Botswana - Country Commercial Guide
Telecommunications

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country.  Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-08-02

Overview

Botswana has a reasonably developed telecommunications system that covers much of the country.  Slow, unreliable internet and high data costs are a challenge for businesses and households.  There have been modest improvements in the last five years as the Botswana Fiber Network (BoFiNet), the state-owned entity that provides wholesale national and international telecommunication infrastructure and services to the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) and private Internet Service Providers (ISP), expands its fiber to businesses and home connections.  BoFiNet also offered service providers Indefeasible Right of Use (IRU) contracts for connectivity, reducing prices in some cases to below $0.86 per Megabits per second (Mbps).  Operators have reduced mobile broadband prices by 55 percent and increased data in data bundles by up to 200 percent.  In 2019, the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) engaged with operators and agreed to cut data prices by up to 46 percent making data prices competitive in the region.  Prices for a prepaid 2 GB data package with a 30-day validity by a 3G or 4G network provider with the largest market share fell from $8.16 in 2019 to $5.93 in 2020.  This reduction brings the price of a 2 GB data package to 0.92 percent of monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita, surpassing the International Telecommunication Union’s 2 percent target for affordable internet.  The semi-privatized BTC provides landline services and competes with cellular consortiums Mascom Wireless (an affiliate of South Africa’s MTN) and Orange for cellular service.  Botswana’s cell phone penetration rate of 185 percent (people have multiple numbers) is one of the highest cell phone penetration rates in Africa.

Internet usage, largely through a proliferation of smartphones, is on the rise and is used by 65 percent of the population according to the Global Information Technology Report, which ranked Botswana 101 out of 139 in its Networked Readiness Index.  Internet use is expected to rise even further as more online services are introduced due to the pandemic and as part of the GoB strategy to reduce the wage bill.  The government has embarked on a digitization project for schools and has covered over 77 schools to date.  In its quest to operate an infrastructure that will drive connectivity and economic growth, BoFiNet reduced Internet Protocol Transit (IPT) prices to an annual average of 29 percent.  In 2017, BoFiNet developed a three-year strategy which managed to expand the national broadband infrastructure coverage to more than 9,200 km.

Botswana does not restrict over the top (OTT) communication services like voice over internet protocol (VOIP).  The Ministry of Communications, Knowledge, and Technology is the authority that issues licenses for telecom services including mobile telephones, data communications, payphones, sale of telecommunications equipment, and internet services.  No restrictions apply to foreign partnerships in mobile services.

The government invested $38 million into the development of the West Africa Cable System (WACS), and the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), undersea cables connecting southern and western African countries to the United Kingdom via Portugal, connecting Botswana to the rest of the world with capacity entitlement of 191 Gbps and 206 Gbps, respectively.  BoFiNet also continues to extend its fiber backbone to cover other areas in the country and has so far covered just over 51% of the gazetted localities with the aim of covering 100 percent by 2023.  BoFiNet has invested over P100 million in the development of a Digital Delta Data Centre, which will be accredited (already done so for the design) by Uptime Institute, an international accreditation body for data centers.  The government established SmartBots to accelerate several initiatives that will transition the country from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy.  This project is underpinned by four projects:  accelerated digital connectivity nationwide, moving government services online, leveraging smart technologies to address food security, and transforming the education sector.  A national E-Commerce strategy to promote the use of digital technology in Botswana’s commercial and public spheres was launched in October 2021 and subsequently an e-portal to operationalize the strategy has been developed and piloted.  The proposed development budget for the communications ministry also includes establishing a Government Data Network, Government Data Centre upgrading, National Backbone Networks, and Local Access Network.

Sub-Sector Best Prospects

Communications services, including internet service provision, telecommunications equipment, and software are the best sub-sector prospects.

Opportunities

U.S. exports of telecommunication equipment to Botswana have increased significantly over the last several years due to a $20 million investment from a satellite communications provider.  This figure does not reflect those U.S. products exported to South Africa and imported to Botswana by South African distributors.  In 2019, MTN cancelled its plan to sell its 53 percent stake in Mascom Wireless.

Resources

  • Botswana Telecommunications Corporation
  • Botswana Telecommunications Authority
  • Botswana Ministry of Communications, Knowledge, and Technology
  • Botswana Ministry of Trade and Industry
  • Botswana Department of Customs and Excise