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Masisis jobs commitment questioned

Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) Secretary General Tobokani Rari has expressed worry over President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s remaining mum on the issue of technology being a major threat to the future of jobs. This is despite the president being a huge advocate of job creation and being dubbed by the media as a “jobs president.”

Rari’s deliberation follows World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim’s persistent worry over the future of jobs that will be affected by automation of jobs or the revolution of technology that often replaces human jobs. BusinessPost had sought Rari’s comment on the matter.

Recently, Kim alarmed the world on the threat that will come with technology eating out jobs in the future. Kim made these utterances through his recent blog posted on the World Bank Group website titled ‘What will be the future of work?’ Since last year, Kim has been warning the world on the repercussions that will come with automation of jobs, especially in developing countries.

Kim said about two-thirds of jobs in the developing world may be lost to automation. The 12th President of the World Bank Group also advised policymakers to take action by investing in education and health to prepare for the future of work. Human capital should become an ever more valuable resource, said the World Bank chief.

“Do you wonder if the good fortune and opportunities that you’ve enjoyed in your professional life will be available to your children, and to their children? At a time of strong global economic growth, it may seem paradoxical that we face an existential crisis around the future of work. But the pace of innovation is accelerating, and the jobs of the future – in a few months or a few years – will require specific, complex skills,” read Kim’s article in part.

Kim’s words are part of a song repeated by analysts who have been giving predictions of the large impact that robot-assisted jobs automation will have on human labour around the world. Even though the discussion of the future of jobs did not make it to BOFEPUSU’s elective congress agenda held this month, Rari said the latest International Labour Organization (ILO) made a dialogue on the future of work. The labour activist said they are willing to take the debate and localize it, but Masisi should be at the helm of the dialogue already.

“The fact that the current administration has been silent on the issue of the future of jobs means it is going to be reactive on the issue,” said Rari. Rari said the advent of technology cannot be blocked. He said it is also undeniable that robots or technology will eventually replace jobs. Therefore training in education should change and there should be a move towards retooling and re-skilling, according to Rari who was advising Masisi’s fresh regime. He said Masisi should prepare for changes and protect the future of jobs. According to him, technology will come with more bad effects like retrenchment of people from jobs.

Rari is of the view that Botswana is not already a technology savvy country therefore the advent of robotics or automated jobs will come with the lack of skills to operate the machinery. He said Botswana is not yet advanced in technology and many are not well equipped in attending to defects that come with it. Rari lamented that technology has come with its downside as currently we have the “system down” disservice at our disposal.

Rari also made his take on Masisi’s utterances that civil service will be cut down, something which Rari opposes saying that the president should demonstrate first that the civil service is bloated. Like Rari said, Masisi is yet to talk about the future of jobs.

He has been an ardent believer in creation of jobs even three years before he became president he met with the private sector to discuss on how to solve the issue of unemployment which was 19.8 percent at that time for a population of 2 million. At that time when government was faced with a Botswana Aids Impact Survey of 2013 report that said most youth aged between 15 and 35 were without employment, Masisi appealed to the private sector to enroll a significant number of graduates so as to give them meaningful challenges and tasks.

Recently Masisi hosted a luncheon and invited public sector trade unions and opened up on his vision which is to build a Botswana that provides opportunity and dignity for all. He told trade unions that Botswana is confronted by numerous challenges such as high unemployment, low productivity and poverty among some sections of our population, particularly the youth.

He said, “as I stated in my maiden speech, unemployment, especially of young people, poses a threat to the future and security of this country.” The president did not mention the future of jobs or jobs automation, despite Botswana being among the developing countries said to be faced with the threat as suggested by the World Bank,

Botswana countenancing the advent of automation of jobs

Botswana’s diamond partner De Beers is venturing in production of synthetic diamonds, meaning manual jobs will be lost. Synthetic diamonds are produced in a lab using machinery unlike natural diamonds where manpower is needed to dig up the diamonds and then refine them. 

Recently the media has reported that the Directorate of Intelligence Services has purchased Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) which can fly autonomously based on pre-programmed flight plans or more complex dynamic automation system. Minister of Transport, Kitso Mokaila also revealed this year that government will be using automated testing cars to replace driving schools.

Further, there is the controversial electronic voting machines which will also shed a few jobs. Banks have also introduced ATMs deposits where people can just deposit money without stepping up to a teller inside the bank. Ironically the ministry that is tasked with driving creation and protection of jobs, the Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, is currently using Point Of Sale(POS) machines which are used to enhance the HR and accounting departments of the ministry. It can monitor employees and has accounting softwares.

Masisi embraces technology as heard in his inauguration speech. “In line with Vision 2036, investment in research, science, technology and innovation will be prioritised to enable our transformation into a knowledge based economy. To this end, I will ensure that the transformation of education and training, through the Human Resource Development Strategy of 2009, receives all the necessary support that is required in order to ensure that education meets the needs of industry,” said Masisi.

Private sector not worried

However Business Botswana President Gobusamang Keebine says Botswana is still far when it comes to the revolution of technology taking away jobs. Unlike Rari, the Business Botswana president is not worried that robots will replace people in their jobs. He said Botswana is not like economies like South Africa who are more advanced in manufacturing and technology. “It is still early to worry about robotics taking away jobs. We should rather worry about creating more jobs as the private sector and government…meaningful jobs for that matter,” said Keebine.

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Grit divests from Letlole La Rona

22nd March 2023

Grit Services Limited, a member of the pan African real estate group, London Stock Exchange listed Grit Real Estate Income Group is divesting from Letlole La Rona Limited (LLR), a local real estate company established by government investment arm Botswana Development Corporation over a decade ago.

The Board of Directors of Letlole La Rona Limited this week announced in a statement to Unitholders that Grit Services Limited (‘Grit’) has informed them of its intention to exit its investment in the company.

Grit has been a material shareholder in LLR since 2019. On 07 March 2023, Grit sold 6 421 000 linked units, representing 2.29% of the Company’s total securities in issue, at a market value of BWP 22 537 710.

This trade follows previous sales of 6.79% in December 2022, as communicated to Unitholders on 10 January 2023, as well as a further sale of 4.78% (representing 13 347 068 linked units) on 24 February 2023 to various shareholders.

In aggregate, Grit has sold 13.9% shareholding in the Letlole La Rona between December 2022 and March 2023, resulting in current shareholding of 11.25% in the Company.

Letlole La Rona said in the statement that the exit process will take place in an orderly manner so as to maintain stability of the Company’s share price.

The statement explained that Grit’s sale of its entire shareholding in LLR is in line with its decision to exit investments where it does not have majority control, or where it has significant exposure to currencies other than US dollar, Euro or hard-currency-pegged revenue streams.

“Grit has announced similar decisions pertaining to certain of its hospitality assets in Mauritius recently. The Company would like to advise Unitholders that it remains focused on long-term value delivery to all stakeholders” LLR said

In July last year as part of their Go-to-Africa strategy Letlole La Rona acquired an initial 30% equity stake in Orbit Africa Logistics, with an option to increase this investment to 50%. OAL is a special purpose vehicle incorporated in Mauritius, owning an industrial asset in a prime industrial node in Nairobi, Kenya.

The co-investment was done alongside a wholly owned subsidiary of London listed Grit. The Orbit facility is situated on a prime industrial site on Mombasa Road, the principal route south of Nairobi center, serving the main industrial node, the port of Mombasa and the industrial town of Athi River and is strategically located 11 kilometers south of the international airport and 9.6 kilometers from the Inland Container Depot.

Grit shareholding in Letlole La Rona was seen as strategic for LLR, for the company to leverage on Grit’s already existing continental presence and expand its wings beyond Botswana borders as already delivered by Kenya transaction.

Media reports have however suggested that LLR and Grit have since late last year had fundamental disagreements on how to go about the Go-to-Africa strategy amongst other things, fuelled by alleged Botswana government interference on the affairs of LLR.

Government through LLR founding shareholder – Botswana Development Corporation has a controlling stake of around 40 percent in the company. Government is the sole shareholder of Botswana Development Corporation.

Letlole La Rona recently released their financial results for the six months ended December 2022, revenue increased by 4% to P50.2 million from P48.4 million in the prior comparative six months, whilst operating profit was up 8% to P36.5 million. Profit before tax of P49.7 million was reported, an increase of 8% on the prior comparative six months.

“We are encouraged by the strong results, notwithstanding a challenging economic environment. Our performance was mainly underpinned by annual lease escalations, our quality tenant base and below average market vacancy levels, especially in our warehouse portfolio,” Kamogelo Mowaneng, Letlole La Rona Chief Executive Officer commented.

LLR reported a weighted average lease expiry period of 3.3 years and escalation rates averaging 6.8% per annum for the period ended 31 December 2022.Its investment portfolio value increased by 14% year-on-year to close the period at P1.4 billion, mainly driven by the acquisition of a 30% stake in OAL in July 2022.

The Company also recorded a significant increase in other income, predominantly due to foreign exchange gains on the OAL shareholder loan. “We continue to explore pipeline opportunities locally, and regionally in line with our Go-to-Africa strategy and our interest remains on value-accretive investments,” Mowaneng said.

An interim distribution of 9.11 thebe per linked unit was declared on the 6th of February 2023 for the half-year period to 31 December 2022, comprising of a dividend of 0.05 thebe and debenture interest of 9.06 thebe per linked unit which will be paid to linked unit holders registered in the books of the Company at the close of business on 24 February 2023.

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Stargems Group establishes Training Center in BW

20th March 2023

Internationally-acclaimed diamond manufacturing company StarGems Group has established the Stargems Diamond Training Center which will be providing specialized training in diamond manufacturing and evaluation.

The Stargems Diamond Training Institute is located at the Stargems Group Botswana Unit in Gaborone.

“In accordance with the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) which holds the principle that through education and skills development as well as the strategic alignment between national ambitions and individual capabilities, Botswana will become a prosperous, productive and innovative nation due to the quality and efficacy of its citizenry. The Training Centre will provide a range of modules in theory and in practice; from rough diamond evaluation to diamond grading and polishing for Batswana, at no cost for eight weeks. The internationally- recognized certificate offered in partnership with Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School presents invaluable opportunities for Batswana to access in the diamond industry locally and internationally. The initiative is an extension of our Corporate Social Investment to the community in which we operate,” said Vishal Shah, Stargems Group Managing Director, during the launch of the Stargems Diamond Training Center.

In order to participate in this rare opportunity, interested candidates are invited to submit a police clearance certificate and a BGCSE certificate only to the Stargems offices.  Students who excel in these programs will have the chance to be onboarded by the Stargems Group. This serves as motivation for them to go through this training with a high level of seriousness.

“Community empowerment is one of our CSR principles. We believe that businesses can only thrive when their communities are well taken of. We are hoping that our presence will be impactful to various communities and economies. In the six countries that we are operating in, we have contributed through dedicating 10% of our revenues during COVID-19 to facilitate education, donating to hospitals and also to NGOs committed to supporting women and children living with HIV. One key issue that we are targeting in Botswana is the rate of unemployment amongst the youth. We are looking forward to working closely with the government and other relevant authorities to curb unemployment,” said Shah.

Currently, Stargems Group has employed 117 Batswana and they are looking forward to growing the numbers to 500 as the company grows. Majority of the employees will be graduates from the Stargems Diamond Training Center. This initiation has been received with open arms by the general public and stakeholders. During the launch, the Minister of Minerals and Energy,  Honorable Lefoko Moagi, stated that the ministry fully endorses Stargems Diamond Training and will work closely with the Group to support and grow the initiative.

“As a ministry, we see this as an game changer that is aligned with one of the United Nations’ Six Priority Sustainable Development Goals, which is to Advance Opportunity and Impact for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What Stargems Group is launching today will have a huge impact on the creation of employment in Botswana. An economy’s productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases as its skilled workmanship increases. It is not a secret that low skills perpetuate poverty and widen the inequality gap, therefore the development of skills has the potential to contribute significantly to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability and helping the country become more competitive. We are grateful to see the emergence of industry players such as Stargems Group who have strived to create such opportunities that mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy,” said the Minister of Minerals and Energy.

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Food import bill slightly declines

20th March 2023

The latest figures released by Statistics Botswana this week shows that food import bill for Botswana slightly declined from around P1.1 billion in November 2022 to around P981 million in December during the same year.

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