The inaugural Exporters Forum - a partnership of Botswana Investment Trade Centre (BITC), Stanbic Bank Botswana and Econsult - has the potential to unlock opportunities that lie in the global value for local exporting businesses, says the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo.
Kenewendo said this when officiating at the first ever Exporters Forum on Thursday, saying the export trade plays a crucial role in contributing to the country's economy.
She is of the view that the export trade should be leading in driving robust economic growth; hence there is a need to ignite a vibrant export market with diversified export products.
"The MITI is keen on development of three sectors of business being the SMMEs, Investment and export business. It is important to move from the traditional exporting of products such as beef and diamonds," she added.
Kenewendo said there are indigenous products that can be tapped into for export diversification such as the Sengaparile plant, which is in demand in the European markets.
Moreover MITI - according to the minister - is playing a central role in ensuring that there is financing as well as training of exporters such as the Botswana Export Development Programme (BEDP) housed at BITC.
"For more keen development of the local export's growth the government has signed various regional and international trade agreements such as Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AFCTA) and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which enables the locals to export products and have broader market access. Most importantly, the private sector should also be key towards growing the export market," she said.
Stanbic Bank Botswana CEO Samuel Minta said to attain a sustainable upper income status through the National Vision 2036 there is a greater need to drive a well-diversified export base.
He said his bank will step in to ensure the development of export diversification, noting that the diamonds have been driving the foreign direct earnings for a long time.
Minta, however, said this requires urgent attention through an honest collaboration between private sector and government.
"We are well aware that a thriving economy and private sector needs a supportive financial sector, willing to innovate and able to take strategic risks. Stanbic Bank is therefore determined to play that role in Botswana. In doing so, we are frankly preserving our own long term sustainability," Minta said.
Export market growth
Dr Keith Jefferies, Managing Director of Econsult, has emphasised the importance of diversifying trade, noting the current major export in diamonds has not been doing well due to diamonds price volatility.
He said the non-mining sector has great potential of unlocking opportunities for local exporters.
Flo-Tek Botswana MD Vijay Naik said the manufacturing sector has potential to grow the robust export-based industry due to numerous features that favour Botswana.
"Botswana due to its land linked status with good roads network to the entire SADC region, ensures easier accessibility to the 240 million SADC region and 1.1 billion market population of Africa," Naik said.