is committed to creating conducive environment for economic transformation, this include amongst others ensuring fair competition for business which also protects and observes interest of consumers, Minister of Investment Trade & Industry(MITI), Bogolo Kenewendo reiterated at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) held last week in Geneva.
Kenewendo and MITI officials, including amongst others Competition Authority of Botswana Chief Executive Officer, Tebelelo Pule were in Geneva to appreciate the findings of a voluntary peer review of Botswana‘s Competition law & Policy which was undertaken by experts from South Africa, Kenya and United States under the watch and facilitation of UNCTAD.
When speaking alongside experts in a plenary session at the 17th meeting of the Inter-Governmental Group of Experts (IGE) at the conference, Kenewendo underscored that Botswana welcomed the review because government was alive to the fact that Botswana’s economic transformation quest is anchored around doing business which is levelled and inclusive of growth and collective enterprises and industrial development. The review was undertaken on the legal and institutional competition framework.
“We recognize a fair competition policy as a key catalyst to economic development, because when we have regulations and laws that dictate levelled and balanced competition our businesses grow and in turn our people are employed, our citizens should look forward to an improved protection from sharp practice and graft,” she said.
Minister Kenewendo observed that other windows that Botswana was currently pursuing such as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), citizen economic empowerment amongst others were dependent on shrewd and sharp competition regulations. "As a developing nation, one of our key strategies for sustained growth has been to open our markets and liberalize our economy, so in order to do that we need to eliminate impediments that may present a stumbling block to this intent, tighten up and levelling our ground of business development is one key enabler,” she highlighted.
She also added that Botswana was open to suggestions from international organization on how to sharpen its way of delivering a developed economy. Kenewendo said Botswana was satisfied and is of the view that the review exercise would lead to positive changes in the implementation of the competition and consumer protection laws in Botswana. She said the UNCTAD continued to play a pivotal role in Botswana’ s course as it continued to provide technical assistance and expert views towards which developing countries such as Botswana can improve their business development agendas.
Botswana established the Competition Authority in 2011 as an enforcement agency for competition law and policy. It was established under the Competition Act of 2009 to monitor, control and prohibit anti-competitive trade or business practices in the economy. Kenewendo highlighted that processes were already in place to expand its mandate to include consumer protection under a new law enacted in 2018.
"The strengthening of consumer protection by placing the Consumer Protection Act under the administration of the competition authority has been identified as a strategic priority consideration to strengthen and maintain an institutional emphasis on consumer welfare and to reduce the opportunity for business to deny consumers the benefits of competitive markets by engaging in unfair business practices,” Kenewendo said.
While peer reviewers identified some points for improvement in the scope and application of Botswana's competition law and policy, Kenewendo highlighted that Botswana accepted the report and welcomed its recommendations. “We really appreciate a good job well done," said Botswana Competition Authority CEO, Pule, who added that some, but not all of the review's recommendations have already been addressed by the new law. The merger of the competition and consumer protection functions, she said, was doable while being cognizant of the setbacks.
The Director General of the Competition Authority of Kenya, Francis Kariuki, who was one of the peer reviewers, submitted that Botswana can document the peer review report to champion the reform agenda and output a sharp and shrewd competition oversight vehicle. Kenya’s competition law and policy was peer reviewed under UNCTAD stewardship in 2005.
UNCTAD has used the findings and policy recommendations of the Botswana peer review report to a design bespoke technical assistance project to reinforce the effectiveness of competition law enforcement. UNCTAD’s work on competition law and policy recognizes its symbiotic relationship with consumer protection law and policy, and hosts back-to-back intergovernmental meetings in both fields each year. “Competition and consumer protection can play a direct and important role in promoting economic growth and reducing poverty,” highlighted Teresa Moreira, Team leader in the exercise.
“Competition stimulates innovation, productivity and competitiveness, contributing to an effective business environment; this generates economic growth and employment, it creates possibilities for small and medium-sized enterprises, removing barriers that protect entrenched elites and reducing opportunities for corruption,” she said underscoring that empowered consumers also play an active role in the market and are subject to fewer abuses when they stand to their rights. “This directly improves their welfare. It contributes to creating a level playing field for businesses, which in turn supports competition.”
While addressing the subject of competition law, Kenewendo also observed that competition policy was important tool that when applied in tandem with appropriate industrial and trade policies, will undoubtedly realize the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) particularly the goal on industry, innovation and infrastructure. She however hastened to add that quite often the anticipated growth in employment, productivity and other efficiencies are not realized because of harmful anti-competitive conducts such as bid rigging, collusive tendering, market allocation, price fixing and predatory pricing.
The Minister stated that competition law should ensure that the level of poverty in communities should be reduced and prices reduced. She called on the conference to ensure that unfair business agreements that particularly benefit big businesses while hampering the growth of small businesses should be comprehensively dealt with. “Unfair business practices typically affect Small and Medium Enterprises (SMES) in a disproportionate manner. The reality is that in developing economies, SME constitute the bulk of businesses and these are a catalyst to inclusive growth and sustainable development," she said.
Prices for cereals or staple foods in Botswana and other Southern African countries continue to rise at a slower pace, following trends in the global markets, according to the latest November 2022 Food Price Monitoring and Analysis by Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
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Botswana Institution Of Engineers (BIE), has last week hosted a gala dinner in which they appreciated engineers who worked tirelessly and with dedication for 10 years from 1983 to steer the BIE to its current status.
The event that was held at the Phakalane Golf Estate had brought together young, experienced and veteran engineers and was held under the theme “Vitalize the dignity and eminence of all professional engineers”.
Explaining the theme, the institution’s treasurer, Thanabalasingam Raveendran said that engineers were looked upon reverentially with respect as the educated but with time it seems to have deteriorated. He indicated that there is a need to change the narrative by all means.
“The BIE exists for the welfare and the betterment of us Botswana engineers, we need to recognize specialised units within our Institution. We Engineers strongly believe in Engineers make it happen” Raveendran said.
He indicated that under the theme they appeal to all engineers to energize, to attain quality of being worthy of honour and respect and to achieve recognized superiority amongst the Society.
Raveendran stated that engineers need to ensure their end product is of good quality satisfying the end users expectations and engineers must be honest in their work.
“Approximately 8000 engineers registered with Engineering Regulatory Board (ERB) are not members of the BIE, engineers need to make every effort to recruit them to BIE” he said.
He alluded that BIE being a society, it currently needs to upgrade itself at par with professional institutions elsewhere like the UK and USA.
He further stated that BIE has to have engineering units of specialised disciplines like Civil/Mechanical/electrical etc
“As President Masisi indicated in his inaugural speech, the young people, who make 60 percent of the population of this country, are the future leaders and therefore investing in them is building the bridge to the future” said Raveendran
Kandima indicated that BIE has a memorandum of Understanding with Engineers Registration Board (ERB), where BIE is a recognised provider of CPD training, mentorship programmes and more importantly IPD undertaking to upgrade the skills and know-how of our engineers.
“For us to achieve our mandate and make worthwhile changes to engineering in Botswana, we have to be totally focused and act with intent” said Kandima.
Furthermore, Stephen Williams, past president of the BIE from 1986-1988 told the engineers that the BIE provides a fertile environment where they can meet, share ideas and grow professionally.
“The BIE is also a nesting place for graduate engineers to learn from their peers and seniors, it also cater for engineering technicians and technologists and so nobody in the technology field is left out” he said.
He further indicated that Botswana Government provides a conductive environment for growth of engineering professionals.
“It must be stated that the Botswana Government recognises the existence of BIE and it can further be stated that the government enables ERB to carry out its mandate as a regulator of engineering professionals” said Williams
He plead with engineering companies to recognize and support BIE as it is the only source of engineering personnel’s for various Industries .
Furthermore, when giving his farewell speech, Michael Pinard , a past president of the institution said how they are viewed as engineers by the general public might be due to some lack of appreciation as to exactly what role they play in the development of the country.
“The BIE slogan is aptly coined-Engineers make it happen, in other words, what man dreams engineers create” Said Pinard.