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Thursday, 18 April 2024

BIDPA recommends Poverty Ministry


For the government to eradicate extreme poverty and alleviate inter-generational poverty, an independent structure or agency, precisely a ministry focusing on these vices should be formed as a matter of urgency, Botswana Institution for Development and Policy Analysis (BIDPA) has recommended.

The recommendation for a ministry focusing on poverty follows an eight-month consultation period by various stakeholders. The process, which ended in February, included over 63 villages, beneficiaries, village leaderships, civil organisations and implementing partners who all had a converging view on this. “Most of them told us in separate meetings that for us to fight poverty fiercely, we should create an agency or ministry,” Poverty Eradication, National Coordinator, Montshioa Montshioa told WeekendPost.

The research think-tank BIDPA has also carried its own study and reached the same conclusion. “It is in this regard that a new Ministry of Social Development was recommended by a report by BIDPA titled, ‘A Social Development Policy for Botswana: Phase II; Framework and Strategy’. The National Poverty Eradication Policy adopts this and recommends the establishment of a new Ministry,” noted the final draft of the Poverty Eradication.

The new Ministry will be responsible for policy formulation and development of programmes that are remedial, preventive, curative and development oriented to enable beneficiaries to be productive. This will allow people to participate meaningfully in the economic development of the country, says the policy document this publication is in possession of. The ministry, according to BIDPA, will be focused on management of all social protection and social security initiatives, management of all programmes that address child and inter-generational poverty.

“It will also be responsible for management of empowerment programmes for the poor, development and monitoring of all policies and programmes geared towards improvement of the lives of the poor and other vulnerable groups. Not only those but coordination of all initiatives that address poverty and vulnerability in the country,” the report indicated.

It is conceded by various captains in the ecosystem, that although all the government programmes are generally still relevant, their implementation is in disjunction owing to lack of coordination. Based on this, the ideal recommendation by the policy is the establishment of a new Ministry of Social Development, to lead and coordinate the implementation of all poverty eradication initiatives in the country.

“It has emerged that there was no policy but programmes and this made it difficult for us to work to maximum. There were challenges in profiling, monitoring and evaluating the beneficiaries. Our programmes are also scattered under various ministries and council but it should be consolidated under one roof hence the decision to have this structure,” Montshioa explained in an interview this week.

On average the National Coordinator Montshioa, reveals that they spent an average of P185 million on annual basis. This means the government of Botswana has in the past eight years splashed a whooping P1.2 billion in 52 packages aimed at emancipating the locals from an ugly face of poverty. Professor Keitseope Nthomang of University of Botswana (UB), who is also head of Social Work Department is however of the view that there should be research based evidence before ministry could be formulated.

“There is no research evidence which will give us an idea on how to correct this. The knee-jerk and piece meal approach will not take us anywhere. We should firstly carry a research and see how we should tackle this poverty because it shows that the money is there but then the programmes are disastrous,” he said. He however agreed that it is expected that this kind of structure will link many uncoordinated government efforts geared towards addressing poverty eradication. This includes monitoring and evaluation to ensure that stakeholders execute strategy efficiently and effectively.

Perhaps this is what the Minister of Presidential Affairs Governance and Public Administration Nonofo Molefhi was alluding to this week when he said: “All these poverty eradication programmes have not yielded the results we envisaged, so we should look at how best we can intervene productively to ensure that we win.”

Since its inception Poverty Eradication Coordinating Unit (PECU) says poverty incidence has decreased from 19.3 percent to 16.3 percent, while that of people leaving under extreme poverty has reduced from 6.4 percent to 5.8 percent (116,000),” said Montshioa.

According to Montshioa more then 33 000 projects have been funded with more than 26 000 (79.3 percent) operational. Of those operation eight percent of the businesses are successful and beneficiaries are ready to graduate.

Seeing this, the government has also drawn an exit strategy to ensure sustainability of the projects and avoid regression back to the poverty and venture into business institutions. By far 2094 beneficiaries have graduated from the Programme. It is however noted that the programme is not without challenges as 1462 (4 percent) businesses failed due to various reasons.


 Currently, extreme poverty in Botswana according to a study by Statistics Botswana, sits at 5.8 percent which equals to 116,000 people. This has coerced the government to chant a new path of fighting this evil-multi-dimensional poverty approach. BIDPA’s Dr Phirinyane Molefe said at the launch of this approach, “the universal stick approach and poverty datum line have been overtaken by events hence the need for a new strategy.”

This approach is what Professor Nthomang is calling for. “You cannot deal with poverty without focusing on other issues affecting people. These other issues like unemployment and lack of amenities are what stuck most people in poverty,” he observed.
The multidimensional approach which is part of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) agenda 2030 of ‘leaving no one behind’, will look at a number of perimeters that determine poverty levels. Health, Education, Standard of living, clean water, employment and sanitation among others.

 “But we have been trimmed only to income and consumptive level, but with this approach you will learn that one can be poor because there is no school or clinic in their area and all other factors cited. This also is fertile ground to the recurring cycle of an inter-generational poverty but now we will profile each individual as per their need.

That is when we will dove-tail all our efforts with other implementing partners to ensure that targeting was fine and then we can monitor and evaluate accordingly,” said Montshioa. OP in conjunction with UNDP was last week locked in a week long workshop training various stakeholders on tools to use and look into when measuring the poverty levels of Botswana. The training was facilitated by Oxford researchers.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”










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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.


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