Botswana growth to slow

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Johannesburg - Falling demand for diamonds will dampen economic growth in Botswana, the world's biggest producer of the precious stone, but new mining investments in neighbouring Namibia will bolster output there, a Reuters poll has found.

Diamond output, which accounts for about a third of Botswana's GDP, probably fell to 19.9 million carats last year from 22.8 million in 2011, partially state-owned diamond company Debswana said in November, citing a weak global market.

“Debswana is likely to cut production further in the event of further external deterioration, weighing on mining-sector growth,” said Razia Khan, head of Standard Chartered Africa research.

“However, non-mining GDP should perform better, supported by strong credit growth, although this is unlikely to fully offset the impact of more subdued government development expenditure.”

The poll's median forecast predicted Botswana's economy would grow 4.5 percent this year, unchanged from a median forecast in November, but weaker than the estimated 5.0 percent expansion in 2012. It would then pick up to 4.9 percent next year.

That is far better than the 2.6 percent growth that South Africa promises to deliver this year as weak domestic demand limits the expansion of Africa's biggest economy.

Mineral-rich neighbour Namibia's economy is expected to grow 4.4 percent this year and 4.6 percent next, just up on an estimated 4.3 percent in 2012 as new mining projects boost employment and lift consumer spending.

The country's central bank last month cut its own forecasts for growth to 4.6 and 4.3 percent respectively for 2012 and 2013.

MINERAL ARRAY

Namibia, one of the world's top uranium producers, also mines an array of other minerals such as gem diamonds, gold, silver and base metals.

Rio Tinto's Rossing mine and Australian miner Paladin Energy are two of the top operating producers.

But other companies such as China's Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp (CGNPC) are developing mines that are expected to boost output in the near term.

CGNPC gained control of the Husab mine in southern Africa last year as commodity-hungry China has been ramping up efforts to meet its growing energy needs.

“Crucially, we see the economy benefiting from the construction phase of the Husab uranium mine,” said Daniel Motinga, analyst at Rand Merchant Bank.

“The project will employ between 4,000 and 6,000 people during the construction phase, which augurs well for the retail and trading sectors.”

Despite the boost to consumer spending, Namibia's inflation rate is seen moderating from 6.0 percent this year to 5.7 percent next.

Inflation in Botswana is also seen falling, though still holding above the central bank's 3-6 percent target range, averaging 7.0 percent this year and 6.2 percent in 2013.

Botswana's pula is pegged to South Africa's rand, which has shed over 11 percent against the dollar since the start of 2012 and any further rand weakness could send inflation higher. - Reuters


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