BTCL listing, why the silence?

The privatization of Botswana Telecommunications Limited (BTCL) has long been completed and Batswana have been waiting in anticipation of its listing in the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE). The time to bring BTCL to the market is ripe and the prediction of how the stock will perform on the initial day of listing remains unknown. The enticement to Batswana of BTCL’s initial public offering (IPO) has worked, especially because government highlighted the importance of citizen ownership of the corporation. The issue has oftentimes brushed the minds of citizens as the invitation to participate in ownership of BTCL gradually gained weight.

The Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatization Agency (PEEPA) is the entity tasked with the responsibility to educate and inform Batswana about claiming a stake in BTCL and other privatized government entities. PEEPA is thus the vehicle through which BTCL channels its communication.  It remains to be seen if indeed PEEPA has done enough in readying Batswana for the epochal listing.
In February this year PEEPA organized a media briefing at which they revealed that plans for the BTCL IPO were well underway and would be completed by the end of August. The agency also revealed that it would launch a country-wide marketing campaign prior to the listing in BSE, which was then anticipated for October. The circulation of a prospectus detailing information about BTCL and how the shares can be accessed and purchased was also promised.  The same information has also been made public in PEEPA’s website. However, the deadline for what was promised has passed, and PEEPA remains mum on progress. Efforts to get an update from PEEPA proved futile as the Agency failed to respond to questions from Gazette Business.

BSE likewise has a long standing strategy on public education with the aim of increasing citizen participation in the market. The bourse’s newly appointed Chairperson, Regina Sikalesele-Vaka admitted in an interview with Gazette Business that BSE’s approach has largely been a one-way communication strategy as there was no evaluation to check if their education campaigns were bearing fruit.

“Granted, we haven’t really been able to put a dip stick to be able to say that our campaigns have reached a level of this much or that much. However, the effort has to be commended,” she said.
Asked whether BSE was confident that Batswana will positively respond to BTCL’s IPO, Sikalesele-Vaka said the level of response falls on a scale in that education is a process and as such is grasped differently.

“The purchase of shares can therefore not be used as a yardstick to check if our education campaigns were successful,” she said.
She added that the education process involves a change of mindset in terms of how Batswana regard wealth.

“Many Batswana still regard wealth as the ownership of tangible things such as livestock, whereas things such as stocks, whose wealth creation is unseen, are still to be embraced,” said Sikalesele-Vaka.
On the part of protection of investors’ interests, Sikalesele-Vaka gave the assurance that oversight is provided by a pool of different professionals. She further said BSE ensures transparency as well as sufficient disclosures, adding that companies’ annual general meetings provide opportunities for investors to gain deeper insight into the company’s operations. Sikalesele-Vaka pointed out that the process of privatization extends beyond any single entity’s territory because it is debated at Parliament and Cabinet, which puts an equal obligation on politicians to share information with the people in their constituencies. She further explained that the responsibility cannot be concentrated within a single entity and as such politicians should also bear the responsibility of educating themselves about privatization so as to be able to trickle the information down to the people.