The Assistant Minister of Trade and Industry, Duke Lefhoko told local business people on Saturday that they can make good money if they take advantage of the recently launched SADC Free Trade Area (SADC FTA).
Lefhoko was the guest speaker at the annual Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) Gala dinner at the GICC, where he represented his boss Neo Moroka.
The Assistant Minister urged the local business community to improve the quality of their products and services and their competitiveness to tap into multi-billion dollar markets offered by the newly introduced regional free trade area. The theme of this year's BOCCIM Gala Dinner was: "Unlocking the potential of the SADC Free Trade Area".
Lefhoko hailed the SADC FTA saying it creates a regional market of 170 million people with an annual turn over of $360 billion. The picture looks even much brighter when Angola, DRC and the Seychelles join the other 14 countries in the Free Trade Area.
The three countries will increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the FTA by over $71 billion and the population to over 230 million people, Lefhoko said.
He added that regional integration will help attract investors to set up offices in any SADC country to exploit huge resources in mining, water, wildlife,
"The greatest challenge facing the region is to transform its vast natural resources into manufactured products for consumption in the region. Foreigners can still invest in any of the member states and still enjoy the wider regional market," Lefhoko said.
He added that the government negotiates trade agreements to improve access by the business community to markets and raw materials. "This is very important as Botswana has a small domestic market of 1.8 million people. Through the SADC FTA, the business community in Botswana now has an improved access to a market of over 170 million people," the Assistant Minister added.
He acknowledged that some businesses in Botswana might be choked by competition. He urged Botswana business people to improve their efficiency and competitiveness. "The government cannot forever protect inefficient industries, as this raises prices and adversely affects consumers," he warned.
Lefhoko reminded the business community that the FTA is only one step in the SADC regional integration agenda. Other steps include the formation of a customs union, common market and a monetary union.