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Thursday, 18 April 2024

UDC, BCP: jealously guard the positive camaraderie…

Opinions

DR PHILIP BULAWA


The coming together of UDC and the BCP is surely a welcome development in respect of Botswana politics. The recent launch of the UDC has brought about some hope to this nation that come 2019, their livelihood might change for the better.

That is, the expectations by Batswana that their hopes and dreams of a new system of governance that would possibly result in among other things, a diversified economy, real job creation, improved standard of living, free and quality education, regulated private education, a corruption free society, a truly independent judicial system, an independent electoral system, a free and independent media, as well as the long overdue overhauling, restructuring or demise of the current intelligence service will ultimately be realised. The mood in the country is clearly that of a nation just waiting for 2019 to get rid of the current regime that has been in power for more than fifty years and has certainly become obsolete and therefore a serious liability to this nation.  


As indicated in my previous articles to this publication, this public mood has revealed itself in some joint party activities where members now constituting UDC have worked collaboratively to exhibit some spirit of commitment, comradeship and cohesion as if they already belonged to one single entity.

 

Although sceptics especially the enemy the BDP, and some in the media have painted a bleak picture about new UDC, there has been clear indication in some constituencies that work not just to win by-elections, but to prepare for the upcoming elections in 2019 started in earnest even long before negotiations were concluded. The mood has always been that of people who long embraced the UDC formation, and for them the launch was just more of a public relations exercise.   


But even with this positive camaraderie, naturally there is bound to be some confusion and apprehension once the public domain flourishes with alleged evidence of cracks and disunity within the UDC. Whether or not such allegations are credible is another story. The reality however, is that in as much as a concrete agreement has now been sealed, it must be noted that in any political deal of this magnitude that involved diverse negotiators there will always be challenges.

 

Although the sole purpose is to ultimately come to a consensus, my experience with political talks involving different parties; negotiators, including party leadership, would not always agree on issues on the table, but also find themselves having to seriously and emotionally engage in robust debate on a wide range of pertinent issues of divergence. Fundamental in negotiations is to bear in mind that even as you do your utmost to reach a consensus it’s not always that all actors would be completely content with the final outcome.

 

Without suggesting that there are never any instances of points of convergence, in many cases it’s sort of a fragile matter of give and take than decisions arrived at unanimously, and of course it is also in this spirit of give and take that individual parties can thereafter request for certain resolutions be revisited, something some may describe as portrayal of evidence of a major division amongst negotiating partners.


It would therefore be naïve of all of us to conclude that, just because a deal has been reached, the challenges will also cease to exist. Although one cannot cite a particular and peculiar reason as to why challenges should continue to exist after what seems to have been a successful deal such as is the  case with the UDC, there could be a wide range of probabilities.

 

  These would include a high possibility that even after a deal has been concluded, some might still continue to express their reservation about the manner in which things would have turned out to be, and as democracy and justice would dictate, these people have the right to be given a hearing of some sort for the agreement to work.

 

Rumour mongering also has the potential to adversely affect the stability that the opposition needs to achieve its intended goal of not just unseating the BDP, but also to turn around the economy. As it stands media stories that all has not been well since the launch including allegations that the very same leaders who collaboratively and collectively presided over unity talks that delivered UDC have since fallen out could easily rock UDC.  


As can be expected these turn of events, some of which may have been deliberately twisted for different reasons, would certainly reach inter alia, opponents of the deal within and outside the opposition.  When they lay their hands on such news of alleged disunity, they would do everything to ensure that they as much as possible make it go viral, shaping public perceptions such that the information is ultimately misconstrued as an accurate reflection of the situation on the ground.

 

Admittedly, some of the stories including those coming from the media for instance, maybe an exaggeration deliberately intended to mislead and course maximum damage, and in other cases just unsubstantiated insinuations that border on personal series of same stale attacks we have heard before. Here I’m referring to stories not firmly rooted in the journalistic tradition and ethics.

 

By the way the establishment of some media houses has to do more with entrepreneurship and therefore their main reason for existence is to as much as possible maximise profits through writing of stories some of which are grossly unethical. In a democratic dispensation such as ours, political opponents will also have a field day twisting the information for political mileage.


The reality though is that this is what constitutes freedom of speech and democracy, something that the opposition should cherish and embrace at all times, regardless of whether or not what they report is its favour. It is my contention that the media is not the main threat to the new UDC establishment, but instead what would threaten opposition’s intended long term resilience and tarnish its good name are its own people.

 

Many of the stories that reach the media, political opponents and others are leaked by opposition members themselves, and what usually happens is that some of the recipients of the leaked information may just twist them a bit to suit their agendas. Imagine a situation where the media would have been completely bared from attending what should have been a private meeting of leaders, and a few hours before an official media statement can be made public, the information is already on radio, television and newspapers.

 

Other instances of indiscipline on the part of some opposition members have revealed themselves in their utterances about their own comrades, including that of their own leadership. Further cause for concern are insinuations of possible and even imagined infighting in the four political parties that constitute the UDC which could also turn out to be a key factor that contributes immeasurably to instability in UDC.


Of course it is fine for Comrades to critique UDC or each other within the organisation as this helps to introspect, but deliberate badmouthing to criticise and disparage other Comrades has a huge bearing on possible instability in the UDC and therefore stifle and delay concerted effort by the opposition to ensure regime change in 2019.

 

Further, even more toxic could be fights for existing or anticipated positions, a situation that may completely obliterate the organisation before it could even commence the journey to attaining its intended vision. It is profound that people do understand and accept that not all of us will get an opportunity to represent the organisation as Members of Parliament and Councillors, or that only one person will become President, or else UDC’s journey to attainment of power would be tough. My argument is that it is only when we lack discipline and make explosive utterances to the media that are sometimes misleading and dangerous, as well as cause unnecessary incidents due to power struggles which could have the greatest propensity to sow seeds of discord in the entire UDC family.  


We therefore have to commend efforts that have been made to address people’s concerns arising mainly from media reports, thanks to the manner in which both Cde Keorapetse and Cde Mohwasa have handled the situation to weather the storm.  They have been quite level headed in their responses and managed the situation with a great deal of aplomb. I also listened to Cde Mangole and Cde Rammidi on radio clarifying a number of issues that had engulfed UDC to the utter dismay and confusion of its members.

 

This definitely complemented both Keorapetse’s and Mohwasa’s efforts and further allayed fears pertaining to unpalatable media stories about UDC since its launch a couple of weeks ago. It must however, be noted that even these officially sanctioned efforts by Comrades will not bear much fruit unless all in the opposition exercise restraint and solidly rally behind UDC. In political parlance this obviously calls for discipline that requires members to adhere to and uphold UDC’s code of conduct which in turn should give the party moral high ground to speak to the nation as a genuine government in waiting.

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Opinions

IEC Disrespects Batswana: A Critical Analysis

10th November 2023

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has recently faced significant criticism for its handling of the voter registration exercise. In this prose I aim to shed light on the various instances where the IEC has demonstrated a lack of respect towards the citizens of Botswana, leading to a loss of credibility. By examining the postponements of the registration exercise and the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively, it becomes evident that the institution has disregarded its core mandate and the importance of its role in ensuring fair and transparent elections.

Incompetence or Disrespect?

One possible explanation for the IEC’s behavior is sheer incompetence. It is alarming to consider that the leadership of such a critical institution may lack the understanding of the importance of their mandate. The failure to communicate the reasons for the postponements in a timely manner raises questions about their ability to handle their responsibilities effectively. Furthermore, if the issue lies with government processes, it calls into question whether the IEC has the courage to stand up to the country’s leadership.

Another possibility is that the IEC lacks respect for its core clients, the voters of Botswana. Respect for stakeholders is crucial in building trust, and clear communication is a key component of this. The IEC’s failure to communicate accurate and complete information, despite having access to it, has fueled speculation and mistrust. Additionally, the IEC’s disregard for engaging with political parties, such as the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), further highlights this disrespect. By ignoring the UDC’s request to observe the registration process, the IEC demonstrates a lack of regard for its partners in the electoral exercise.

Rebuilding Trust and Credibility:

While allegations of political interference and security services involvement cannot be ignored, the IEC has a greater responsibility to ensure its own credibility. The institution did manage to refute claims by the DISS Director that the IEC database had been compromised, which is a positive step towards rebuilding trust. However, this remains a small glimmer of hope in the midst of the IEC’s overall disregard for the citizens of Botswana.

To regain the trust of Batswana, the IEC must prioritize respect for its stakeholders. Clear and timely communication is essential in this process. By engaging with political parties and addressing their concerns, the IEC can demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. It is crucial for the IEC to recognize that its credibility is directly linked to the trust it garners from the voters.

Conclusion:

The IEC’s recent actions have raised serious concerns about its credibility and respect for the citizens of Botswana. Whether due to incompetence or a lack of respect for stakeholders, the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively and handle its responsibilities has damaged its reputation. To regain trust and maintain relevance, the IEC must prioritize clear and timely communication, engage with political parties, and demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. Only by respecting the voters of Botswana can the IEC fulfill its crucial role in ensuring free and fair elections.

 

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Opinions

Fuelling Change: The Evolving Dynamics of the Oil and Gas Industry

4th April 2023

The Oil and Gas industry has undergone several significant developments and changes over the last few years. Understanding these developments and trends is crucial towards better appreciating how to navigate the engagement in this space, whether directly in the energy space or in associated value chain roles such as financing.

Here, we explore some of the most notable global events and trends and the potential impact or bearing they have on the local and global market.

Governments and companies around the world have been increasingly focused on transitioning towards renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. This shift is motivated by concerns about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Africa, including Botswana, is part of these discussions, as we work to collectively ensure a greener and more sustainable future. Indeed, this is now a greater priority the world over. It aligns closely with the increase in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing being observed. ESG investing has become increasingly popular, and many investors are now looking for companies that are focused on sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint. This trend could have significant implications for the oil and fuel industry, which is often viewed as environmentally unsustainable. Relatedly and equally key are the evolving government policies. Government policies and regulations related to the Oil and Gas industry are likely to continue evolving with discussions including incentives for renewable energy and potentially imposing stricter regulations on emissions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a strong role. Over the last two years, the pandemic had a profound impact on the Oil and Gas industry (and fuel generally), leading to a significant drop in demand as travel and economic activity slowed down. As a result, oil prices plummeted, with crude oil prices briefly turning negative in April 2020. Most economies have now vaccinated their populations and are in recovery mode, and with the recovery of the economies, there has been recovery of oil prices; however, the pace and sustainability of recovery continues to be dependent on factors such as emergence of new variants of the virus.

This period, which saw increased digital transformation on the whole, also saw accelerated and increased investment in technology. The Oil and Gas industry is expected to continue investing in new digital technologies to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This also means a necessary understanding and subsequent action to address the impacts from the rise of electric vehicles. The growing popularity of electric vehicles is expected to reduce demand for traditional gasoline-powered cars. This has, in turn, had an impact on the demand for oil.

Last but not least, geopolitical tensions have played a tremendous role. Geopolitical tensions between major oil-producing countries can and has impacted the supply of oil and fuel. Ongoing tensions in the Middle East and between the US and Russia could have an impact on global oil prices further, and we must be mindful of this.

On the home front in Botswana, all these discussions are relevant and the subject of discussion in many corporate and even public sector boardrooms. Stanbic Bank Botswana continues to take a lead in supporting the Oil and Gas industry in its current state and as it evolves and navigates these dynamics. This is through providing financing to support Oil and Gas companies’ operations, including investments in new technologies. The Bank offers risk management services to help oil and gas companies to manage risks associated with price fluctuations, supply chain disruptions and regulatory changes. This includes offering hedging products and providing advice on risk management strategies.

Advisory and support for sustainability initiatives that the industry undertakes is also key to ensuring that, as companies navigate complex market conditions, they are more empowered to make informed business decisions. It is important to work with Oil and Gas companies to develop and implement sustainability strategies, such as reducing emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy. This is key to how partners such as Stanbic Bank work to support the sector.

Last but not least, Stanbic Bank stands firmly in support of Botswana’s drive in the development of the sector with the view to attain better fuel security and reduce dependence risk on imported fuel. This is crucial towards ensuring a stronger, stabler market, and a core aspect to how we can play a role in helping drive Botswana’s growth.  Continued understanding, learning, and sustainable action are what will help ensure the Oil and Gas sector is supported towards positive, sustainable and impactful growth in a manner that brings social, environmental and economic benefit.

Loago Tshomane is Manager, Client Coverage, Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB), Stanbic Bank Botswana

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Opinions

Brands are important

27th March 2023

So, the conclusion is brands are important. I start by concluding because one hopes this is a foregone conclusion given the furore that erupts over a botched brand. If a fast food chef bungles a food order, there’d be possibly some isolated complaint thrown. However, if the same company’s marketing expert or agency cooks up a tasteless brand there is a country-wide outcry. Why?  Perhaps this is because brands affect us more deeply than we care to understand or admit. The fact that the uproar might be equal parts of schadenfreude, black twitter-esque criticism and, disappointment does not take away from the decibel of concern raised.

A good place to start our understanding of a brand is naturally by defining what a brand is. Marty Neumier, the genius who authored The Brand Gap, offers this instructive definition – “A brand is a person’s gut feel about a product or service”. In other words, a brand is not what the company says it is. It is what the people feel it is. It is the sum total of what it means to them. Brands are perceptions. So, brands are defined by individuals not companies. But brands are owned by companies not individuals. Brands are crafted in privacy but consumed publicly. Brands are communal. Granted, you say. But that doesn’t still explain why everybody and their pet dog feel entitled to jump in feet first into a brand slug-fest armed with a hot opinion. True. But consider the following truism.

 

Brands are living. They act as milestones in our past. They are signposts of our identity. Beacons of our triumphs. Indexes of our consumption. Most importantly, they have invaded our very words and world view. Try going for just 24 hours without mentioning a single brand name. Quite difficult, right? Because they live among us they have become one of us. And we have therefore built ‘brand bonds’ with them. For example, iPhone owners gather here. You love your iPhone. It goes everywhere. You turn to it in moments of joy and when we need a quick mood boost. Notice how that ‘relationship’ started with desire as you longingly gazed upon it in a glossy brochure. That quickly progressed to asking other people what they thought about it. Followed by the zero moment of truth were you committed and voted your approval through a purchase. Does that sound like a romantic relationship timeline. You bet it does. Because it is. When we conduct brand workshops we run the Brand Loyalty ™ exercise wherein we test people’s loyalty to their favourite brand(s). The results are always quite intriguing. Most people are willing to pay a 40% premium over the standard price for ‘their’ brand. They simply won’t easily ‘breakup’ with it. Doing so can cause brand ‘heart ache’. There is strong brand elasticity for loved brands.

 

Now that we know brands are communal and endeared, then companies armed with this knowledge, must exercise caution and practise reverence when approaching the subject of rebranding. It’s fragile. The question marketers ought to ask themselves before gleefully jumping into the hot rebranding cauldron is – Do we go for an Evolution (partial rebrand) or a Revolution(full rebrand)? An evolution is incremental. It introduces small but significant changes or additions to the existing visual brand. Here, think of the subtle changes you’ve seen in financial or FMCG brands over the decades. Evolution allows you to redirect the brand without alienating its horde of faithful followers. As humans we love the familiar and certain. Change scares us. Especially if we’ve not been privy to the important but probably blinkered ‘strategy sessions’ ongoing behind the scenes. Revolutions are often messy. They are often hard reset about-turns aiming for a total new look and ‘feel’.

 

 

Hard rebranding is risky business. History is littered with the agony of brands large and small who felt the heat of public disfavour. In January 2009, PepsiCo rebranded the Tropicana. When the newly designed package hit the shelves, consumers were not having it. The New York Times reports that ‘some of the commenting described the new packaging as ‘ugly’ ‘stupid’. They wanted their old one back that showed a ripe orange with a straw in it. Sales dipped 20%. PepsiCo reverted to the old logo and packaging within a month. In 2006 Mastercard had to backtrack away from it’s new logo after public criticism, as did Leeds United, and the clothing brand Gap. AdAge magazine reports that critics most common sentiment about the Gap logo was that it looked like something a child had created using a clip-art gallery. Botswana is no different. University of Botswana had to retreat into the comfort of the known and accepted heritage strong brand.  Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital was badgered with complaints till it ‘adjusted’ its logo.

 

 

So if the landscape of rebranding is so treacherous then whey take the risk? Companies need to soberly assess they need for a rebrand. According to the fellows at Ignyte Branding a rebrand is ignited by the following admissions :

Our brand name no longer reflects our company’s vision.
We’re embarrassed to hand out our business cards.

Our competitive advantage is vague or poorly articulated.
Our brand has lost focus and become too complex to understand. Our business model or strategy has changed.
Our business has outgrown its current brand.
We’re undergoing or recently underwent a merger or acquisition. Our business has moved or expanded its geographic reach.
We need to disassociate our brand from a negative image.
We’re struggling to raise our prices and increase our profit margins. We want to expand our influence and connect to new audiences. We’re not attracting top talent for the positions we need to fill. All the above are good reasons to rebrand.

The downside to this debacle is that companies genuinely needing to rebrand might be hesitant or delay it altogether. The silver lining I guess is that marketing often mocked for its charlatans, is briefly transformed from being the Archilles heel into Thanos’ glove in an instant.

So what does a company need to do to safely navigate the rebranding terrain? Companies need to interrogate their brand purpose thoroughly. Not what they think they stand for but what they authentically represent when seen through the lens of their team members. In our Brand Workshop we use a number of tools to tease out the compelling brand truth. This section always draws amusing insights. Unfailingly, the top management (CEO & CFO)always has a vastly different picture of their brand to the rest of their ExCo and middle management, as do they to the customer-facing officer. We have only come across one company that had good internal alignment. Needless to say that brand is doing superbly well.

There is need a for brand strategies to guide the brand. One observes that most brands ‘make a plan’ as they go along. Little or no deliberate position on Brand audit, Customer research, Brand positioning and purpose, Architecture, Messaging, Naming, Tagline, Brand Training and may more. A brand strategy distils why your business exists beyond making money – its ‘why’. It defines what makes your brand what it is, what differentiates it from the competition and how you want your customers to perceive it. Lacking a brand strategy disadvantages the company in that it appears soul-less and lacking in personality. Naturally, people do not like to hang around humans with nothing to say. A brand strategy understands the value proposition. People don’t buy nails for the nails sake. They buy nails to hammer into the wall to hang pictures of their loved ones. People don’t buy make up because of its several hues and shades. Make up is self-expression. Understanding this arms a brand with an iron clad clad strategy on the brand battlefield.

But perhaps you’ve done the important research and strategy work. It’s still possible to bungle the final look and feel.  A few years ago one large brand had an extensive strategy done. Hopes were high for a top tier brand reveal. The eventual proposed brand was lack-lustre. I distinctly remember, being tasked as local agency to ‘land’ the brand and we outright refused. We could see this was a disaster of epic proportions begging to happen. The brand consultants were summoned to revise the logo. After a several tweaks and compromises the brand landed. It currently exists as one of the country’s largest brands. Getting the logo and visual look right is important. But how does one know if they are on the right path? Using the simile of a brand being a person – The answer is how do you know your outfit is right? It must serve a function, be the right fit and cut, it must be coordinated and lastly it must say something about you. So it is possible to bath in a luxurious bath gel, apply exotic lotion, be facebeat and still somehow wear a faux pas outfit. Avoid that.

Another suggestion is to do the obvious. Pre-test the logo and its look and feel on a cross section of your existing and prospective audience. There are tools to do this. Their feedback can save you money, time and pain. Additionally one must do another obvious check – use Google Image to verify the visual outcome and plain Google search to verify the name. These are so obvious they are hopefully for gone conclusions. But for the brands that have gone ahead without them, I hope you have not concluded your brand journeys as there is a world of opportunity waiting to be unlocked with the right brand strategy key.

Cliff Mada is Head of ArmourGetOn Brand Consultancy, based in Gaborone and Cape Town.

cliff@armourgeton.com

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