Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

12 February 2009

Botswana: Rural Fuel Stations Set to Pop Up Across Country

Botswana has a new player in the fuels industry. The new locally developed brand is called PetroBotswana, and it has already started operations across the country.

Established in 2007, Viva Oil trading as PetroBotswana has travelled the long road to establish this new brand. Spending many months on research in the local market and exploring alterative fuel sources beyond South Africa.

Petro has travelled to Russia, the Middle East, East Africa and America seeking new sources of fuel for Botswana. This locally conceived business is now operating, with its first retailing fuel station now open in Sekoma.

"Our focus in the retail sector has been the rural areas of Botswana, as we feel that they have been largely neglected by our competitors", said CEO of PetroBotswana Kabelo Binns.

"Our driver is to empower rural Botswana with energy in the form of petroleum products. We do this by offering the most cost effective franchise opportunities available to Batswana.

As the cost of running our franchises is lower than our competitors it allows what might have been considered marginal fuel station sites to become profitable sites.

"We have taken the time to understand what Botswana needs, not taken a formula from elsewhere and forced into Botswana." He said

travellers to Sekoma and beyond would have seen Petro Sekoma on the Trans-Kgalagadi road. The proprietor of this fuel station is S Sebonego who is no stranger to running fuel stations.

He has been in the industry for over 20 years. He said he chose to buy into the Petro Franchise because "it was developed with Batswana in mind.

But being local does not suggest an inferior product. In fact I believe we offer a better product as we take our fuel to where it is needed most to grow our country."

Petro Sekoma currently only supplies diesel, mainly to truckers and the farming community in that area. Construction of phase two of this station is at an advanced stage and within the next 2 months petrol and paraffin will also be available.

The vision of the business is to "fuel the nation", said M.D. Andre Wagner, "we are striving to have a national footprint." Plans are underway at various stages to establish other stations in Francistown, Serule, Sefophe, Shakawe, Selibe Phikwe and Tlokweng.

Wagner went further to say, "our business is not limited to retail fuel supply.

We are also very active in commercial fuel supplies with customers across Botswana in logistics, public transport, and manufacturing amongst others. We really are fuelling the Nation."

Binns expanded on this point "we are constantly looking for new partners to distribute our fuels to. Too much land sits idle in Botswana and we need to make it work for the benefit of our nation. Access to fuels is a key driver of economic growth particularly in rural areas, as a brand we will play our part in such growth."

As Botswana's first domestic fuel brand one hopes that the market will be receptive to this initiative. Botswana currently has a 100% reliance on fuels coming out of South Africa.

If PetroBotswana's ambitions are realised we could see Botswana receiving fuels direct from source bypassing the middlemen in South Africa. Would this result in cheaper fuels at the pump? This is yet to be seen but as consumers Botswana would benefit from an alternative source of fuel.

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