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Venson-Moitoi in final push for AU chairmanship

Foreign Affairs Minister, Pelonomi Venson-Motoi has intensified her bid for African Union (AU) chairpersonship as she enters the final phase of her campaign.


Following the postponement of the election to 19th January 2017 in July last year, Venson-Moitoi will face four other candidates in a contest that will put to an end to a lengthy spell of campaigns. Observers express that the fact that there are four other candidates puts Venson-Moitoi in a pole position to ascend to the throne. Venson-Moitoi will face Dr Amina Mohammed (Kenya), Moussa Mahmat (Chad), Agapito Mokuy (Equatorial Guinea), and Dr Abdoulaya Bathily (Senegal).


Venson-Moitoi currently enjoys the backing of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) having got the at last year’s July summit in Kigali, Rwanda, and latter in Swaziland for a second bid.  In July last year Venson-Moitoi faced only two contenders for the position in; Dr Specioza Wandira Kazibwe of Uganda and Agapito Mba Mokuy of Equatorial Guinea. Other candidates had dropped off the race during the course of voting.  Venson-Moitoi emerged with more votes in July Last year but could not garner the two third majority required by the regulations to ascend to the post. Dr Venson-Moitoi garnered 23 votes far cry from the required minimum of 36 votes.


About 28 countries had abstained from the second round of voting, citing wanting qualifications among the two candidates. Since then, Moitoi, who refused to suspend her campaign after falling to win enough support in July has been sourcing for support across the continent and has expressed optimism that she will get the required support at the next summit.


Venson-Moitoi has premised her campaign around the good standing that Botswana enjoys from the international community. Botswana, often referred to as the miracle of Africa is has managed to stay conflict free, stable and peaceful in continent raved by unending civil wars and corruption.


“I strive to share the peace and stability that Botswana is known for and champion this across our beautiful continent,” she said. As Africa’s longest standing democracy, Botswana have managed to hold general elections every five years without fail and have seen three presidents since independence leaving office voluntarily. Botswana also have a good record in human rights and its home to thousands refugees who flee their home countries as result of war and other human right violations acts. Botswana is currently ranked the least corrupt country in Africa by Transparency International, the prestige it has enjoyed in the last few decades.  


Venson-Moitoi who has also led ministries such; Ministry of Education and Skills Development, and Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism has spent the better part of her career in the public service as top civil servant. From the early 1980s to the late 1990s, Moitoi was part of civil service which transformed Botswana’s economy. Between that ear, owing to discovery of diamonds at Jwaneng and prudent public service, Botswana’s economic growth averaged 13 percent.


Venson-Moitoi, if she triumphs will have to preside over a continent which is still not conflict free, ravaged by poverty and disease. The former minister of Education and Skills Development has emphasised that dialogue should be at the centre of problem solving in African and has pledged to promote it during her tenure.


“Dialogue is African. It is one thing that binds us together. We talk and we act, this is how we show progress,” she said. “I believe in the power of dialogue, of getting involved, and of working with others to drive progress.” Botswana’s former head of states; Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae have been engaged on African missions before to broker peace and end conflicts in various nations. Masire was instrumental in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) peace negotiations in the early 2000s while Mogae was recently engaged to try to bring to an end a conflict in South Sudan.


Mogae has been spearheading Venson-Moitoi’s bid. Mogae who is also the winner of the Mo Ibrahim $5 million award, last year grabbed the opportunity at United Nations in New York introduced Venson-Moitoi to many African countries where he is highly respected. Dr. Venson-Moitoi, on her part, gave an impassioned speech about her own qualifications, why she is quite suited for the post of Chairperson of the AUC.


Venson-Moitoi is vision is to an “integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena” is one that is very much within reach in championing a sustainable future for Africa. She says this is because the AU Assembly adoption of Agenda 2063 was grounded upon this vision.


“Now is the time for the implementation of Agenda 2063 as clearly articulated in the first ten-year implementation plan. Implementation of this will result in quick wins and galvanise the desired transformation programme,” she stated. Venson-Moitoi also envisages AU as an efficient and effective organisation and notes the need to bring institutional culture of a high performance organisation for the purpose of the successful implementation of Agenda 2063.


“We need to develop and implement communications strategy that is aimed and popularising Agenda 2063 and ensuring the kind of buy-in that drives its success. This is another critical activity coinciding with the next tenure of Office of Chairperson. I will therefore ensure the development of the effective communications strategy to gamer further understand and support for Agenda 2063, thus instilling the culture of ownership among the citizen of Africa,” she said.


With Africa experiencing changes in population dynamics, Moitoi says the contennet is now dominated by young men and women who have not been given the opportunity to utilise their creative to propel the country forward. Venson-Moitoi says she has the plan do deal with this matter and ensure that Africa reaches its potential and become in influential player in global affairs.


MOITOI’S VISION FOR AFRICA


Ambitious Africa
Guided by our shared principles peace, justice and equality, we as citizens of Africa we must keep on working for greater democratic governance in international decision making. This includes working to ensure that global institutions and bodies including the United Nations, Security Council accurately reflect the realities and dynamics of today’s world. To this end, the need for reform of Security Council cannot be overemphasised.

The time is now and we are on the right path. We cannot look back after more than seventy years of existence of the global body, to place this reform agenda on the priority list. We have continued as African leaders, to agitate for extending the number of permanent members to Security Council, thus making it more representative and better equipped to address the challenges and opportunities that the world faces, particularly in the area of international peace and security.


From MGDs to SGDs
According to annual reports on the implementation of annual MGDs, African countries were recording steady improvements on most targets. The focus now is Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). To achieve this, I believe policy makers must pursue inclusive goals strategies that promote broader participation of the active labour force. At the same time, we must ensure that returns from growth are invested in programmes that enhance productivity capacities of broad segments of society particularly women, young people and the vulnerable.   Furthermore, African governments  need to keep expanding agricultural policies through better policies and heavy investment in improved seeding, integrated farming, used of fertilizers and increased access to finance.


Realising Agenda 2063
Much has already been achieved by au through the development of the Agenda 2063, and the ground work has begun. I believe as the chairperson of the AUC I will be well placed to drive our continent to “The Africa we want!” that is ensuring that Agenda 2063 and its 10 year implementation plan delivers on its ultimate objective; to change the lives of all African people for the better.  My focus will be putting in place the systems and procedures that will help us deliver of those aspirations. I believe my visions and experience, coupled with the internal expertise at the AUC, will help me deliver of this task.


Transformation Agenda
I consider myself a transformist, rather than a conformist. Thus I fully support the transformation agenda of the AUC and am pleased to have this opportunity at a time when the development trajectory of the continent is strong. The AUC’s agenda 2063 enhances the momentum of this and makes clear the desired objective through the key strategic levels. Implementation of flagship projects will constitute the real vehicle for transforming Africa and achieving its integration, development and prosperity goals. I am confident that this dream that we have and share at the AUC is where within reach.

The Africa we want
One of the greatest wishes of all AU members is to “silence the guns” on our continent. To see all school going age children attend class and get an education. To see the rights of women and men; girls and boys on the continents given their rightful place in the laws of the country they live in. To see democracy flourish. This is the Africa we want. It is my dream to be a part of that process.


Driving the democratic development across Africa
As chairperson, the AUC, i will commit to promoting practices that seek to enhance Africa’s quest for democratic development. I will galvanised the support of all members states of the AUC to ensure that, together, we champion democratic governance by promoting the strengthening  of democratic institutions, safe guarding human rights and guaranteeing the rule of law.


A United and Prosperous Africa
We live in world with daunting challenges that respect no borders. No country, big or small, rich or poor, can solve these challenges on their own. They require a concerted effort from all of Africa citizens. This is an era of collective action and we, as the people of Africa, need to work together to make a different to ensure an integrated, peaceful, developed, and prosperous Africa. We have the resources, expertise, passion and evolving mindset in political, social and economic spheres to work together to make this vision of a united Africa a reality.

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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