President Ian Khama has revealed that the minerals sector continues to be challenged by depressed markets. Speaking in his State of the Nation address, the Khama however said the sector remains the principal source of revenue and primary sector for growth and diversification.
He said diamond markets have shown improvement but remain sluggish and as the end of September 2013, the average diamond price was 3% higher than for the same period in 2012. Carat sales and revenue for 2013 are forecast to be 20% and 17% above that of 2012.
“The Lerala and BK11 mines are still under care and maintenance, while the Ghaghoo Mine’s start up has been delayed and is now expected mid-2014. More encouraging has been the ongoing success of the new Karowe mine”.
The nation was also told that nickel and copper prices also declined during 2013. By the end of August 2013, the average sale price for nickel and copper were 13% and 8% lower than that of the whole of 2012. Gold price has also declined, in August 2013 being 14% below its 2012 average.
On the good news, the President said the relocation of Diamond Trading Company International (DTCI) from London to Gaborone is slightly ahead of schedule. “The sight sale in Botswana is now scheduled for next week (11/11/13) 2013. Government continues to encourage the private sector to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the relocation exercise.”
He added that the Okavango Diamond Company conducted its first full scale sale in October 2013, in which 76 companies from all the world’s major diamond centres participated. Over 220 thousand carats were sold for P 343 million (USD 40.3 million). In addition, Boteti Mining Company, through their dual tender sales, sold over P 900 million (USD 106 million) worth of diamonds as at the end of September 2013.
“The diamond cutting and polishing sector has continued to grow, employing 3651 as of August 2013. Eleven additional companies have been licensed, bringing the total number to 27. DTC Botswana sales to the local polishing industry grew to USD 618 million in 2012. The target for 2013 is USD 770 million.”
Turning to tourism, Khama revealed that the CNN Travel Report ranks Botswana second as the favourite destination for safari tourists, while various international travel ratings list many of our resorts as among the World’s very best.
Khama also said the government has instituted initiatives aimed at improving the participation of Batswana in the tourism industry, which include reserving licenses for certain activities for citizens such as mobile operators, tourist guest houses, mekoro, and camps and caravan sites. “As at end of April 2013, there were 847 licensed tourism enterprises, out of which 473 are wholly owned by citizens, an increase of 67 from the previous year, while 144 are joint ventures and 220 are non-citizen owned. In addition, we have also been empowering local communities through the promotion of Community Based Natural Resource Management Projects, which now number 109 across the country.”
Other key features of the Khama’s speech
Madam Speaker, beyond their role as magnets for tourism, our unique natural wonders, from the dunes of the southern Kgalagadi to the Okavango and Chobe wetlands, are a blessing of God that we must carefully steward not only for our own benefit, but as a legacy for those who will follow us. As Government we are thus committed to engaging both domestic and international stakeholders, in the private sector and civil society, to assist us in the conservation and sustainable development of our natural heritage. This is reflected in our championing of the “Gaborone Declaration”, which calls for a worldwide recognition of the intrinsic value of ecosystems through natural capital accounting. Internally, we are thus exploring practical measures to ensure that the true value of our own natural capital is integrated into our future national development planning.
Government is also engaging the private sector in the formulation of strategies for the clean development of our urban and rural areas, while the national target for waste reclamation has been increased to 20% at all landfills to promote recycling.
Government has decided to introduce a ban on the hunting of wildlife in all controlled hunting areas in Botswana with effect from January 2014. The decision was necessitated by available scientific based information indicating that several wildlife species are in decline. The suspension of hunting will allow Government, working with all stakeholders, to focus on understanding the causes of these declines and, where possible, to put in place remedial measures to reverse the trends. Government is fully cognizant of the effect that the ban will have on community based organisations that have been benefiting from hunting in the past. Efforts are therefore underway to prepare the affected communities for sustainable non-consumptive utilisation of their resources, through the development of management plans. Communities and concessionaires are being capacitated to undertake resource monitoring in their areas to allow them to track the impact of management interventions such as water provision, measures to reduce illegal off take and fire management.
Botswana’s landscape is prone to wild land fires. However, recently their frequency, intensity, multiplicity and area coverage have increased significantly thereby posing potential harm to our ecosystem. Government is continuing to mobilize resources to areas of high economic importance. Botswana is working closely with the Government of Australia in training officers and communities to equip them with wild land fire management strategies. To date 2,220 fire fighters have been trained and a Fire Management Strategy has been developed. In addition four rural fire brigades have been established in Chobe, Ngamiland, Central and Ghanzi districts which are working closely with existing urban fire brigades.