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Botswana seeks to escape middle income trap

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The private sector has been urged to re-position itself to assist the country escape the middle income trap.

This refers to a situation where countries that have attained a certain level of development find it difficult to make the leap required to become advanced economies.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi made the call during a question and answer session dubbed, Conversation with the President at the just ended 15th National Business Conference. The biennial gathering was held under the theme: Breakthrough to a high income Botswana, The role of the private sector in charting the way.

President Masisi explained that government was doing its part through enrolling more students on technical courses and encouraging the use of information technology in the delivery of services.

In addition, he highlighted that while government was addressing the problem of skills mismatch, the private sector should also play its part in this regard. As a way of positioning the country’s transition to a high income status, President Masisi also explained that global partners were going to be key in this objective as evidenced by the P340 million grant from China for key infrastructural projects that facilitate business innovation.

Read also: Ghana considering $50 bln century bond, president says

In this regard, President Masisi highlighted that government was also looking at increasing the number of science and engineering graduates and attaching them in innovative organisations in developed economies.

Furthermore, President Masisi noted that a high income status would only come about when Botswana improved her productivity levels, the quality of education, innovation, developed the financial sector and diversified her economy away from diamonds.

“I urge the private sector to up its game with regards to efforts aimed at economic diversification,” he added.

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Nigerian govt ‘may open border for importation of cement’

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The Nigerian government has issued a warning to cement producers, stating that if they continue to raise prices arbitrarily, it may decide to open the border to cement imports.

This warning was given by Arc Ahmed Dangiwa, Minister of Housing and Urban Development, during an urgent meeting with cement and building material manufacturers on Tuesday in Abuja.

The government last week called for an urgent meeting with cement manufacturers following a recent surge in the price of the product, which has seen a bag of cement jump from N5,000 to as high as N15,000 in less than two weeks.

However, during his speech to the manufacturers on Tuesday, Dangiwa urged them to be more patriotic, pointing out that domestic sources, such as limestone, clay, silica sand, and gypsum, are used to produce cement rather than imports, and as such, they shouldn’t be valued in terms of dollars.

Dangiwa, who stated that the price of cement has increased and is unreasonable, also rejected the makers’ claim that the price increase was caused by petrol and the high cost of importing equipment.

This was in reaction to Salako James, the Association’s Executive Secretary, who had said that the association just heard of the  pricing from the market like every other Nigerian and did not discuss or decide the rates of specific enterprises.

“The challenges you speak of, many countries are facing the same challenges and some even worse than that but as patriotic citizens, we have to rally around whenever there is a crisis to change the situation.

“The gas price you spoke of, we know that we produce gas in the country the only thing you can say is that maybe it is not enough.

“Even if you say about 50 percent of your production cost is spent on gas prices, we still produce gas in Nigeria it’s just that some of the manufacturers take advantage of the situation. As for the mining equipment that you mentioned, you buy equipment and it takes years and you are still using it.

“The time you bought it maybe it was at a lower price but because now the dollar is high you are using it as an excuse. Honestly, we have to sit down and look at this critically. The demand and supply should be good for you because the government stopped the importation of cement, they stopped the importation in order to empower you to produce more.

“Otherwise if the government opens the border for mass importation of cement, the price would crash but you would have no business to do and at the same time the employment generation would go down. So these are the kinds of things you have to look at, the efforts of government in ensuring things go well.”

Following the elimination of fuel subsidies, the depreciation of the national currency, and low agricultural output, Nigeria is currently facing its worst cost of living crisis. These factors have all contributed to Nigeria’s highest headline inflation rate of 27% year over year and food inflation of 32%. The massive housing shortage facing the nation seems to have a new facet as a result of the recent increase in cement prices.

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Nigeria’s Q3 jobless rate rises to 5% after policy reforms 

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The figures issued by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that the jobless rate increased from 4.2% in the previous quarter following the government’s elimination of the expensive petrol subsidy in May.

Nigeria’s jobless rate increased to 5% in the third quarter due to a crisis in the country’s cost of living. Among young people aged 15 to 24, the unemployment rate increased from 7.2% to 8.6%. Additionally, urban unemployment increased slightly from 5.9% to 6% in the prior quarter.

With over 200 million citizens, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. However, decades of high unemployment have been caused by a population surge that has outpaced economic expansion.

However, once the government changed the formula for calculating the numbers in early 2023, the unemployment rate fell from a record 33% in the fourth quarter of 2020. With 87% of workers being self-employed, underemployment still exists. During that time, only 12.7% of people were employed for pay.

The NBS reports that the percentage of workers in the grey economy, or informal employment rate, remained relatively stable at 92.3%. Additionally, the workforce participation rate decreased somewhat to 79.5% from 80.4% in the second quarter.

President Bola Tinubu has defended his two main reforms, eliminating foreign exchange controls and subsidies, arguing that while these will cause hardships in the near run, they are essential to draw in investment and strengthen government coffers.

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