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BDP targets 52% popular vote

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is upbeat about the prospects of next month’s general elections to the extent that there is a belief that they will increase their 2014 popular vote from 47 percentage to 52 percentage after the polls.

The positivity according to the party’s National Campaigns Manager, Tebelelo Seretse is derived from many facets which includes goodwill for President Mokgweetsi Masisi and failure by the opposition to be united. “Of course these elections are different because we don’t have what we may call safe constituencies because of the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF). But we are confident that we will win because we have goodwill and the fact that AP and BMD are not part of the UDC is a plus to us,” Seretse told WeekendPost.

Seretse has been traversing the breadth and width of the country touring all the 57 constituencies. She says the mood from all the areas she has visited is humbling as all the party members are pulling to the same direction. “Realistically we are looking at the popular vote of above 52 percent since we didn’t do so well in the past elections. We are looking at about 60 or 65 percent popular vote if we have failed. In terms of constituencies we are looking at anything less than 50. This we are based on failure to unite by the opposition plus some inconsistencies by the opposition and we are adamant that they would swing pendulum to our favour.”

Seretse is of the view that had she assumed the campaigns manager role earlier, she could be telling a different story. In the past elections, the BDP popular vote fell drastically from 53 percent in 2009 to 47 percent in the last polls, their worst electoral performance since independence. In the process, the opposition won an unprecedented combined 20 seats in parliament. There were lot of variables in 2014 leading to BDP’s declining popular vote, chief among them acrimonious relationship with the workers and trade unions who decided TO endorse opposition coalition of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

With government having increased public servants salaries as well as de-linking the disciplined forces from others, there is optimism within the ruling party.  A number of policies and actions by the party including attracting foreign direct investment, fighting unemployment, free education, and corruption free and strengthening of the government oversight institutions will ensure the BDP retain power according to Seretse.Seretse, who expressed confidence on the party’s tactics, said the approach vary per constituencies looking at many factors including the presence of the opposition and the general attitude of voters.

“For example what we do in urban areas will be different to what we do in a semi-Urban and rural area,” she said. With former President Lt Gen Ian Khama now fighting his ex-party through Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), the campaigns manager did not shy away from the fact they would want him back to their party. “Politics is a game of numbers and as a party we would like to see all our members back including former President Khama,” she said.

According to Seretse, the BDP stands to reach around 80 percent popular vote in 2024. This she says will be influence by the putting into action promises President Masisi is giving the nation going to these elections. She however admits the walk to elections is not free of thorns. “Of course there are challenges; we don’t have funds, but the democrats are trying. You can see the visibility of our party through the merchandise which came at the expense of party,” she said.

BDP popular vote since 1965
YEAR
PERCENTAGE
1965
80.4%
1969
68.83%
1974
76.62%
1979
75.16%
1984
68%
1989
64.78%
1994
54.59%
1999
54.34%
2004
50.63%
2009
53.26%
2014
46.7%

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China pledges a billion vaccines to Africa

7th December 2021

As COVID-19 pandemic continues to shake the world, China has promised to donate a billion coronavirus vaccines, advance billions of dollars for African trade and infrastructure, and write off interest-free loans to African countries to help the continent recover from the coronavirus pandemic. All these promises emerged at the Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Senegal at the end of November 2021.

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China will provide one billion doses of vaccines to Africa when delivering keynote speech at the Eighth Ministerial FOCAC via video link on 29th November. Of those, 600 million would be via donations and the rest would be produced jointly by African countries and Chinese companies. In addition, China would send medical teams to help the continent deal with the pandemic.

President Xi also announced nine programmes that China will work closely with African countries in the next three years. He mentioned the medical and health program, the poverty reduction and agricultural development program, the trade promotion program, the investment promotion program, the digital innovation program, the green development program, the capacity building program, the cultural and people-to-people exchange program, the peace and security program. President Xi hailed China-Africa relations as a shining example for building a new type of international relations.

Furthermore, Xi said Beijing would pump US$10 billion into African financial institutions for onward lending to small and medium enterprises. He promised to extend another US$10 billion of its International Monetary Fund allocation of special drawing rights, which would help stabilise foreign exchange reserves. In addition, China will write-off interest-free loans due this year, to help the economies that had been ravaged by the pandemic. Last year, China also promised to write off interest-free loans due at the end of 2020.

Beijing pledged US$60 billion to finance Africa’s infrastructure at the forum in Johannesburg in 2015, and a similar amount when the gathering was held in the Chinese capital in 2018. But in the past few years, Chinese lenders, including the policy banks – Exim Bank of China and China Development Bank – have become more cautious and are now demanding bankable feasibility studies amid debt distress in the continent.

Besides seeking more money for projects, Xi said China would encourage more imports of African agricultural products, and increase the range of zero-tariff goods, aiming for US$300 billion of total imports from Africa in the next three years.

China would also advance US$10 billion of trade financing to support African exports into China. He said the country would also advance another US$10 billion to promote agriculture in Africa, send 500 experts and establish China-Africa joint agro-technology centres and demonstration villages. African countries are pushing to grow exports of agricultural products into China. At the moment, Beijing maintains an enormous trade surplus over the continent. African imports from China include machinery, electronics, construction equipment, textiles and footwear.

Meanwhile, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi summarized FOCAC achievements when meeting with journalists ahead the 8th FOCAC Ministerial Conference. Wang said that the FOCAC is a crucial platform for collective dialogue between China and Africa and an effective mechanism for practical cooperation.

He said since the inception of the FOCAC 21 years ago, Chinese enterprises have built over 10,000 kilometers of railways, nearly 100,000 kilometers of roads, nearly 1,000 bridges, nearly 100 ports, and over 80 large-scale power facilities in Africa.

In addition, they have assisted Africa in building over 130 medical facilities, 45 gymnasiums and more than 170 schools, and training over 160,000 professionals in various fields. Chinese medical teams have provided medical service to an accumulated number of 230 million, and China’s network service has covered around 700 million user terminals.

Yi said that the Eighth FOCAC Ministerial Conference was a great success. According to Yi, the success of the conference confirmed the strong will of China and Africa to work together to overcome difficulties and seek common development, and showed the huge potential and bright prospects of China-Africa cooperation.

Wang summarized the most important consensus reached at the conference as following: 1) both sides will promote the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation; 2) China and Africa will work together to defeat the pandemic; 3) both sides will work to enrich China-Africa cooperation in the new era; 4) the two sides will work together to practice true multilateralism; 5) China and Africa will jointly build a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.

FOCAC, is one of the developments that came as a major shift in the dynamics of the China-Africa relationships came about in the 1980s when China embarked upon its “Opening up and Reform Policy” –a wide-ranging policy that gave birth to the new China. Economic and geo-strategic interests rather than the desire to export a specific political philosophy drive China’s current relationship with Africa.

For Africa though, the key problem is that our economies are weak in value creation. 
As argued by one economist, what workers and factories produce is produced more efficiently, with better quality and at lower cost, by other economies. “In such circumstances, making money is easier through rent than through value creation.

African governments should be capable of guiding their private sector towards value creation, a key factor for achieving a sustainable competitive edge in the global market. Furthermore, partnerships that Africa forges should be targeted to enhance such an environment”. The question remains as to whether China’s intervention in Africa will help address this challenge.

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COVID-19 has pushed cost of living up – report

7th December 2021

A report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) has given its outlook for the rise and fall of living costs around the world.

The report is based on current and past trends impacting the cost of living, including currency swings, local inflation and commodity shocks. In addition, it compares more than 400 individual prices across over 200 products and services in 173 cities.

The Worldwide Cost of Living (WCOL) rankings continue to be sensitive to shifts brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which have pushed up the cost of living across the world’s major cities. Although most economies are now recovering as covid-19 vaccines are rolled out, the world’s major cities still experience frequent surges in cases, prompting renewed social restrictions. In many cities this has disrupted the supply of goods, leading to shortages and higher prices.

The report highlights that “the inflation rate of the prices tracked in the EIU’s WCOL across cities is the fastest recorded over the past five years. It has accelerated beyond the pre-pandemic rate, rising by 3.5% year on year in local-currency terms in 2021, compared with an increase of just 1.9% in 2020 and 2.8% in 2019.”

However; supply-chain problems, as well as exchange-rate shifts and changing consumer demand, have led to rising prices for commodities and other goods. The most rapid increases in the WCOL index were for transport, with the price of a litre of petrol up by 21% on average.

Tel Aviv, a city on Israel’s Mediterranean coast tops the WCOL rankings for the first time ever, making it the most expensive city in the world to live in. The Israeli city climbed from fifth place last year, pushing Paris down to joint second place with Singapore. Tel Aviv’s rise mainly reflects its soaring currency and price increases for around one-tenth of goods in the city, led by groceries and transport, in local-currency terms. Property prices (not included in the index calculation), have also risen, especially in residential areas.

The cheapest cities are mainly in the Middle East and Africa, or in the poorer parts of Asia. Damascus has easily retained its place as the cheapest city in the world to live in. It was ranked the lowest in seven of the ten pricing categories, and was among the lowest in the remaining three. While prices elsewhere have generally firmed up, in Damascus they have fallen as Syria’s war-torn economy has struggled. Tripoli, which also faces political and economic challenges, is ranked second from the bottom in our rankings, and is particularly cheap for food, clothing and transport.

“Over the coming year, we expect to see the cost of living rise further in many cities. Inflationary expectations are also likely to feed into wage rises, further fuelling price rises. However, as central banks cautiously raise interest rates to stem inflation, price increases should moderate from this year’s level. We forecast that global consumer price inflation will average 4.3% in 2022, down from 5.1% in 2021 but still substantially higher than in recent years. If supply-chain disruptions die down and lockdowns ease as expected, then the situation should improve towards the end of 2022, stabilising the cost of living in most major cities.”

“The survey has been designed to enable human resources and finance managers to calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers. It can also be used by consumer-goods firms and other companies to map pricing trends and determine optimum prices for their products across cities. In addition, the data can be used to understand the relative expense of a city to formulate policy guidelines,” highlights the report.

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BVI and BIUST collborate to boost research

7th December 2021
Professor Otlogetwe Totolo

The General Manager of Botswana Vaccine Institute (BVI) Andrew Madeswi and Vice Chancellor of Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) Professor Otlogetwe Totolo last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to cement their collaboration in areas of research and development in the fight against transboundary diseases and other diseases of public health and socio-economic importance in Botswana.

Speaking at the MoU signing, Madeswi explained that the collaboration with BIUST was enshrined in BVI’s mission statement, which articulates that the vaccine institute will collaborate with its partners to research and manufacture targeted vaccines for the management of infectious diseases regionally and internationally.

“As BVI we are keen on this collaboration with BUIST because it is an esteemed research institution. As a self-funding Institute, we consider collaborations that will drive our strategic business focus and support the delivery of solutions to our nation and other customers around the world. Our choice in BIUST meets these expectations,” said Madeswi.

For his part, Professor Totolo said BIUST attaches a lot of value to collaborating and partnering with like-minded organizations as that will place them at a vantage position to reach unprecedented levels of success.

He described BVI as one of the most established institutions in the country, with a long and attractive track record in the field of scientific research.

“Fairly a new university, BIUST stands a great opportunity to learn from the BVI story, particularly in the pursuit of sustainable animal health solutions which have created a solid anchor for the production of particularly cattle vaccines over long decades,” he said.

Over the last four years, the two institutions have collaborated on human capital development, through which BVI hosted BIUST undergraduate and post-graduate students for workplace experience internships.

“This is one gesture will go a long way in exposing our new talent to the real world of work and research which we greatly appreciate as an institution,” said Professor Totolo.

Scientific experts at BVI also sit on BIUST’s Industrial Advisory Board, which gives input on the development of curricular at the university so as to align academics with industry expectations.

Said Professor Totolo: “BVI experts play a pivotal role in the co-supervision of our students, another act of collaboration which facilitates cross-pollination of ideas and helps BIUST produce industry ready graduates.”

One of the flagship projects under the MoU is research and development on the production and characterization of a recombinant Newcastle Disease Virus Vaccine. In recognition of the steady growth of the poultry sector in Botswana, BIUST and BVI have resolved to produce various poultry vaccines locally. Madeswi and Professor Totolo expressed confidence that their joint expertise and resources will help them deliver the poultry vaccine and support the local poultry business, in which a substantial number of small and subsistence farmers are participating.

“This effort will also go a long way in supporting the Government’s poverty eradication initiatives in poultry production,” said Madeswi and Professor Totolo.

BVI and BIUST have also collaborated through exchanges and visits, including support towards BIUST’s Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) festival. The Research Team at BVI has also assisted a BIUST MSc student to complete her research on development of a PCR Assay to help detect Southern Africa Territories FMD strains.

“The success of such a development which we are considering for commercialization, will improve diagnosis of foot of mouth disease in Botswana and in Africa,” said Madeswi.

BVI was founded in 1978 with the strategic mandate of ensuring the sustainability of Botswana’s beef industry by controlling trans-boundary animal diseases as well as diseases of public health concern. Through strict adherence to international vaccine standards set by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) as well as to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), sound quality management systems and a customer-centric approach, BVI has grown into a global provider of sustainable animal health solutions that produces and exports vaccines to over 15 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

BIUST on the other hand is a research-intensive University that specialises in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) at both undergraduate and post-graduate level. It aims to increase competitiveness, economic growth and sustainable development; address the shortage of skilled scientists and technologists; increase movement of skilled people across national boundaries; stimulate research, innovation, and technology transfer; improve society’s aspirations to improve health, wealth and well-being; address increased demand for access to tertiary education; and enable a more competitive and innovative tertiary education sector.

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