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Friday, 19 April 2024

Govt to create Ministry of Poverty

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The government has after serious consultations with stakeholders unanimously agreed on the creation of a Ministry responsible for social upliftment initiatives in the country, including poverty. The decision comes as the government is fighting an uphill battle of eradicating extreme poverty and breaking the inter-generational and multi-dimensional poverty.

Various captains in the fight against poverty agree with formulation of a new ministry. Currently, extreme poverty sits at 5.8 percent which equals to 116,000 people.  “If you look at these statistics it shows that it is possible to eradicate poverty,” poverty eradication National Coordinator, Montshiwa Montshiwa told WeekendPost. The decision to form a ministry which will be named Ministry of Social Upliftment is enshrined in the National Poverty Eradication Strategy plan 2019-20.

Already there are three options which the coordinating office is looking at, with ministry setting-up being a long term plan. “The ministry would then have various departments including department of poverty. However this option would require a lot of resources, both financial and manpower as this would be establishment of a new ministry. As such, this would be a long-term option while resources are mobilised,” says the strategy plan.

 The ministry is designed in such a way that at the top is Ministry of Social Upliftment then several departments, while the District Welfare Committee and Local Development committees complement the ministry at the bottom. The decision to have the ministry has received warm welcome from various players within the ecosystem as it is felt under the current structure where the coordinating office is housed at the Office of President (OP) with Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) responsible for governance while four ministries as implementing agencies, poverty eradication will forever be a pie in the sky, according to experts.


All the components, according to poverty eradication workshop attendees should be under one roof, that is, its own ministry and it should not be housed under MLGRD and OP as the mandate and the direction will be the same but under a new ministry. The argument from the antagonist of the current state is, OP cannot be a referee, player and match commissioner. Therefore an independent structure needs to be formulated to facilitate poverty eradication.

“We need ministry of social protection. That will be a perfect structure that would ensure proper targeting of beneficiaries and able to collect data as well as profiling who needs, what, where,” Professor Keitseope Nthomang of University of Botswana (UB) said. 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.

Besides with the parent ministry formulated, it is expected as per the strategy that, the process of identifying the poor would be revamped to ensure that there are no errors of exclusion and inclusion. “Therefore identifying and profiling the poor will go a long way in ensuring that the poor are not left behind,” reads the strategy.     

With the formulation of the ministry labelled a pipe-dream, for now it has been recommended that poverty will be fought using option A. The option has Rural Development Council, Coordination Unit, and Task Force, implementing ministries and district committee and local committees at the bottom.


P1.2 billion poured in poverty eradication

Meanwhile the government of Botswana has for the past eight years splashed a whooping P1.2 billion in 45 packages aimed at emancipating the locals from an ugly face of poverty. While experts and researchers are relentless on calls to review the programmes, statistics from the poverty eradication coordinating office show a nation traversing the right path.

“Within six years of inception 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 Montshiwa who is the poverty eradication national coordinator. The programmes on annual basis guzzle P185 million from the government coffers, with each beneficiary roughly accorded P15, 000.

 “More then 33 000 projects had been funded with more than 26 000 (79.3 percent) operational. Of those operation 8 percent of the businesses are successful and beneficiaries are ready to graduate,” Montshiwa said at poverty eradication workshop this week. 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. 

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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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