Technical challenges linked with the procurement and distribution of set-top-boxes has undermined the much hyped analogue- to–digital migration in Botswana. Government is struggling to get companies to commit to selling and distribution the technology that will ensure that the migration is successful.
At the SADC-SABA Broadcasting Forum held in Windhoek, Namibia recently, Botswana decried the lack of locally produced content as one of the reasons why the digital migration is slow. But on the sidelines of the Forum it emerged that potential distributors of set-top-boxes had approached government for tax rebates and or discounts should they import the gadgets for later re-sale in Botswana because of the costs involved. However Government is not keen on the proposals.
Just recently Government put an advert on the Daily News publication urging companies with the capacity to order and sell set-top-boxes to raise their hands and get free advertising in all government media. It is understood that Government wants to launch Btv 2 but the challenge is – who will watch it, where? The view of insiders at Mass Media is that 9000 demonstration set-top-boxes cannot validate a television channel launch. The 9000 set-top-boxes are not sold anywhere in the country, they could only be found at Mass Media and were distributed by means of call in competitions.
Botswana is said to be also still battling issues of limited manufacturing or assembling capacity of Set Top Boxes (STBs), economic challenges, unfavourable terrain requiring gap fillers in many areas and inconsistent disbursements of funds for digital terrestrial television (DTT) migration. The Windhoek Forum also established SADC countries that have not yet migrated to (DTT) and are facing a lot of challenges ranging from a lack of finance, shortage of expert human resources and lack of attractive local content.
In the last session of parliament, the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Governance, Eric Molale revealed that his ministry had wished for set-top boxes to be produced locally. “We identified a number of young persons who have the suave to do things that relate to technology, Information Technology (IT) and the like. All the time when they were ready to start production, they then gave excuses. We are still encouraging more to come forward so that these set-top boxes are produced here, so that they can even be exported to other countries in Africa.”
The minister highlighted that that set-up would have led to the funds being retained locally. Botswana delegates at the forum also submitted that there was serious lack of local content to fill in the broadcasting space. Currently Botswana Television viewership continues to diminish in the wake of new entrant, Kwese. Previously Multi-choice and South African television networks dominated local viewership.
Although it was launched 17 years ago, BTV continues to be heavily criticised for its lack of content and recycling programmes. The television station is viewed as lacking entertaining content, particularly for the youth who make up 60% of the population. However, the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports & Cultural Development has been in the process of setting up a commercial, sports and entertainment channel, BTV 2.
Albeit digital migration went live in June 2015, the new channel which was expected to feature on the Digital Terrestrial televised set-top box together with the traditional Botswana Television 1 have yet to beam any content. Reportedly, neither channel has content to air. The main challenge for Btv 2 is how it will be accessed by the population because there appears to be a problem of set top boxes.
This publication also established that an amount of US$2.5 million (approx. 21 million pula) has been earmarked to assist local producers in creating programmes for sports viewership and entertainment documentaries and native films for the 2017/18 financial year. This will add to over 180 million pula which has already been used in the entire analogue to digital transformation 2 years ago.
Officials continue to be aggrieved by the slow pace at which the transition is effecting, so far, a lot of households still cannot get hold of set-top boxes; there are delays in the release of the digital dividend and there is continued use of analogue TV frequencies, especially by neighbouring countries, which officials say delays the release of the valuable DTT spectrum. At least 50% of Botswana households run on analogue transmitters while only a few consumers in urban areas have already received DTT on satellite, according to the department of broadcasting.
PROGRESS IN OTHER SADC COUNTRIES
Meanwhile other SADC countries are also facing an uphill battle in the transition process of analogue-to-digital migration. Malawi is among the only four SADC Member States, including Namibia, Tanzania and Mauritius who failed to successfully migrate from analogue to digital before the set deadline of 17 June 2015.
According to Zadziko Mankhambo, Broadcasting Manager at the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority’s (MACRA), Malawi like Botswana is facing inadequate local content challenges on all channels, low uptake of STBs due to economic challenges, unfavourable terrain requiring gap fillers in most areas, slow growth of the network in other areas and poor operating standards by some content service providers (CSPs).
Other challenges include delayed rollout affecting implementation of final Apps Store Optimisation (ASO) for the country, a capital intensive process, resulting in slow progress in all areas. “SABA should find ways of enhancing local content production in the region. There should be ways of stopping developed countries from dumping analogue equipment to developing countries,” stressed Mankhambo.
Swaziland was able to successfully switch off analogue transmitters on the 31 December 2016 following a successful migration process. The country is now working on the licensing process for Digital Dividend 1 and 2 spectra to telecommunications service providers for broadband applications and the process is expected to be completed by the end of 2017. â€¨Challenges for Swaziland include the low uptake of STBs attributed to perceived high prices of the boxes and the lack of attractive content on the DTT platform. The Swazi government has, however, subsidized the price of STBs to citizens. Other challenges include limited content (local content) to fill up the channels that have been made available by the DTT project.
Among SADC Member States, Namibia was the frontrunner in terms of digitalization and offered 70 percent of its population a digital TV signal before the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) deadline of June 2015. South Africa missed the June 2015 transition date but has brought in the participation of the private sector, telecommunication companies and broadcasters to help expedite the implementation rollout. “We are working on an aggressive project plan to expedite rollout,” said Wonder Dlangamandla, chief director of technology in the Department of Communication
He added that they aimed to complete STB rollout by December 2018. A lot of challenges exist for South Africa as the country has a huge land mass and challenging landscape of about 1.2 million square kilometres. There is an uneven population distribution with big concentrations around urban metros with diverse cultural and regional make-up; varying living standards measures (LSMs), varying commercial interests and a tough balancing act.
Despite the government of Botswana’s ambition to have one of its own to lead Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) since its establishment in 1980, the Presidency says there is no budget specifically dedicated to the campaign.
The Government has released the name of Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Mpedi Magosi, as the candidate for the SADC Executive Secretary position. Magosi is expected to face off with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) candidate, Faustin Mukela. The position will become vacant in August this year.
However, despite the optimism the Botswana Government has not yet set aside a budget to assist Magosi to win against the seemingly DRC giant. “We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s ability to effectively fund any new project. This campaign is not an exception. As such, we do not have any budget for the campaign. However, we have so far managed to take advantage of His Excellency the President’s working visits to the neighbouring countries to also carry out the campaigns,” Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, explained.
Botswana has housed SADC since the establishment of the then SADCC in 1980, but has never occupied top most leadership positions at the SADC Secretariat. “We therefore, strongly believe that we should also have an opportunity to contribute to the management of our regional body as it continues to drive the important issues of regional integration industrialization and socio-economic development.
This will also profile Botswana as a strong advocate of regional integration,” he responded to this publication’s questionnaire as to why the Government wants to occupy the plum post. SADC is a Member State driven organization. As such, Leagajang said, needs a well-grounded Executive Secretary with a blend of management and leadership acumen; a transformational leader with political awareness and integrity; private and public sector experience; a deep culture of corporate governance; as well as strategic agility and result-oriented consummate diplomat.
“These are the unique attributes of our candidate,” he said. So far President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited nine out of 16 SADC member states on a working visit and also taking an opportunity to present to them his candidate.
“The countries have appreciated this effort and we remain hopeful. However, it is important to note that this is a democratic and competitive process which must be respected,” he responded when asked about the reception and assurances from various countries to cast a vote for Magosi.
In 2018, when Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged for the Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, the government appointed former President Festus Mogae to be the campaign leader. Does the Government have anyone apart from Masisi to help with the campaign?
“The campaigns for the candidate are strictly led by the Government of Botswana. Since this is a candidate for Botswana, not just the Government, it will be appreciated if all Batswana, including the media, could also shoulder the responsibility to campaign for the candidate in their own spheres of influence,” Leagajang responded.
While there are sceptics on Magosi winning against the DRC man, the Government is confident and believes that with the unique traits that he possess, Magosi stands a chance. He is said to be a strong advocate of justice and fairness as he has played this role in his current role as PSP and in his previous roles as PS and in the private sector. He has helped individuals and companies to find justice and fairness in most of their dealings with Government.
Magosi is also said to be a proponent of corporate governance and which he has relentlessly pursued in most of his career including in Government and other sectors. A strong believer in following laid down procedures and laws. “He carries a variety of skills as an HR expert with experience in different sectors, a strategist and an Organization development specialist.
His experience and exposure spans government, parastatal, private sector and at regional level as well, thus making him a suitable candidate for the regional role. He has worked with governments, businesses, development partners and politicians and is comfortable navigating through all of them,” Leagajang concluded.
The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila looked a politician set to shoot the moon as he laid bare his billions of pula development agenda recently in Parliament.
His Ministry’s combined Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals for the 2021/ 2022 Financial Year is pegged at Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty – Five Million, two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P4, 365, 219, 560). This is a budget 38.3% more than the allocation for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.
Mzwinila preluded his request to parliament with a demonstration that his Ministry has no champagne taste on a beer budget – indicating that his ministry’s expenditure at the end of February 2021P2.111 Billion or 96% of development budget; and P910 million or 90% of the recurrent budget.
Notwithstanding the budget dust, the Minister justified this year’s increase in the Ministry’s total budget. He attributed the escalation to the commencement of major projects under the water sector. These include the implementation of the North South Carrier (NSC) 22.2 covering various sub projects. Mzwinila noted that these are all public value projects which are aimed at improving the lives of Batswana.
Mzwinila’s Ministry has projected that the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty –Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty – Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P963, 947, 560) be permitted for the Recurrent Budget and stand part of the 2021 / 2022 Appropriation Bill ( No. 1 of 2021).
“55% of the Recurrent Budget is geared towards the Revenue Support Grant for 12 Land Boards and their subordinate authorities while the sum of P5 Million is allocated to the Real Estate Advisory Council (REAC). The remaining 44% is proposed for the Ministry Departments.”
The sum of Three Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Two hundred and Seventy –Two Thousand Pula (P3, 401, 272, 000), for the Development Budget was approved and stand part of the same schedule of the appropriation (2021/2022).
When breaking down the Development Budget, Minister Mzwinila noted that Water Supply and Sanitation projects will account for P1.098 Billion to finance the Maun Water and Sanitation project, Molepolole Sanitation projects and the Shakawe Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation.
With all the implementation bottlenecks troubling several projects in the country, Mzwinila had to satisfy the question of whether his Ministry demonstrated a dire need for the budget with reference to its execution of the budget for the financial year 2020/2021 and its delivery of strategic initiatives and projects?
Mzwinila’s pitch found favour with parliament and his ministry will get an aggregate budget of P3.198 Billion for the 2020/ 2021 Financial Year. Within this allocation, P2.188 Billion is for the Development Budget and P1.010 Billion will cover the Recurrent Budget.
The Minister revealed his strategic interventions for land management, water and sanitation services. Highlighting that efforts by Government to provide serviced residential land to citizens on the waiting list are being hampered by limited resources. He shared that his ministry needs P94 Billion to cover such costs which will directly link to water, sewage, roads, electricity, telecommunications and storm water drainage leading to the allocation of 4 587 plots on un-serviced land.
The minister projected that 22 952 un-serviced residential plots are planned to be allocated in the next financial year. However, there is a trend where allocated land remains fallow and undeveloped which raises misgivings that the requests could have been made on speculative plans.
Mzwinila noted that in the spirit of forging stronger International connections, the Ministry will in June 2021 sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Land matters between Namibia and Botswana with the aim of opening doors to the creation of Dry Ports in the country, facilitate international trade through Walvis Bay Sea Port.
Botswana is already challenged by scarcity of naturally occurring water resources due to the aridity of the country creating persistent water shortages. The type of infrastructure required to improve national water security is a true reflection of intensive investment needed in the water sector The Minister stressed.
“An emerging issue such as the COVID -19 pandemic poses serious challenges as the control of the virus requires reliable water supply. In an effort to mitigate the challenge, the Ministry has undertaken extensive bowsing throughout the country which included the provision of additional capacity for supplementary bowsing to areas with pervasive water shortages, plus an additional forty one (41) un-gazetted settlements.
Operational costs due to bowsing were at an average of P6 Million per month before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased to an unsustainable amount of the order of P13 Million per month, since the beginning of the State of Emergency in April 2020,” the minister shared.
Through the support of a World Bank Loan, the Ministry is implementing several initiatives under the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency (BEWSE) project. Through BEWSE the Raw Water Pricing and Abstraction Strategy will assess the pricing of water in a manner that enables the provision of water to support new economic development, the strategy is planned to be completed in June 2021.
The Ministry has commenced the development of a long term National Water Security Strategy to improve resilience to climate change impacts. The strategy development entails prioritization of the proposed future mega water transfers such as the Chobe – Zambezi water transfer, the Atlantic Ocean water transfer to Botswana through Namibia and Lesotho – Botswana water transfer.
Following the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in November 2017 for the Lesotho –Botswana Water Transfer project, a 24 months contract for a combined prefeasibility and feasibility study for the development of a bankable Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer project feasibility study was signed and is to be completed in 2022.
One of the Ministry’s famous major water supply projects such as the North South Carrier (NSC) 2.2 has experienced hiccups; having tenders for contract 1 (Masama to Mmamashia Pipeline) and Contract 2 (Mahalapye to Masama Pipeline) cancelled due to budgetary constraints.
The Botswana Climate Change policy draft of 2021 was tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng for consideration and adoption.
The policy attempts to indicate the country’s environmentally conscious development agenda as Substantial resources are being dedicated to research and policy efforts to mitigate climate change and support adaptation to the current and future impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.
Kereng indicated that Botswana is not immune to the impacts of climate change and it continues to delay the country’s national development efforts and that the key economic development sectors dependent on the climate system have recorded declines over the years due to the variability of the rainfall and other climatic conditions. Experts elsewhere have pointed out that lack of consideration of population dynamics hampers the development of stronger, more effective solutions to the challenges climate change poses – hopefully this policy if effectively implemented could partly answer this question.
Kereng underscored that sectors such as agriculture, water, bio diversity, health and tourism have suffered the most and the consequences of these have contributed significantly to the decline of livelihoods in Botswana especially in rural areas.
To respond to the changing climate, Botswana has embarked on sectoral reform such as climate smart agriculture, poverty alleviation initiatives, building resilience on the economic productive sectors, diversification of tourism for the improvement of livelihoods and income generation, local economic development and sustainable environment.
The efforts require a coordinated mechanism that will provide an enabling environment for an integrated approach to the formulation and implantation of development plans and socio economic related policies in Botswana that are responsive to the changing climatic conditions.
Minister Kereng explained the draft policy is characterized by an inclusive and integrated approach to social, economic development and governance modalities that would enable the country to achieve a sustainable development pathway. It provides opportunities for improved livelihoods through creation of green jobs, development and transfer of relevant technologies as well as creation and ease of access to both local and international markets. It also commits the government, private sector and non-state actors to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures that would facilitate sustainability and building of resilience of all sectors.
While Members of Parliament were trying to comprehend the policy, this publication got in touch with Green Botswana to solicit their views on the policy draft. Ms. Sela Motshwane, the Founder of the Trust highlighted that “the Climate Change policy was meant to be read in August 2019. It is long overdue, and we all need to see it and understand it in full.
I understand the current budget does not allow for a full implementation- but I could be wrong. More funds could have been allocated since. I think generally, Batswana need to understand fully what this means to our daily lives. I believe the true understanding is by policy drafters and the Ministry of Environment only.”
In the same vein, Green Botswana Trust took to the streets to provide a community solution to climate change on World Health Day (Wednesday). Green Botswana held a “Free Trees for Babies” at Extension 2 Clinic where fruit trees were gifted to parents, expectant mothers, 25 health workers, police officers and the prison officers who had accompanied prisoners to the clinic.
Motshwane said: “The decision to do the “Free Trees for Babies” by gifting fruit trees was to raise awareness to our imminent food security issue as stated by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Mr. Thabang Botshoma and encourage the general public to plant a tree so that we can reach our SGD Goal 13 : Climate Action. The trees gifted are to be named after the baby recipient”.
Green Botswana is calling for the urgent action from government and members of the public to create a culture of community accountability and collegiality in moving Botswana towards climate action and sustainability. To achieve the 2030 Paris Agreement Pledge, it will take all citizens and not just the government to reach goals.
Parliament resolved to adopt the Botswana Climate Change Policy, 2021.