Science and Engineering human resource remains scarce in Botswana. Various researches continue to point to this field and skilled personnel of the science and engineering as a critical instrument for any developing economy.
Any developing middle income state undergoes infrastructural development, research and innovation to put in place economic structures and institutions that will realize economic growth, Botswana is not an exception. In her quest to attain sustainable economic growth, Botswana has since attaining the status of a middle income economy which came about with aids, technical and financial assistance from opulent economies being ceased, encountered a challenge of low supply of qualified scientists and engineers from local academic and tertiary institutions.
As a result high value construction projects, mega infrastructural erections, complex electrical mechanism assembling and civil engineering undertakings have been enjoyed by foreign nationals, and this has had huge cost implications, overstretching the government purse. Some projects have cost exorbitant figures for the national treasury as a result of failed delivery and budget overruns by these foreign nationals. In 2005 the government of Botswana through an Act of Parliament established the country‘s second university intended to house world-class research based science, engineering and technology academia – the Botswana International University of Science & Technology (BUIST).
The aim was to produce highly skilled scientists and engineers well capacitated from internationally accredited programmes. Although the University experienced a number of challenges from inception when setting up, BUIST held its first ever l graduation ceremony in February this year.
Speaking at a Science, Mathematics and Engineering Fair organized by BUIST this past week in Francistown, the man at the helm of the institution mandated to bake this professionals, Professor Otlogetswe Totolo revealed that Botswana still needs to do more as far as producing qualified engineers and certified scientists is concerned. The BUIST Vice Chancellor is of the view that the current number of accredited professional scientists and engineers is not enough to transform Botswana’s economy to a knowledge based one.
“We have to create critical mass of scientists and engineers to achieve this transformation, we need a lot more that 2000 to make sure that we transform to be the likes of Singapore and Indonesia,” said Totolo. When opening the Fair, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tertiary Education Research, Infrastructure & Technology, Dr Theophilus Mooko told attendants’ that the new Vision 2036 pillars are anchored around innovation and research
“We have committed ourselves as a nation that the transformation and progress that we seek to achieve will be driven by investment and innovation, research and development including indigenous knowledge across all pillars thus domesticating and accelerating the pace of technical and scientific advancement,” he said .
Mooko was of the view that engineers and scientists also play a critical role in Foreign Direct Investment. “We need investors to setup business here, businesses that can create employment and grow the broader economy, but if the investors are to come here to setup complex and relatively large enterprises that can hire graduates and also pay lump sum of tax, they will need highly qualified experts and professionals readily available to provide labour,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary in the newly set up ministry also added that parents and the education system should encourage learners to branch into science and engineering courses to further government efforts of transforming Botswana’s economy. A representative from Business Botswana, Kebaabetswe Bogatsu, emphasised that one of the ways to lure learners into science and engineering studies was conducting such events as the engineering, maths and science fair.
Bogatsu noted that prospective learners can only be convinced by seeing practicals. “The only way our children can learn how to produce and manufacture goods was by encouraging them to be innovative and think outside the box,” he said. The Business Botswana official observed that the learners should be lured by the practical means of studying. “From a private business sector point of view we need as many engineers and scientists as possible to provide skilled labour to innovative business ideas and also to come up with cutting edge and solution seeking well thought enterprises that boost economic growth,” he said.
Francistown Mayor, Silviah Muzila added that young learners needed more capacitation to unleash their potential. Muzila noted that young people have great ideas that can transform Botswana‘s economy and put an end to youth unemployment. “We need more of this fairs and information dissemination platforms for our young learners. This help make them realize and appreciate that they have talent that they can use to invert new instruments and models that can be used to create employment for themselves and also for the broader economy,” she said.
To address shortage of science and engineering expertise, the Government of Botswana has in addition to BUIST established a number of organizations and parastatals to advice the government on science and technology policy formation and also providing research to come up with innovative solutions to economic growth challenges.
Botswana Institute for Technology, Research and Innovation (BITRI) was established as a science and technology institute mandated to undertake research, identify and develop appropriate technologies in line with national priorities and needs of Botswana. Botswana Innovation Hub was also established and incorporated as company to develop and operate Botswana’ s first Science and Technology Park aimed at creating an environment that supports start-ups and existing local companies as well as attract international companies and institutions to develop and grow competitive technology driven and knowledge based businesses.
Complementing BUIST and BITRI and other efforts by the government, Botswana Innovation Hub offers a unique platform for scientific, technological and indigenous knowledge based innovation. Dr Mooko indicated that these institutions are very important to government efforts of turning Botswana into a knowledge based economy. He also noted that the parastatals needed to avail themselves to young learners and catch them while they were still young and vibrant to capture them into innovative and cutting edge solution seekers.
The technology park under The Botswana Innovation Hub, which is almost complete, is an ideal location to build and provide state-of-the-art building and facilities to attract domestic, regional and global companies to locate businesses as well as research and development activities, observed Dr Mooko.
Botswana Innovation Hub supports the growth of techno-rich business enterprises over the long term to increase the wealth of the local knowledge intensive community, promote a culture of innovation, and stimulate the competitiveness of member companies and knowledge based institutions.
When fully developed, the Science and Technology Park will consist of world class facilities including state-of the- art telecommunications infrastructure with high capacity international connectivity and secured power, professional business services, and business development services. The business services will allow companies to concentrate on their core business. The development programs, together with the support for R&D and the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship, will make Botswana Innovation Hub an ideal place for business development. Botswana Innovation Hub key focus sectors are Information Communication Technology, Biotechnology, Mining Technology and Clean Technology.
Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.
Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.
She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”
Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.
On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.
“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.
One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.
The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”
The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.
Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.
Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.
Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.
This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.
He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.
Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”
He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.
Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.
“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.
In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”
In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.
He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.” Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.
Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.
He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”
Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.
“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.
“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said. Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.
Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.
The Global Gender Gap Index, a report published by the World Economic Forum annually, has indicated that Botswana is among countries that fare badly when it comes to representation of women in legislative bodies.
The latest Global Gender Gap Index, published last week, benchmarks the current state and evolution of gender parity across four key dimensions (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment). It is the longest-standing index which tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time since its inception in 2006.
This year, the Global Gender Gap Index benchmarked 146 countries. Of these, a subset of 102 countries have been represented in every edition of the index since 2006, further providing a large constant sample for time series analysis.
Botswana ranks number 66 overall (out of 146 countries), with good rankings in most of the pillars. Botswana ranks 1st in Health and Survival, 7th in the Economic Participation and Opportunity, 22nd in Educational Attainment, and 129th in Political Empowerment.
The Global Gender Gap Index measures scores on a 0 to 100 scale and scores can be interpreted as the distance covered towards parity (i.e. the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed). The cross-country comparisons aim to support the identification of the most effective policies to close gender gaps.
The Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index contains three concepts: the participation gap, the remuneration gap and the advancement gap. The participation gap is captured using the difference between women and men in labour-force participation rates. The remuneration gap is captured through a hard data indicator (ratio of estimated female-to-male earned income) and a qualitative indicator gathered through the World Economic Forum’s annual Executive Opinion Survey (wage equality for similar work).
Finally, the gap between the advancement of women and men is captured through two hard data statistics (the ratio of women to men among legislators, senior officials and managers, and the ratio of women to men among technical and professional workers).
The Educational Attainment sub-index captures the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education through the enrolment ratios of women to men in primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level education. A longer-term view of the country’s ability to educate women and men in equal numbers is captured through the ratio of women’s literacy rate to men’s literacy rate.
Health and Survival sub-index provides an overview of the differences between women’s and men’s health using two indicators. The first is the sex ratio at birth, which aims specifically to capture the phenomenon of “missing women”, prevalent in countries with a strong son preference. Second, the index uses the gap between women’s and men’s healthy life expectancy.
This measure provides an estimate of the number of years that women and men can expect to live in good health by accounting for the years lost to violence, disease, malnutrition and other factors. Political Empowerment sub-index measures the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making through the ratio of women to men in ministerial positions and the ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions. In addition, the reported included the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years.
In the last general elections, only three women won elections, compared to 54 males. The three women are; Nnaniki Makwinja (Lentsweletau-Mmopane), Talita Monnakgotla (Kgalagadi North), and Anna Mokgethi (Gaborone Bonnington North). Four women were elected through Specially Elected dispensation; Peggy Serame, Dr Unity Dow, Phildah Kereng and Beauty Manake. All female MPs — save Dow, who resigned — are members of the executive.
Overall, Botswana has 63 seats, all 57 elected by the electorates, and six elected by parliament. Early this year, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secretary general and Gaborone North MP, Mpho Balopi, successfully moved a motion in parliament calling for increment of elective seats from 57 to 61. Balopi contented that population growth demands the country respond by increasing the number of MPs.
In Africa, Botswana play second fiddle to countries like Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa, Burundi, and Zimbabwe who have better representation of women, with Rwanda being the only country with more than 50 percent of women in parliament.
The low number of women in parliament is attributed to Botswana’s current, electoral system, First-Past-the-Post. During the 9th parliament, then MP for Mahalapye East tabled a motion in parliament in which she sort to increase the number of Specially Elected MPs in parliament to augment female representation in the National Assembly.
The motion was opposed famously, by then Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane, who said the citizens were not in favour of such a move since it dilute democracy, instead suggesting the Botswana should switch to Proportional-Representation-System. Botswana is currently undergoing Constitutional Review process, with the commission, appointed in December, expected to deliver the report to President Mokgweetsi Masisi by September this year.