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Brite Star dims Phikwe hopes

ONALENNA KELEBEILE
Phikwe township PIC: KEOAGILE BONANG
SELEBI-PHIKWE: The excitement at which Selebi-Phikwe was eagerly waiting for the global aviation group Brite Star to set up and create 3,000 jobs is slowly dying as even to date there are no physical signs for the project.

The recent SPEDU stakeholders’ forum heard things delayed in a frustrating way. Chief executive officer, Mokubung Mokubung explained that they had expected the company to start in three months after availing some funds, but they have delayed too much.

“Brite Star was very exciting to us. We anticipated the project to be of a high impact with downstream activities. We have always tried to push them to start up, but we have no powers to do anything other than that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) we signed with them is not a contract. We therefore cannot take any action, but to just have to wait for them,” he said.

Brite Star and SPEDU and other stakeholders such as Selebi-Phikwe Town Council and Ngwato Land Board signed a MoU last year and were expected to kickstart the project by the end of last year.

Mokubung further noted that Brite Star has also indicated that they wanted some of the existing infrastructure improved.

“We cannot do anything until they show commitment on their part,” he added.

  The aviation group was planning to invest P1.4 billion in Selebi-Phikwe in a period of years by developing an aircraft assembly plant, research centre, maintenance workshop, hospitality facilities and pilot training centre. 

There was very high expectation that the project would potentially employ 70% of the ex-mine employees. 

A Brite Star official was, however, quoted earlier this year saying that they were ready and have everything in place from capital to technical capacity and that funds for the core business have already been mobilised.  He indicated that the group was also negotiating joint ventures for the add-on ventures planned for Selebi-Phikwe such as hospitality initiatives with local companies.

Besides Brite Star, SPEDU is involved with 41 companies, which are at different stages of development with 16 of them already at an advanced implementation stage. 

Mokubung said of

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the 16, one is citizen-owned in the information technology and manufacturing, while three are government projects in infrastructure development and agriculture.

The other three are foreign-owned companies in agriculture and textiles.

He explained that the total targeted employment creation is anticipated to be 1,560 jobs in 12 months and 6,856 jobs in the next 36 months.

He cited that a wholly citizen-owned company for production of pharmaceuticals such as ARVs, IV fluids and paracetamol tablets; Pula Dynes Pharmaceutical Plant, is still under assessment for incentives uptake agreements.

 The construction of the factory is expected to begin in July this year. Its designs and Environmental Impact Assessment have been approved.

Mokubung further noted that the construction of the oxygen gas-air separation plant that is also a wholly citizen-owned company is also expected to start next month.

It will produce 10,615 tonnes of oxygen, 3,504 tonnes of nitrogen and 876 tonnes of nitrous oxide per annum.

“Approval of the project funding was granted by the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) in January this year, and the task team comprising SPEDU, Ministry of Health and Wellness and the developer is currently drafting the off-take agreement,” he said. 

Lotsane irrigation project involves private South African Investors to cultivate 250 hectares of land for agriculture near Lotsane Dam in Maunatlala and the investment value currently stands at P14 million.

SPEDU and the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security are facilitating the process to acquire a title deed for the leased area. SPEDU is also currently evaluating business plans for the remaining 100 hectares.

He also added that investors were showing interest to set up in the SPEDU region because of the incentives approved by government that include government off-take agreement of at least 30% procurement.

“Despite all the challenges, SPEDU continues to exert energy into attracting investment into the region to facilitate job creation,” he said.

 



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