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Agric twist: Botswana benchmarks in Israel

The world is evolving from old ways of doing business, providing service and ways of day to day life-technology is today’s blueprint to almost every undertaking.

World economies are devising innovative ways to create employment, grow their wealth base and better service their people and Botswana as a middle income state and developing economy is no exception. Currently the economy is heavily dependent on the finite mineral sector. The country is food insecure and largely depends on imports from neighbouring South Africa for almost every commodity used in our day to day life and the manufacturing sector remains untapped.

The agricultural space which is viewed with significant potential in economic diversification and employment creation is currently not fully explored. Within the agricultural sector, Botswana currently solicits revenue from the Beef sector but the industry is evidently not performing well, not as much faster adapting to modern ways compared to the Namibian and Brazilian industries.

However Botswana is progressing well when it comes to instilling the innovative culture amongst its economic engines and service delivery mechanism. The fundamental focus currently is on transforming the economy to being knowledge based, export led as well as private sector dominated where government only plays the role of facilitator and regulator. Botswana’s need to come up with cutting edge innovative ways of diversifying the economy was emphasized  at the National Innovation workshop organized by the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) in Gaborone on Monday.

It has been reiterated that Botswana needed to come up with national frameworks and blueprints that can cultivate the culture of innovation. Dr Theophilus Mooko Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science & Technology said it was no longer a matter of choice whether to be  innovative or not. “Our diamonds and other natural resources are depleting, we have to content with the thought of survival based innovation,” he said.

Mooko said time may not be on Botswana‘s side and that the country needed to tap into existing opportunities within the research and innovation space. He however cautioned that it was necessary to develop innovative strategies that are on the times with the global, technological and innovative outlook noting that otherwise Botswana may realize less progress from any other undertakings. “Our national innovation system would need to link with what is happening with our regional outlook,” he said.

As a developing economy Botswana acknowledges the need to learn and draw inspiration and strategic technical knowhow on issues of planning and policy crafting. In the area of innovation Botswana located Israel which is a country in the Middle East semi deserted with climatic conditions and natural vegetation much similar to that of Botswana or even worse. Israel has done exceptionally well in the area of innovation to attain 95 % food security and almost 100% employment rate. The Middle East country with rich ancient and religious history has also established itself as a ‘start up’ nation.

According to a report recently released by the Israel Innovation Authority,  is Israel home to over 2000 start-ups that were founded in the past decade, 3 000 small medium start-ups and high–tech companies, 30 growth companies, 50 large technology companies and 3 00 research & development centres of multinational corporations. Out of those start-ups 187 raised over 1.7 billion US Dollars in the second quarter of 2016 .The World Economic forum’s Global Competitiveness report 2016-2017 also recognizes Israel as the second most innovative nation in the world . The report ranks countries based on innovation including technological readiness, business sophistication and higher education.

The Agricultural sector which Botswana hopes to explore to reduce its import bill, diversify the economy and create employment with, is a highly developed industry in Israel. Israel is a major exporter of fresh produce and a world-leader in agricultural technologies despite the fact that the geography of Israel is not naturally conducive to agriculture. More than half of the land area is desert, and the climate and lack of  water resources do not favour farming. Only 20% of the land area is naturally arable. In 2008 agriculture represented 2.5% of total GDP and 3.6% of exports. While farm workers made up only 3.7% of the work force, Israel produced 95% of its own food requirements, supplementing this with imports of grain, oilseeds, meat, coffee, cocoa and sugar, figures which have seen a quadruple growth today.

At the workshop on Monday, it was noted that Botswana stands to benefit significantly from their benchmark exercises with Israel.  Gershon Kadar Ambassador of Israel to Botswana said his country takes pride in the agricultural innovation, taking into fact that Israel is relatively a desert .He said their water and irrigation system technology was the best in the world. Kadar revealed that about 35 Batswana students in the disciplines of Agriculture will go for an 11 month program in Israel where they will get exposure to Israel’s high tech world class agricultural innovative centres.

The students are expected to leave for Jerusalem in September this year. He said they will be learning Israel technologies undergoing both practical and academic capacity building from the high level research and innovation centres in the land. Anya Eldan –Vice President of Israel Innovation Authority said it was important that innovation policies have a specific economic call. “Otherwise it will not achieve progress, in Israel our Research & development is the best in the world,” she said. Eldan also noted that Israel had spent 4.5 % of their GDP on research and development. “The idea is not just for government to spent money on research & development to support innovation but to also build programs that leverage that money and brings the private sector on board,” she explained

Mooko asserted that it was important that Botswana learns from Israel’s innovation and to solicit opportunities that arise out of innovation to create jobs and grow the country’s economy. Botswana Innovation Hub Chief Executive Alan Boshwaen said their primary mandate was to drive the national innovation agenda with special emphasis on facilitating the commercialization of innovation.

“We are especially concerned with ensuring that new innovative products and services emerge at the end of a chain that involves research and engagement of industry role players and other stakeholders,” said Boshwaen. The Botswana Innovation Hub was established to contribute to the country’s economic development and competitiveness by creating new scientific, technological, and indigenous knowledge-based business opportunities. BIH fosters entrepreneurship and technology transfer, generates knowledge-based jobs, and attracts innovative companies and institutions to Botswana.

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021
LAWRENCE-OOKEDITSE

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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