Debswana Diamond Mining Company, a 50-50 Joint venture between Government of Botswana & De Beer Group intends to take a lead in embracing technology for better business results. Being the largest private sector employer and biggest source of business after government.
The company which is by far a powerhouse in global rough diamond production is a key component in Botswana middle income economic setup. Diamond industry accounts for over 30 % of Botswana’s GDP and is the country’s largest foreign income earner.
Recently Orapa Letlhakane & Damtshaa Mines (OLDM), the largest diamond mining operation in the world by volume reiterated the company’s commitments to tapping into digital revolution and leveraging on the advancement of the 4th Industrial Revolution for better business output.
The Mine hosted Risk Management Business Expo organised by Risk Management Division under the theme: “Disruption, Data, and Digitization.” The expo gathered risk management businesses and stakeholders, amongst others insurance companies, plant and equipment hiring operations as well as car dealership service providers.
Forming key proceedings at the expo was conversations around the evolution of risk management functions and businesses in general into significant components and participants of The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), as well as stall exhibitions.
Giving welcome remarks at the event, OLDM General Manager, Bakani Motlhabani noted that modern technology has taken over and it was affecting all aspects of human existence, from communication, travel and most importantly how businesses are run. “Whether we think of ourselves as technologically well informed or conservatives who want nothing to do with its way, the truth is the world is changing at the hands of this digital wave, not only in the work place, even in our homes” he said.
Motlhabani borrowed a leaf form American Writer Ken Aulerta who once suggested: “The digital revolution is almost as disruptive to the traditional media business as electricity was to the candle business”. Debswana Head of Risk Management Tefo Setlhare , who was the keynote speaker, said in this day and age, the question is not whether businesses want to go along with the techno revolution or not.
“We rather have to look into what we are doing to ensure we remain relevant and viable businesses within this digital shifts. We must leverage on the fourth industrial revolution, the digital era allows us to think and do things differently because digitalization and data empowers us to transform our businesses and have an immediate social impact," he said.
Setlhare encouraged attending businesses to ready themselves as the digital disruption has arrived “How we position ourselves to take advantage of what is coming is entirely up to us, these advancements if leveraged on can help us deliver results efficiently” he said. Moemedi Merafe- Strategy & Business Improvement Manager at OLDM shared the operation‘s recent high performance model named P101 ,that takes advantage of technology and advancements of digital revolution.
Merafe explained that the initiative launched August last year is aimed at ensuring that Debswana becomes a global benchmark diamond business. He shared that P101 was influenced by dynamic nature of global diamond business. “P stands for Performance, 1 for 100 percent, and the other 1 for leveraging on technology to maintain and revamp benchmark levels” said Merafe who said P101 intends to further make quantum improvements, and redefine benchmarks “Technology will rule the world going forward and only the innovative will survive” he said
This week Debswana Group Head of Ore Processing Edwin Elias reiterated this position at this year’s Austmine Conference, held in Australia. Elisa was part of a panel discussion titled, “What Is the Future of Plant and Processing’”. He deliberated on the company’s new waves on cutting-edge mining technology and innovation.
Austmine is one of the biggest mining events in the world, which brings together members, miners, educators, policy makers from all over the world and it features workshops, presentations, case studies and networking within the mining industry. Elias highlighted that Debswana yearns for mineral processing plants as well as mining processing that addresses future challenges and leverage technological opportunities.â€¨â€¨
Some of the key sentiments shared by Elias at the conference include the fact that future technological needs have to take into consideration the main challenges that come with the next horizon. “ These are: increasing costs, aging assets, the quest for large stones as a niche, increasing mining complexity, increasing water and energy requirements, and external market challenges as well mine closure legal requirements, we therefore have to leverage on technology and innovative ways to address this challenges” said Elias
Last week Debswana led shaping of young scholars into innovative and technologically woke mines by sponsoring Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic(STEM) Festival in Palapye to a tune of P300 000. Presented by Elias at the event held ay Botswana University of Science & Technology (BUIST) Debswana appealed to the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology to commit more funds on Research and Development.
“The 0.3% GDP share for STEM cannot by any imagination take us any closer to the pace setters in this economic race. My appeal is that while we may not possibly afford 3% of GDP for Research and Development like nations such as Japan, may we direct at least 2% of GDP towards R & D” he said. He said Debswana will further continue to support conversations and initiatives around ensuring that Botswana becomes a techno-based host of innovation and advanced economic operations.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.