Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) and the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) in collaboration with the Japanese Embassy are working towards increasing trade between Botswana and Japan.

Currently, despite the longstanding bilateral relations between Botswana and Japan that span over 55 years, trade between the two countries has remained low.

According to Director of Investment Promotion at BITC, Moshie Ratsebe, imports from Botswana going into Japan stand at US$8.3 million, comprised largely of diamonds and semi precious stones, electrical machinery and equipment among others.

Japan exports to Botswana on the other hand is insignificant at just under US$4 million comprised of vehicles, optical, photographic, cinematographic measuring, machinery and mechanical appliances, among others.

“There is quite a scope to explore and increase trade between the two,” Ratsebe said this week at business seminar that brought together both Japanese and local companies under one roof.

JETRO, whose role is to facilitate Japanese firms to maximise their global export potential said a 2021 Survey on Business Conditions of Japanese Affiliated Companies in Africa indicated that the percentage of companies expecting operating profit from 2021 increased 12.7 points from the previous year.

Further than by country, more than half of the Japanese companies in South Africa, Egypt, and Cote d'Ivoire said that they expected profit, indicating that there are viable investment opportunities in the region including Botswana.

The percentage was 69.1 percent for South Africa, exceeding the global average. On the other hand, the percentage of companies that expected loss exceeded that expected profit for Morocco, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

Executive Director of JETRO, Yoshiaki Ishihara said there is a steady increase in investment in Africa by Japanese companies with South Africa being the country with most investment from Japan across the region.

According to Ishihara, the most promising sectors that attract Japanese companies’ interest include, consumer market that includes food, infrastructure, renewable energy, service industry, new industries mainly start-ups, and smart agriculture and water technologies.

Ratsebe told Japanese companies in attendance including Toshiba Africa, FujiFilm, Hitachi and Mitsubishi all of which are based in South Africa among many others that Botswana has a compelling case for Japanese companies to consider.

“Historically we have sustained economic growth, in most cases growing ahead of the global economy. Post Covid, we have been growing on average at just under five per cent.

“In 2019, we were growing at an average of three percent ahead of the global average of 2.9 per cent,” he said, noting that figures slightly dipped in 2020 at the height of the pandemic.

In his view what is most encouraging is that in 2021, the World Bank and IMF found that Botswana’s economy has been growing and recovering ahead of the global rate at 12 per cent against global rate of six percent.

He also mentioned that Botswana possesses a prudent macro-economic and monetary policy management, which are both important for boasting business confidence.

Ratsebe highlighted that current sectors with investment opportunities include Agric business, automotive manufacturing, mining and resource beneficiation, energy, services, tourism and hospitality, transport and logistics among others.

“Our hope is that more and more Japanese companies will externalise their businesses into Botswana. We are central to the SADC community, housing in excess of 260 million people,” he said, adding that for anyone looking for connectivity with the market, Botswana is the right place to be.

Meanwhile, Botswana will participate at this year’s Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) scheduled for August in Tunisia.