Gaborone — Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA) continues to seek market access for local companies both regionally and globally.
In an interview with BOPA, BEMA chief executive officer Ms Mmantlha Sankoloba said even though the organisation had encountered challenges, more successes than setbacks were realised in the quest to secure international markets on behalf of Botswana manufacturing entities.
Ms Sankoloba said at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the association made intensive efforts of prospecting for groundnuts markets and found South Africa to be a key market.
The country, she said, required groundnuts for value addition processes and Botswana had the best potential of being a key supplier considering both environmental and other factors.
In addition, Ms Sankoloba said Botswana had been found to have the right climate for strawberry farming.
"As an association, we have identified the European market and the American market to be key procuring destinations for Botswana strawberries. There are also existing potential markets within the SADC region," she said. Explaining that the association's mandate was to impact the lives of communities through empowerment initiatives, she said it had embarked on a drive to help them identify viable commercial projects.
Communities would then be aided with skills training and requisite resources to kick start the projects, she said.
She said the objective was to contribute towards sustainable job creation and improvement of locals' livelihoods.
"The Botswana Exporters & Manufacturers Association has recently signed an MOU with the Indian Importers Chambers of Commerce & Industry. This is a development that we are very much excited about," she said.
Ms Sankoloba said although loaded with potential such as a population of over one billion consumers, a stable democracy and many importers dealing in a large variety of products from all over the world, the Indian market was under-utilised
"They import products such as foodstuff, jewellery, oils, industrial products, health care products, furniture, construction materials and handicrafts and at the association we have within our membership, companies dealing in the said products and we were excited to have them start trading with India," she said.
Another lucrative market identified was that of Pakistan with the association already having had engagements with the Trade Commission of Pakistan, she said adding that key areas of trade collaboration had been mapped out.
Ms Sankoloba said Pakistan had trading partners within Sub-Saharan Africa but desired more as Pakistani companies sought to purchase input commodities.
She said over the years, BEMA had been challenged to continue to tirelessly steer the sector towards propitious prospects.
The BEMA chief said the association represented different key government entities such as the National Technical Committee on Market Access (TCMA) and the National Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment (TIFI) committee.
Ms Sankoloba said BEMA also co-chaired the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) reference group for the purpose of creating a presence and awareness of the progressive opportunities offered by the American market to local manufacturers.
"Our presence at regional and global levels is also significant, as we partake in key SADC, SACU, and African Union forums intended to grow individual economies at a harmonious pace," she said.
Ms Sankoloba reiterated that Botswana's small population could not fulfil the growth ambitions of the manufacturing sector hence the need to explore external markets.
BEMA is a business membership organisation established to serve as the voice of all local manufacturing and exporting companies.
Its services include business consultancy, networking opportunities, business advocacy, establishing business linkages and policy advisory.
Source : BOPA