Botswana’s growth is expected to slow to about 3.5% in 2019 due to weaknesses in the diamond market, a severe drought and sluggish growth in neighbouring countries, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned. In a new report issued Wednesday, IMF said Botswana’s growth is however expected to rise to 4.2% in 2020 as the diamond market normalises and copper production comes into the stream.
“Under staff’s baseline scenario, growth is expected to recover to 4.2% in 2020 as the diamond market normalises and copper production comes into stream, and hover around 4% thereafter – a level too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market,” the Bretton Woods institution said.
It said fiscal consolidation should start in 2020, “supported by both expenditure and revenue measures beyond those considered by the authorities.”
“The consolidation needs to be carefully calibrated to minimise the impact on growth, competitiveness, and the most vulnerable,” the IMF said.
It noted that achieving Botswana’s objectives of moving to a knowledge-based economy and high-income status by 2036 “will require changing the growth model from a mining and government-led model to private sector and export-driven.” According to the Fund, Botswana’s fiscal deficit is expected to reach 5.75% of the country’s gross domestic product due to lower-than-expected revenue, an increase in public wages and other recurrent spending.
Despite these challenges, IMF said Botswana’s banking sector remained well capitalised and liquidity has improved.
Botswana: Learning to live with frequent droughts
Batswana have become accustomed to frequent dry spells to such an extent that droughts are now second nature. To most Batswana, droughts are a “normal” part of the country’s climate; with multiple, multi-year dry spells having been recorded since the 1950s.
But never before has the southern African nation suffered a major climate change crisis as this year, which has led to severe water shortages and wreaked havoc on the country’s ecosystem.
So dire is the situation that the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Felix Monggae believes that Botswana is experiencing its worst drought yet. Monggae revealed that the Okavango Delta, home to thousands of elephants, hippos and crocodiles, has dried up.
“This is the worst drought we have experienced in recent years,” he said.
He said for the first time, the government has been forced to provide supplementary feeding and water to wildlife in the Okavango Delta as the effects of the drought take their toll.
“We have been pumping water into the delta to save the animals and the farmers’ livelihood,” Monggae told APA.
Monggae said to date, the government has drilled 18 additional boreholes in northwestern Botswana, while10 wells have been drilled in the Okavango Delta to water the wildlife. According to media reports, thousands of animals have died in the delta due to lack of rain. In his State of the Nation Address in early November, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the Human-Wildlife Conflict has escalated due to the current drought conditions.
“Additional funds have been approved for the Ministry of Tourism to provide water for the wildlife to alleviate the impact of water shortages and augment water points in game reserves and wildlife management areas,” said Masisi.
Monggae expressed concern that should the rains fail to come early, the situation looks likely to threaten one of Botswana’s economic mainstays – tourism – as rivers in the north have dried up. Grassland has all but disappeared, forcing elephants, hippos and cattle to compete for water and food.
According to the 2018 World Travel and Tourism Report, at least 2.5 million foreign tourists visited Botswana to photograph elephants. This contributed significantly to tourism’s 11.5% contribution to the country’s gross domestic product, which, in turn, created over 76,000 jobs. Monggae said his ministry was working with the international community to address the situation.
“We have received support from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and some lodge owners in the Okavango Delta are pumping water around their lodges for wildlife,” Monggae said.
He revealed that Botswana has introduced other methods of managing the ever-growing number of wildlife such as elephants.
“We have opened up some wildlife corridors in the hope that some of the elephants would move to Angola and neighbouring countries to reduce the pressure here,” said Monggae.
Hunting is another method being employed by the Botswana authorities, he said.
“Hunting is not enough to manage the number of wild animals but we believe it is another method that can reduce the Human-Wildlife Conflict,” he said.
Botswana, which has the highest number of elephants on the continent, is struggling with over-population. A local NGO, Elephant Protection Society has sent an SOS across the country and also reached out to the international community for assistance.
The organisation’s spokesperson, Oaitse Nawa, says his organisation responded promptly following reports that some hippos and elephants were stranded in some drying up lagoons in the Okavango Delta.
Botswana’s Chief Meteorologist, Radithupa Radithupa said that although the southern part of the country is expected to receive rains in a few weeks, they’d arrive later than expected in the northern region. He said the expected temperatures of between 38-43 degrees celsius would not help the drying up of rivers to dry up and further Human-Wildlife Conflict incidents.