By Leon Louw founder of WhyAfrica
18 April 2021 – New mining projects, unsurpassed tourism and agricultural potential, and a robust and diversified economy makes Botswana WhyAfrica’s Pick of the Week.
Anybody who has sat in a Mokoro (local wooden canoe) gliding through the tranquil waters of the Okavango Delta watching a herd of elephant drink, or who has listened to barking geckos claiming their territory in the deep Kalahari at dusk, has experienced some form of Botswana magic. The country is a natural and wildlife mecca and tourism haven. Although Covid-19 has severely affected the tourism industry in Botswana, expect a phenomenal rebound in that sector as soon as international travel fires up again.
An agricultural hub
But there is a lot more to one of the most political stable countries in Africa. In a country that has welcomed foreign investors, the economy has thrived (before Covid-19) and is expected to continue doing so after the most significant impacts of the pandemic have been absorbed. Botswana is cattle country in the south, and in the north, the fertile soils and access to underground water in the Pandamatenga area, has resulted in the creation of an agricultural hub. Only when you board a small plane at the Kasane airport and you fly south towards Francistown, the size of these farms become clear – they are massive. You can drive as well, as the road network in Botswana is something other African countries only dream about.
However, it has not always been the case. In the 1960s, when the first European pioneers ventured into Botswana, there were no roads. Botswana was then reckoned to be one of the poorest countries in the world (according to those Europeans, of course). The discovery of massive Kimberlite diamond pipes changed all of that, and today the diamond mines at Jwaneng and Orapa remains the bedrock on which Botswana’s economy is built. Global mining giant De Beers relocated its sales business from London to Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana, a few years ago and today, after decades of just mining rough diamonds, Botswana now cuts, polishes, and sells the precious stones itself.
More projects in the pipeline
These reasons alone could have made me voted Botswana as WhyAfrica’s Pick of the Week, however, there are more projects in the pipeline. Although new coal projects are not the favourite talking points in the world media today, the presence of coal, and several large investments in the country’s coalfields, will boost Botswana’s economy significantly in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Botswana has large untapped resources of semi-bituminous coal in various parts of the country estimated at 212 868 million tons of which reserves constitute 50% to 60% of this resource, making Botswana the second largest coal country in Africa, after South Africa. Botswana’s coal occurs within the Karoo Basin which covers an area of about 70% of the entire country. Projects like Minergy’s Masama mine, Maatla Energy’s USD45-million Mmamabula coal project and Tlou Energy’s coal bed methane projects are all in various stages of development and is expected to start operations soon.
With copper and nickel prices expected to test new highs in the next few years, the move by Premium Nickel Resources, a privately owned Canadian company, to acquire the shuttered state-owned BCL recently, could not have come at a better time. BCL went into liquidation in October 2016 due to high operational costs and low base metal prices. Its mines employed more than 5000 workers at the time of their closing and have become a political sore point for President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s administration. Those operations are expected to come online this year. Australian company Sandfire Resources is developing the 30 000 tons per annum Motheo silver and copper project in the Kalahari Copperfields. The company published a Definitive Feasibility Study for Motheo at the end of last year.
Meanwhile, close to Ghanzi in the Central Kalahari, the Khoemacau Copper Project, which is backed by US private equity firm Cupric Canyon, is expected to start producing from its 60 000 tons a year mine soon. About USD550-million was raised in 2019 for the development of the Khoemacau Project. Further south towards Gaborone, London listed Power Metal Resources confirmed the existence of nickel sulphide targets at the Molopo Farms Complex. The exploration work was undertaken by local company Kalahari Key Mineral Exploration, in which Power Metal has an 18.26% shareholding.
In a world still reeling from the impact of Covid-19, Botswana’s outlook is positive. There are many challenges, but the Botswana economy is robust, and the government has worked hard to diversify the economy. Barring possible political shenanigans, Botswana remains one of Africa’s brightest stars and is WhyAfrica’s Pick of the Week.
Leon Louw is the founder and editor of WhyAfrica. He specialises in natural resources and African affairs.
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