Now is the time to invest.

Author:Versi, Anver
Position:Includes related article on Botswana's stock exchange - Botswana - Dawn of a New Era
 
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While international globalisation may ne sending shivers down the backs of many African countries, Botswana has grasped the nettle and has embarked steadily towards rapid industrialisation.

The pace of industrialisation is expected to increase from this year on. 1997 marks the beginning of Botswana's new development plan which aims specifically at diversifying the economy away from reliance on diamonds and the huge revenues the government accrues from its own capital.

The most crucial economic and political issue facing the country is finding employment for the army of school-leavers who join the labour pool every year. Thus the emphasis is on labour-intensive sectors such as manufacturing, textiles and tourism.

To achieve its ambitious growth targets and fulfil its social obligations, the government has set out with a will to woo foreign investors. The task of persuading investors, spoilt for choice in terms of locations world-wide, to invest in Botswana is the province of the Trade and Investment Agency (TIPA).

Talk to any of TIPA's officers and they will tell you that no other country in the world offers better terms or greater promises of profit for the investor. While this is touchingly exaggerated, they are not too far off the truth.

Botswana is arguably the most politically stable country in Africa and last year registered the 11th-fastest growth in the world. It has huge foreign reserves, equal to an astonishing 23 months export cover, a convertible currency, a number of investment incentives and the most liberal exchange controls in Africa.

With a population of 1.5m, Botswana does not provide a sufficiently attractive domestic market for foreign investors so the orientation is towards manufacturing for export.

Although Botswana is land-locked, it occupies a very central geographic position in Southern Africa. It is bordered by South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia. Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland are all within reach. Collectively, these countries form a solid trading block and an expanding market.

As a member of the Southern African Customs Union, Botswana enjoys duty-free access to some of the most lucrative markets in Africa. Exports of vehicles assembled in Botswana are a case in point. In 1993, vehicle exports formed only 2.3% of all exports at a value of P102.2m. In 1996, this had gone up to 14% of all exports at a value of P1.2bn and constituted the country's second-highest foreign-exchange earner.

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