Importers will be required to obtain an import permit from the relevant Ministry or Department. Other non-tariff barriers include import permit requirements for a variety of food products, seasonal trade bans on selected agricultural goods, a state monopoly on beef exports, difficulties in obtaining work and resident permits and increasing local procurement preferences.
Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
Customs and excise duties are charged on importation of goods (including currencies) into or exported out of Botswana. The import duties may also include anti-dumping and countervailing duties. The customs duty average rate is 18,74% (as of 2017).
The Republic of Botswana is a member of the World Customs organisation and does comply with the harmonised customs system.
Importations between SACU countries are free of Customs and Excise duty with all importations to the Union being at a Common Customs external tariff. The revenue collected from those duties is pooled and shared under an agreed mechanism. With the exception of goods coming from Malawi, import permits are required for goods entering Botswana directly from outside the SACU and are obtainable from the Department of International Trade, at the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry. These permits are not transferable. All imported goods are subject to a 12% Value Added Tax. Customs duty is payable on imported goods as a percentage of their declared value. The rate of duty payable on goods imported in Botswana varies according to the commodity and the country of origin. Importers are required to be registered with BURS for a TIN (Trader Information Number). Documents required for importation of goods are:
Inland bill of lading
Customs Import Declaration
VAT Deferral form
There are no specific procedures for sample shipments. Sample shipments require the same set of documents as a normal shipment. The value of goods should still appear on the commercial invoice indicating "for customs clearance purpose only'' on the invoice. Zero value invoices are not acceptable.
Due to the lack of large, established distributor networks, some distributors act as their own wholesalers and retailers. Most established large-scale distributors are based in the south or center of the country. Smaller distributors exist in the north and are expected to expand operations as construction on oil and gas projects move forward. New entrants to the distribution market are also expected in the northern region. Though, it is common for goods to be sold in the informal market/grey economy.
The emergence of big giant chain stores, popularly known as supermarkets, was a game changer in the Botswana retail industry. This phenomenon created some kind of shock and awe to general dealers as some of them were totally overrun while others collapsed. Those who managed to hold are operating on a marginal basis, a situation which raises concerns about the sustainability of the general dealership model.
In Botswana, the first actors to enter the retail market were South African brand-franchise chain shops such as Supa Save, Spar, Pick and Pay and Game. Their sheer size in terms of capital structure and supply chain networks could not be matched by the small general dealers. Then came the local innovation, Choppiest supermarkets, which established itself faster by penetrating areas where the South African stores were reluctant to venture into. It is Choppiest which tracked general dealers to their hidden abode in the periphery, which posed serious competition and a threat to small general dealers. Since the coming of these giant shops, general dealership model has had a tough time and dwindled to the point of threatening their very existence.
Between the supermarkets and general dealers was a market gap, especially across streets and remote areas. This gap created a new business model: Tuck-shops or Seamus as they are called in Botswana. The tuck-shops are a replication of general dealers but at a much lower level. Similarly, they share similarities in terms of advantages and disadvantages. For example, they are simple to start, require less capital to start, and offer convenient location to customers. But because they are family-run and informally managed, they struggle to grow and face vigorous competition.
With a population of 2.3 million, Botswana does not boast a large consumer market; however, internet penetration, almost exclusively via mobile, is growing rapidly and now stands above the African average. The mobile market has developed after the three operators – Mascom Wireless (an affiliate of South Africa’s MTN), Orange Botswana (affiliate of Orange Group) and BTC – have entered the underdeveloped broadband sector by adopting of 3G, LTE and WiMAX technologies. Internet subscriptions (both mobile internet and fixed internet subscriptions) increased by 5.4% in the second quarter of 2018; from 1,574,059 subscriptions in the first quarter of 2018 to 1,658,784, according to Statistics Botswana. This figure also represents a 15.6% year-on-year increase. Fixed internet subscriptions account for a mere 0.03% of the total, at 53,057 subscriptions. Nevertheless, fixed internet is also growing thanks to lower prices that follow improvements in international connectivity. As a landlocked country, Botswana used to rely on satellites for its international bandwidth, and on other countries for transit capacity to landing points. The recent landing of additional cables in the region in recent years has helped bring prices down by up to 70%.
E-commerce is still in a nascent stage in Botswana, mainly due to the lack of secure, sophisticated methods of online payment, scams and unfair business practices. According to an ICT survey by Statistics Botswana, half of the country's Internet users choose not to shop online due to the lack of trust. Nevertheless, the government of Botswana has taken steps to facilitate and regulate electronic transactions. In April 2014, it passed the Electronic Communications and Transactions Bill and developed a national e-commerce strategy in 2018 to promote the use of e-commerce solutions across all sectors of the economy. The government is also in talks with the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to facilitate its entry to the local market. The Pan-African online marketplace Jumia has already been active in Botswana for several years. The first Batswana e-commerce platform, Skymart, launched in 2012, boasts more than 120 sellers and is operational throughout southern Africa.
Botswana has a high rate of Internet access compared to the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa and nearly all of its Internet users have social media accounts (more than 99%, Hootsuite Survey 2018). The country also boasts the highest penetration rate of Facebook users in the region (30% penetration rate according to a Nielsen survey). Twitter is also becoming increasingly popular. Only 4% of the population are active Instagram users (Hootsuite). WhatsApp is the most popular messenger application as in the rest of Southern Africa.
Industry represents 29,2% of the GDP today. Diamond mining fueled much of the economic expansion and currently accounts for one-quarter of GDP, approximately 85% of export earnings, and about one-third of the government's revenues. Other main industries are copper, nickel, salt, soda ash, potash, coal, iron ore, silver, beef processing and textiles.
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