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Gov’t recommits to decreasing import bill

The government of Botswana has once more recommitted their aim of reducing the import bill by promoting the uptake of local products.

This was emphasized by acting Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry- Mabuse Pule, at the #PushaBW Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMME) Expo National Road show launch last Friday in Gaborone.

The campaign further aims to improve the production capacity of local producers, which directly contributes towards creation of more job opportunities and economic diversification.

With the import bill reported to be hovering over P85 billion, #PushaBW initiative was introduced in 2018 though significant strides have not been made with regards to the mandate.

In October 2021 alone, food imports amounted to P995 million, a very alarming figure especially that calls have been made for Botswana to push towards food self-sufficiency and security.

Therefore Botswana Investment and Trade Centre(BITC), Local Entrepreneurial Authority(LEA) and Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency(CEDA) have embarked on a nationwide road show of the #PushaBW which aims at building capacity of local producers and service providers.

According to Minister Pule, availability of local products in the retail market brings local products closer to all consumers and allows for competitiveness of products in the local and external market.

“This road show has been brought about by the fact that most of the retailers are not aware of what is readily available. On the other hand, some local producers are not aware of the requirements and others struggle to meet those requirements for listing by the retailers. These requirements include among others, meeting certain quality standards, consistent and continuous supply as well as competitive pricing,” he said.

Retailers Woolworths, Sefalana, Fours, Trans Africa, Choppies, Squaremart and Pick n’ Pay have joined the road show as major players in the fast moving consumer goods.

However the road show comes at a time when Botswana is already struggling with meeting its demands of vegetables with supplies of potatoes, cabbage and tomatoes at its all-time lowest therefore causing prizes to skyrocket and calls to open borders for vegetables to be imported from neighbouring countries to ease the situation.

With retailers on board it is believed that challenges faced by local producers and service providers will be addressed, especially those relating to market access.

According to Pule retailers should find more ways to engage with local producers. “Come up with Supplier Development Programmes to enhance their capacity, improve their reliability and further avail shelf space within your stores for their products. Closure of the gap between international and local products will ultimately reduce the import bill,” said Pule.

For his part, BITC Chief Executive Officer Keletsositse Olebile, said during the road show retailers will be travelling across the country to engage local producers in an effort to bridge the gaps that have been identified with the requirements especially the quality of their products, to list in these stores.

“After an on-going three-year journey, where we have been seeing a steady increase in the uptake of local products, we celebrate the “retailers” this morning, for their commitment in partnering with government in ensuring the continued listing of local products in their stores,” he said.