswana is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and notifies all draft technical regulations to the WTO’s Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary system.  Botswana’s legal system is based on Roman-Dutch law as influenced by English common law. This type of system exists with legislation, judicial decisions, and local customary law.  The courts enforce commercial contracts, and the judicial system is widely regarded as being fair.  Both foreign and domestic investors have equal access to the judicial system.  Botswana does not have a dedicated commercial court.  The Industrial Court, set up by the Trade Dispute Act of 2004, primarily addresses labor matters.

The GoB is planning to create a corps of commercially specialized judges within the civil court system.  Under the new system, commercial cases will be overseen by these commercial judges in order to expedite handling and ensure relevant expertise.  The country already has a specialized anti-corruption court that handles all corruption cases.

Some U.S. litigants have reported that the time to obtain and enforce a judgment in a commercial dispute is unreasonably long.  The turnaround time for civil cases is approximately two years.  In an effort to create more efficient adjudications, the GoB has established a land tribunal, and industrial, small claims, and corruption courts.  During the past several years, some dockets have improved, but progress has been uneven.

Local laws are accessible through the Botswana Attorney General’s Office website (www.laws.gov.bw ). It can take up to 24 months for a law, once passed, to appear on the website.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Under Botswana’s Company Act, foreigners who wish to operate a business are required to register, as well as obtain, the relevant licenses and permits as prescribed by the Trade Act of 2008.

Licenses are required for a wide spectrum of businesses, including banking, non-bank financial services, transportation, medical services, mining, energy provision, and alcohol sales.  Although amendments to the Trade Act have eliminated the catchall miscellaneous business license category, investors have reported on local authorities insisting a business apply for a license even when it does not fall within the established categories.  In addition, some businesses have observed the enforcement of licenses, as well as the time taken for inspections to comply with licensing requirements, varies widely across local government authorities.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Botswana has developed anti-trust legislation and policies to ensure appropriate competition in the business environment.  Under the Competition Act, the Competition Authority (CA) is now monitoring mergers and acquisitions.  During the year 2018/2019 the CA dealt with a few cases to address the non-competitive business conduct and for the first time it dealt with cases relating to the conduct of resale price maintenance (vertical agreements). The CA is empowered to reject mergers deemed not to be in the public best interest.  It has interpreted this ability to mean that it can prohibit mergers that result in the concentration of most shares in the hands of foreign investors.

Expropriation and Compensation

Section 8 of the country’s Constitution prohibits the nationalization of private property.  The GoB has never pursued a policy of forced nationalization and is highly unlikely to adopt one.  The Acquisition of Property Act provides a process for any expropriation, including parameters to determine market value and receive compensation.  The 2007 Amendment to the Electricity Supply Act allows the GoB to revoke an Independent Power Producer’s license and confiscate the operations, with compensation, for public interest purposes.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

GoB has ratified the convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention).  GoB is also a member state to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID convention), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

There are no known investment disputes involving U.S. persons.  Botswana accepts international arbitration to settle investment disputes.  Judgments by foreign courts recognized by the GoB are enforceable under the local courts where the appropriate bilateral agreements between the countries exist.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

There are no known complaints about transparency or discrimination by local courts in Botswana.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Botswana’s commercial and bankruptcy laws are comprehensive.  Secured and unsecured creditors enjoy similar rights under bankruptcy proceedings as those they would enjoy in the United States.

4. Industrial Policies 

Investment Incentives

Botswana has several mechanisms in place to attract FDI.  BITC assists local and foreign investors.  BITC is responsible for promoting FDI, investor aftercare, and the promotion of locally manufactured goods in export markets.  It assists investors with company registration, land acquisition, factory shells, utility connections, and work and residence permits for essential staff.  Investors’ requests for support from BITC and other agencies are evaluated based on the extent to which the proposed project assists in the GoB’s diversification efforts, contributes to the growth of priority sectors, and provides employment and training to Botswana citizens.  The GoB also makes grants available to investors who partner with citizens and will extend credit to investors presenting proposals that have undergone appropriate due diligence and that have completed a feasibility study.  Foreign investors are encouraged to transfer technology to Botswana and skills to Botswana citizens with a view to preparing them for promotion into management positions.

Botswana offers a relatively low tax rate of 22 percent on corporate taxable income and 7.5 percent withholding tax on all dividends distributed.  MITI can grant manufacturing companies the reduced level of 15 percent taxable income.  Companies can pay the reduced rate of 15 percent of profit with accreditation from the Innovation Hub or the International Financial Services Centre on approved operations.

The Minister of Finance and Economic Development has the authority to issue development approval orders that are used for specific projects, which include providing tax holidays, education, and training grants.  The Minister must be satisfied the proposed project will be beneficial to Botswana’s economy.  Any firm, local or foreign, may apply for a Development Approval Order through the Permanent Secretary at the finance ministry.  Applications are evaluated against the following criteria: job creation for Botswana citizens; the company’s training plans for Botswana citizens; the company’s plans to localize non-citizen positions; Botswana citizen participation in company management; amount of equity held by Botswana citizens in the company; the location of the proposed investment; the project’s effect on the stimulation of other economic activities; and the project’s effect on reducing local consumer prices.  MITI also offers rebates on imported materials for manufacturers that produce products for export.

In 2017, Parliament approved and implemented a special incentive package for Selebi-Phikwe geared to promote economic growth and diversification.  Some of the incentives include reduced corporate tax of five percent for the first five years and 10 percent thereafter (versus the 22 percent national tax rate), zero customs duty on imported raw materials, rebates for customs duty and value-added tax for any exports outside the SACU, and a minimum of 50 years on land leases (instead of the standard lease of 25 years).

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Parliament established a new parastatal organization, the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA), with the mandate to develop and operate special economic zones around the country.  It has earmarked five geographic areas with a total of eight zones, though they are not yet fully operational.  In 2015, Parliament approved a Special Economic Zones (SEZ) law to streamline investment in sector-targeted geographic areas in the country including two Gaborone area SEZs (multi-use, diamond processing, and financial services); two Selebi-Phikwe SEZs (mineral processing and horticulture); and additional SEZs in Lobatse (beef, leather, biogas); Palapye (energy); Pandamatenga (agriculture); and Francistown (mining and logistics).  The Special Economic Zones Act is available for sale in hard copy at the GoB bookshop.  SEZA has prioritized four SEZs—Lobatse (leather park), Gaborone Fairgrounds (Financial Services), Gaborone Sir Seretse Khama Airport (Diamond and Logistics) and Pandamatenga (Agriculture)—and is actively recruiting investors, private developers, and manufacturers.  BURS has also introduced an electronic Customs Management System to replace the Automated System for Customs Data and launched the National Single Window, an electronic trade platform that makes trading more secure and efficient.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Performance requirements are not imposed as a condition for establishing, maintaining, or expanding an investment in Botswana.  Foreign investors are encouraged, but not compelled, to establish joint ventures with citizens or citizen-owned companies.

Foreign investors wishing to invest in Botswana are required to register the company in accordance with the Companies Act and comply with other applicable legislation.  Investors are encouraged, but not required, to purchase from local sources.  The GoB does not require investors to locate in specific geographical areas, use a specific percentage of local content, permit local equity in projects, manufacture substitutes for imports, meet export requirements or targets, or use national sources of financing for private-sector investments.  However, GoB entities, including BITC, use the criteria of diversifying the economy, creating employment, and transferring skills to Botswana citizens in determining whether to assist foreign investors.

As a matter of policy, the GoB encourages foreign firms to hire qualified Botswana nationals rather than expatriates.  The granting of work permits for foreign workers may be made contingent upon establishment of demonstrable localization efforts.  The government may additionally require evidence that a local is being trained to assume duties currently being fulfilled by a foreign worker, specially focused at the middle-management level.  The GoB offers incentives to companies that train local employees, including the deduction of 200 percent of training expenses when an accredited institution conducts the training.

Business leaders cite difficulty securing work permits combined with local skills deficits and constrained labor productivity as one of the foremost business constraints in Botswana. However, since President Masisi assumed power in April 2018, GoB reports suggest permits for foreign workers have increased with approval rates in excess of 90 percent.  Select grants are available to foreign investors who partner with Botswana citizens.  The Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency has established a venture capital fund to provide equity to citizens and ventures between citizens and foreign investors.  The majority of GoB loans and grants are designed specifically for citizen-owned contracting firms or for small enterprises and are therefore not available to foreign investors.

The GoB, the largest procuring entity in the country, has directed central government, local authorities, and state-owned enterprises to purchase all products and services from locally based manufacturers and service providers if the goods and services are locally available, competitively priced, and meet tender specifications in terms of quality standards as certified or recognized by the Botswana Bureau of Standards.  Local preferences arise from numerous sources.  In 2015, MITI instituted a program to give locally based small companies a 15 percent preferential price margin in GoB procurement, with mid-sized companies receiving a 10 percent margin, and large companies a five percent margin.  The directive applies to 27 categories of goods and services ranging from textiles to chemicals, and food, in addition to a broad range of consultancy services.  In 2014, the GoB and the Chamber of Mines created a committee to oversee the purchasing of mining supplies with a 10 percent preference towards those produced locally.  The 2012 Citizen Economic Empowerment Policy also emphasized the preference for local companies and the GoB’s PPADB registers citizen-owned companies for preference purposes. In 2020, the GoB announced new policy that all government contracts less than ~USD 900,000 were reserved for Motswana-owned businesses.

For a foreign firm to qualify with the Department of Industrial Affairs as a locally-based manufacturer or service provider to sell goods or services to the GoB, the firm must first be registered with the Registrar of Companies and possess a relevant license or waiver letter.  These procedures can be completed online, however, companies may choose to engage the services of a Company Secretary to perform these and other required documentation services.  Tenders are generally designed based on the products available in the local market and with locally-based companies in mind.  In addition, many tenders require local registration as a prerequisite for bids and the GoB frequently breaks up large-scale projects into a series of tenders.  All of these factors make it difficult to compete for tenders from outside Botswana.   

 

5. Protection of Property Rights 

Real Property

Property rights are enforced in Botswana.  The World Bank ranks Botswana 82 out of 190 in the Registering Property category.  There are three main categories of land in Botswana: freehold, state land, and tribal land.  Tribal and state land cannot be sold to foreigners.  There are no restrictions on the sale of freehold land, but only an approximate five percent of land in Botswana is freehold. All minerals in Botswana, even those on private lands, are viewed as property of the State. In the capital city of Gaborone, the number of freehold plots is limited.  In 2019, the GoB increased the rate of Transfer Duty on the sale and transfer of property to non-citizens (both individuals and companies) from five percent to 30 percent.

State land represents about 25 percent of land in Botswana.  On application to the Department of Lands, both foreign-owned and local enterprises registered in Botswana may lease state land for industrial or residential use.  Commercial use leases are for 50 years and residential leases are for 99 years.  Waiting periods tend to be long for leasehold applications, but subleases from current leaseholders are available.  In 2014, the GoB changed its implementing regulation to allow companies with less than five employees to operate in residential areas if their operations do not pose a health or safety risk to residents.

Tribal land represents 70 percent of land in Botswana.  To obtain a lease for tribal land, the investor must approach the relevant local Land Board.  Processes are unlikely to be streamlined or consistent across Land Boards.

Since independence, the trend in Botswana has been to increase the area of tribal land at the expense of both state and freehold land.  Landlord-tenant law in Botswana tends to be moderately pro-landlord.

In addition to helping investors who meet its criteria obtain appropriate land leaseholds, BITC has also built factory units for lease to industrialists with the option to purchase at market value.

Intellectual Property Rights

Botswana’s legal intellectual property rights (IPR) structure is adequate, although some improvements are needed.  The key challenge facing the GoB is effective implementation. CIPA was established in 2014 and is comprised of three offices: the Companies and Business Office, the Industrial Property Office, and the Copyright Office.  Intellectual property is registered through CIPA.  This organizations’s priorities n are to strengthen and implement Botswana’s IPR regime and improve interagency cooperation.  IPR infringement occurs in Botswana primarily through the sale of counterfeit items in low-end sales outlets.  According to CIPA, targeted raids by local law enforcement have reduced the availability of counterfeit goods across the country.   In 2019, CIPA and the Botswana Police Service seized 3,888 counterfeit CDs and DVDs valued at USD 30,000 compared to nearly 13,000 counterfeits valued at over USD 107,000 seized in 2017.  The U.S. government continues to work with the GoB to modernize and improve enforcement of IPR.

IPR is protected under the Industrial Property Act of 2010, which provides protections on patents, trademarks, utility designs, handicrafts, traditional knowledge, and geographic indicators.  The 2000 Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act also protects art and literary works, and the 1975 Registration of Business Names Act oversees corporate name and registration procedures.  Other IPR-related laws include the Competition Act, the Value Added Tax Act, the Botswana Penal Code, the Customs and Excise Duty Act, the Monuments and Relics Act, the Broadcasting Act, and the Societies Act.

Botswana is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

Botswana is a signatory to the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs, the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks, the Convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Resources for Rights Holders

Goitseone Montsho
Economic/Commercial Specialist
MontshoG@state.gov
+267 373-2431

Local lawyers’ list: https://bw.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/

6. Financial Sector 

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

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, two 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 92 percent of total deposits and 98 percent of total loans in Botswana.  A large portion of the population does not participate in the formal banking sector.

Money and Banking System

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 successfully managed to maintain a sensible exchange rate and a stable inflation rate, generally within the target of three to six percent.

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 program to allow small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to access up to USD 15 million in loans in an effort to diversify the economy.

At the end of 2019, there were 25 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 total market capitalization for listed companies at year-end 2019 was USD 37 billion, though one company constitutes the majority of that figure, Anglo-American plc, which has a market capitalization of approximately USD 30 billion. 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, the country failed to meet compliance requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) resulting in a grey listing in October 2018.  Botswana is currently implementing an action plan to remedy the situation. 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.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no foreign exchange controls in Botswana or restrictions on capital outflows through financial institutions.  Commercial banks are required to ensure customers complete basic forms indicating name, address, purpose and other details prior to processing funds transfer requests or loan applications.  The finance ministry monitors data collected on the forms for statistical information on capital flows, but the form does not require government approval prior to the processing of a transaction and does not delay capital transfers.

To encourage portfolio investment, develop domestic capital markets, and diversify investment instruments, non-residents are able to trade in and issue Botswana pula-denominated bonds with maturity periods of more than one year, provided such instruments are listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE).  Only Botswana citizens can purchase Botswana’s Letlole National Savings Certificate (equivalent to a U.S. Treasury bond).  Foreigners can hold shares in BSE-listed Botswana companies.

Travelers are not restricted to the amount of currency they may carry, but they are required to declare to customs at the port of departure any cash amount in excess of 10,000 pula (~USD 950).  There are no quantitative limits on foreign currency access for current account transactions.

Bank accounts denominated in foreign currency are allowed in Botswana.  Commercial banks offer accounts denominated in U.S. Dollars, British Pounds, Euros and South African Rand.  Businesses and other bodies incorporated or registered domestically may open accounts without prior approval from the Bank of Botswana.  The GoB also permits the issuance of foreign currency denominated loans.

Upon disinvestment by a non-resident, the non-resident is allowed immediate repatriation of all proceeds including profits, rents, and fees.

The Botswana Pula has a crawling peg exchange rate and is tied to a basket of currencies of major trading partner countries.  In 2018 the weights of the Pula basket currencies were maintained at 45 percent for the South African Rand and 55 percent for the Special Drawing Rights (consisting of the U.S. Dollar, the Euro, British Pound, Japanese Yen, and Chinese Renminbi) respectively.  Movements of the South African Rand against the U.S. Dollar heavily influence the Pula.  There is no difficulty in obtaining foreign exchange.  Shortages of foreign exchange that would lead banks to block transactions are highly unlikely.

Remittance Policies

There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

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, with an estimated value of some USD 4.74 billion as of 2018, 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.  Botswana is among the founding members 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: http://www.bankofbotswana.bw/assets/uploaded/BOTSWANA percent20PULA percent20FUND percent20- percent20SANTIAGO percent20PRINCIPLES percent20(2).pdf 

7. State-Owned Enterprises 

State-owned enterprises (SOEs), known as “parastatals,” are majority or 100 percent owned by the GoB.  There is a published list of SOEs at the GoB portal (www.gov.bw) with profiles of financial and development SOEs. Some SOEs are state-sanctioned monopolies, including the Botswana Meat Commission, the Water Utilities Corporation, Botswana Railways, and the Botswana Power Corporation.

The same business registration and licensing laws govern private and government-owned enterprises.  No law or regulation prohibits or restricts private enterprises from competing with SOEs.  Botswana law requires SOEs to publish annual reports, and private sector accountants or the Auditor General audits SOEs depending on how they are constituted.  GoB ministries together with their respective SOEs are compelled on an annual basis to appear before the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee to provide reports and answer questions regarding their performance.  Some SOEs are not performing well and have been embroiled in scandals involving alleged fraud and mismanagement.

Botswana is not party to the Government Procurement Agreement within the framework of the WTO.

Privatization Program

The GOB has committed to privatization on paper.  It established a task force in 1997 to privatize all of its state-owned companies and formed a Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatization Agency (PEEPA) to oversee this process.  Implementation of its privatization commitments has been limited to the January 2016 sale offer of 49 percent of the stock of the state-owned Botswana Telecommunications Corporation to Botswana citizens only.  In February 2017, the GoB issued an Expressions of Interest for the privatization of its national airline, but progress stopped due to the decision to re-fleet the airline before privatization.  In early 2019, President Masisi announced the Botswana Meat Commission was being placed in the hands of a private management company prior to privatization. Conversely, the GoB has created new SOEs such as the Okavango Diamond Company, the Mineral Development Company, and Botswana Oil Limited in recent years.

8. Responsible Business Conduct 

The GoB, some foreign and local firms, and customers, recognized and embraced Responsible Business Conduct (RBC), although Botswana is not an adherent of the OECD’s RBC Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and has not specified its definition of RBC.  Large companies in the mining, communications technology, food supply, and financial services sectors have established RBC programs, sponsor projects, and support local nonprofit concerns.  However, the ethos has not taken hold in many smaller firms.  The U.S. Embassy worked with the local chamber of commerce, Business Botswana, on the issue of corporate social responsibility and ethical compliance, to help enlist companies to sign onto a Corporate Code of Conduct that covers, among other things, conflicts of interest, bribery, political interference, political party funding, procurement and bidding, and issues surrounding residence and work permits.  To date more than 300 firms have signed the Code of Conduct.

The Companies Act also sets out the expectations of business conduct and governance for directors and shareholders for both private and public companies.  Botswana is not a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.  Botswana’s Mines and Minerals Act and associated regulations govern mineral contracts and licenses.  Botswana’s laws and procedures for awarding mining contracts are fairly well developed.  Mining licenses are required to undergo a public comment period before they are awarded, and that rule is followed.

9. Corruption 

Botswana has a reputation for a relative lack of corruption and a willingness to prosecute corrupt officials.  Transparency International ranks Botswana as the least corrupt country in Africa (34th worldwide).  Investors with experience in other developing nations describe the relative lack of obstruction or interference by law enforcement or other government agents as among the country’s most important assets.  Nevertheless, private sector representatives note rising corruption levels in government tender procurements.

The major corruption investigation body is the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC).  Anecdotal reports on the DCEC’s effectiveness vary.  The DCEC has embarked on an education campaign to raise public awareness about the cost of corruption and is also working with GoB departments to reform their accountability procedures. Corruption is punishable by a prison term of up to 10 years, a fine of USD 50,000, or both.  The GoB has prosecuted high-level officials.  Corruption allegations have surfaced recently around pension fund management and government procurement procedures and are still under investigation.

The 2000 Proceeds of Serious Crime Act expanded the DCEC’s mandate to include combatting money laundering.  The 2009 Financial Intelligence Act provides a comprehensive legal framework to address money laundering and establishes a financial intelligence agency (FIA).  The FIA, which operates under the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, cooperates with various institutions, such as Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Botswana Police Service, Bank of Botswana, the Non-Banking Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, the DCEC, and foreign FIAs to uncover and investigate suspicious financial transactions.  Botswana is a member of the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group, a regional standards-setting body for ensuring appropriate laws, policies, and practices to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism.  In October 2018, Botswana was “gray-listed” by the Financial Action Task Force and is currently implementing an action plan to address shortcomings that led to the listing.

UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery

Botswana is not a party to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, but is a party to the 2005 United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contacts for agencies responsible for combating corruption:

Name: Brigadier Joseph Mathambo
Tittle: Director General
Organization: Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime
Address: Madirelo Extension 6, Gaborone, Botswana
Telephone Number: +267 3914002/+267 3604200
Email:  dcec@gov.bw

Name: Mr. Elijah Motshidi
Tittle: Executive Director
Organization: Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board
Address: Private Bag 0058, Gaborone, Botswana
Telephone Number: +267 3602000
Email:  webmaster@ppadb.co.bw

Name: Mr. Abraham Sethibe
Tittle: Director
Organization: Financial Intelligence Agency
Address: Private Bag 0190, Gaborone, Botswana
Telephone Number: +267 3998400
Email:  asethibe@gov.bw

One can also reach out to the Minister of the relevant Ministry for a particular tender and provide a copy of the complaint to the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) Executive Director.

10. Political and Security Environment 

The threat of political violence is low in Botswana.  Public demonstrations are rare and seldom turn violent.  The last large-scale strikes, which involved public sector employees, occurred April-June 2011 and were not violent. In September 2015, roughly 200 people participated in a peaceful march organized by an opposition political party to protest water shortages in the capital.  In August 2016, police forcefully dispersed a small demonstration protesting unemployment outside the National Assembly.  In February and March 2017, some student-led protests occurred at tertiary institutions necessitating police deployment but were not overtly political.  There were multiple reports of police brutality, including the use of rubber whips and rubber bullets.  Another peaceful march against corruption was held in March 2018.  This followed allegations of embezzlement of the National Petroleum Fund by a company charged with the management of the funds together with some GoB officials.  In late 2019, following general election, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) held a peaceful march of no more than 200 people protesting the election results.

11. Labor Policies and Practices 

Botswana has a high unemployment rate and a constricted worker skills base.  The latest statistics released in late 2019 showed an increase of unemployment from 17.7 percent to just over 20 percent, although the real rate is suspected to be higher due to the way the GoB counts who is included in the statistic.  Employers can expect to engage in significant training efforts, depending on the industry.  Retention of workers and absenteeism can pose problems.  In addition, managers often cite workforce productivity as a point of frustration.  The lack of trained local citizen professionals is generally addressed by contracting expatriates if they can secure work permits.  There is minimal labor strife in Botswana.  In 2015, there were a handful of small and peaceful strikes, the most notable of these was by a portion of BURS officials, but as with most unions across sectors, only a portion of BURS officials were unionized, allowing the GoB to maintain customs operations.

The Employment Act provides basic guidelines for employment in Botswana.  The legislation sets requirements for a minimum wage, length of the workweek, annual and maternity leave, hiring and termination.  Standards set by the Act are consistent with international best practice as described by International Labour Organization (ILO) model legislation and guidelines.

Employment-related litigation occurs and is both an example of trust in the court system and a cost to doing business in Botswana.  Employers avoid considerable expense and frustration if they observe the provisions of the Employment Act, relevant labor regulations, and prudence in advance of potential litigation.  Before a potential litigant goes to one of 11 labor courts, the parties must attempt mediation through the Department of Labor.  Court cases offering severance terms for employees laid off due to fluctuating market conditions are also common.  Section 25 of the Employment Act allows employers to terminate contracts for reducing the size of their work force, known as redundancy, using the first-in-last-out principle.  This method of terminating contracts is separate from firing for serious misconduct as specified by Section 26 of the Act. The GoB has social safety net programs in place to assist the unemployed and destitute.

Collective bargaining is common in government and the private sector and the Labor Commissioner can grant collective bargaining authority upon request.  The largest unions are comprised of public sector workers.

In August 2016 Parliament passed a Trade Disputes Act with a list of services deemed “essential” and barred from striking that exceeds international labor standards. The Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity, and Skills Development is coordinating with the ILO and other partners to review labor laws to ensure they align with ILO standards.  The review process is ongoing and Ministry sources claim they plan to conclude a draft bill and present it to Parliament by July 2020.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs 

The DFC has a presence in Botswana through its previous Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Development Credit Authority (DCA) programs. OPIC has a USD 250 million loan guarantee facility for the local diamond industry, and two separate SME loan facilities with local financial institutions. DCA also has a loan facility in place which targets SMEs.

Botswana is a member of MIGA, which offers investors protection against inconvertibility, or transfer of currency, expropriation, breach of contract, and war and civil disturbance.

The Export Credit Insurance & Guarantee Company (Botswana) Pty. Ltd. allows investors to purchase coverage against certain events and losses such as the insolvency and inability of buyers to pay for purchases, unanticipated import restrictions, or the blockage by the buyer’s country of foreign exchange transfer.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics 

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy 
Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($ USD) N/A N/A 2018 $18.6 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD) N/A N/A 2018 $-11 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2018 $0 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 26.9% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 
  

According to the Bank of Botswana, investment in Botswana totaled 80.5 billion Pula in 2017, of which 28.9 billion Pula were non-FDI investments.  Africa (36 percent) and Europe (56 percent) accounted for most of the 51.64 billion Pula influx of FDI.  Within these regions, South Africa and the United Kingdom were the predominant players, accounting for 10.6 and 26.3 billion Pula respectively.  Little data on FDI sources is available for countries and regions with limited investments in Botswana.  Mining accounted for 35.1 percent of Foreign Investment inflows in 2017.

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI 
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/to Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward Amount 100% Total Outward Amount 100%
Africa 185.89 36% N/A
Europe 288.95 56%
Asia Pacific 11.67 2.3%
North & Central America 16.02 3%
Middle East 13.06 2.5%
Other                                      3.5          0.1%
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment 
IMF Coordinated Direct Investment Survey data are not available for Botswana.  2018 estimates for Botswana’s net international investments declined by 11.1 percent from 70.9 billion Pula in 2017 to 63 billion Pula in 2018.  On the assets side, direct investments, portfolio investments, and foreign exchange reserves decreased by 6.9 percent, 13.1 percent, and 3.1 percent respectively.  Portfolio investment decreased due to the decline in equity and debt securities invested abroad.

14. Contact for More Information 

Goitseone Montsho
Economic/Commercial Specialist
+267 395-3982 / 373-2431
MontshoG@state.gov

2020 Investment Climate Statements: Botswana
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