Connect with us
Advertisement

WHERE ARE WE GOING?

When you consciously, with a clear sense of honesty, reflect on how our country is governed you will immediately realise that there are deep rooted political shenanigans and acts of political hooliganism going on in our country sponsored by the ruling party.

If you listen objectively to the political leadership in parliament at freedom squares at press conferences you will immediately see that what I am saying is nothing but the truth. It is clear that the opposition parties have no power to stop these political maneuverings and manipulations that are clearly driving our country steadily towards ruin. It is clear that the opposition parties can only talk against these and offer solutions which can only be implemented by the ruling party.

This can only happen if the ruling party had members of parliament with some modicum of integrity who can stand independently and firmly for what is right, not those who are driven by selfish interests, whose only desire is to please their president. The opposition members of parliament are truly toothless in parliament, they can only shout as much as they want but they neither have the mandate nor the power to implement any of their rightful demands or desires for the nation. It is the ruling party that holds the power, the keys and he sway to make laws and programs that can destroy or save this country.

The ruling party is willfully, with impunity taking this country on a free way to self destruction because it is blinded by selfish and relentless desires for self preservation. It is up to all of us who love our country to take a stand and speak out in support of the few sane voices in parliament.  Maybe the opposition ought to now develop extra parliamentary strategies to engage the public directly at their door steps or where they can be found to preach the message of change.

We must stop this slide towards ruin that even ordinary people in the streets can now see but are helpless in the extreme.
It is disheartening to learn that our president, who once called members of parliament ‘vultures’ when they called for their pay rises. He said this when he delivered his maiden speech in parliament in 2000 after which he abruptly left parliament giving parliamentarians no opportunity to engage him. 

He is the one who now wants to change the law in order to ridiculously increase his own retirement packages and benefits. It is the same president who has since drained our national coffers through his ill conceived selfish political motivated programs like the so called economic stimulus programme (ESP), the so called youth empowerment programmes that are not only wasteful, but will leave many youth permanently financially and morally disabled because many of these youth have not been trained to manage such funds.

Many of these youth will end up using these funds possibly for luxurious expenditure in the form of expensive cars, drugs and reckless lifestyles that will result in an unsustainable future whose end result could be laced with misery and shame.  We must state categorically that politically motivated youth programmes must be condemned and rejected. 

We need to do things the right way not for politically expediency. It is the same president who has wasted our money on the so called poverty eradication programs including backyard gardens and dishing out animals to people who never showed any interest in farming. Common sense will show you that in a drought prone country like Botswana only serious commercial farmers can survive.

How can the President be demanding increased retirement benefits for himself when he has refused to meaningfully improve the remuneration packages and benefits for the public servants who are earning income well below living wages? Instead he has reduced the benefits by allowing inflation to cut deep into these already very low salaries without any compensation for inflation.

He has cut the civil service by introducing ‘vultures’ to take over some services, like cleaning and security, ‘vultures’ who get fat cheques from government and pay their employees minimum wage set by government of less than a thousand pula per month with no other benefit whatsoever and very abusive and appalling work conditions for these poor people These ‘vultures’ do not give their employees any pension or any terminal benefits because the law which law is determined by the ruling party allows it.

Politicians cannot talk about increasing their remuneration when the country is economically bleeding; when the public servants are earning starving wages that drives them towards corruption and possibly wicked lifestyles. Politicians, I mean true politicians in my view are volunteers driven by their deep desire to serve their people and to protect all the national resources for the benefit of the rightful owners, the people; not to defraud the same people and misuse their resources.

It is indeed shocking that parliament instead of debating ways of stimulating the economy, creating jobs opportunities and improving benefits for their people, they are instead busy debating a bill to increase the president retirement benefits. 

As a side throw, they have also shamefully started debating and demanding increasing their security in parliament. They are now continuously talking about a harmless okapi knife found by their new found gadget, a detector that now scans people as they go into parliament. What pettiness from our parliament! Don’t they know that many self respecting Batswana men carry harmless knifes always in their pockets to facilitate some of their tradition pastimes.

Is it not surprising, that this has now taken centre stage in parliament, freedom squares, radios and general public discourse instead of national issues? Those who have found this to be such an important national topic do not even know that some of their own might be or are actually carrying hidden short guns to parliament for self protection. These political ‘vultures’ must open their eyes and research more about personal security.

Our hands, legs and heads could be used as lethal weapons by some crazy people; shall our hands, legs and heads be cut because they might be used carelessly for purposes they where never meant for?  Are our parliamentarians so crazy that they could engage in a way that knifes could be used as weapons of destruction in parliament?  Let us have a dignified parliament. Parliament is becoming a national disgrace, perhaps that’s why they cannot televise it, like other countries. Anyway, let me move on.

Where are we going, when with such a poorly performing economy still reeling from the impacts of the global economic down turn of 2008; the down turn that has seen dramatic fall of the global commodity prices resulting in many of our mines closing, some of them at the brink of closure and some having reduced production and their staff?

Where are we going when in the middle of all these challenges we are busy justifying in our parliament the increase of specially elected members of parliament and increasing the number of ministers? How is this going to address our increasing economic challenges we face? Where are we going, can someone who is objective see sense that I cannot see in the middle of this madness?

Where are we going when we have a population of around forty thousand (40 000) young people joining the job market each year with no prospects of finding any job? What are our politicians especially the ruling party doing about this growing number of unemployed people whose training has been paid for by the tax payer?  Remember during the last elections, the ruling party directly through the president issued a red card in which the president categorically stated that job creation was going to be the number one priority of his administration.

How many jobs have been created since that election and declaration?  I only know of thousands of jobs that have been lost in a number of operations around the country on the mines, the diamond factories, the banks and even the government.  I am not aware of any meaningful jobs created. Those who know please let me know how many jobs have been created in the country since October 2014 when the ruling party was re-election.

Where are we going when we are not able to execute any project on time and within budget?  Where are we going when we employ retired and failed politicians to manage government mega projects? Where are we going when we build a glass factory in Palapye for five hundred million Pula, we stop the project just before it is completed then we strip the factory and sell the equipment for about ten million Pula? Where are we going when we build an eleven billion Pula power plant in Palapye and then pronounce our intention to sell it because it was poorly built, because it is a maintenance nightmare and because it will not meet the rated electricity production? Who in his right mind would buy such a plant for eleven billion Pula or are we going to give it away at ten million Pula like the glass factory? Where are we going when we sabotage a private investor who wants to build a 700 MW solar power station in Jwaneng, a private investor who has done all the his homework including acquisition of land. Where are we going when we tell this investor that, go away, we are not interested we will build our own 100 MW solar power station at the same place?

Where are we going?  Where is the logic in all this madness?

Where are we going when we have a government whose sole purpose is to frustrate the private sector and at the same time tell the world that the private sector should drive the economy, the same government that is spending inordinate amount of money going around the world seeking foreign direct investment? We have to be serious and tell the world that we are not ready for private sector investment; tell the world that we are not ready for genuine foreign direct investment. Tell them we only want to do our own thing for our party and children using public funds.

Where are we going Batswana when we have a government that is using national resources for its own political campaigns against the opposition? Where are we going when the nation is daily bombarded with the ‘red’ political propaganda on our so called national television and radio, pure political propaganda in full party colours, where are we going? Our political leaders are leading this country astray towards our economic ruin. We need to wake up before it is too late. Soon, very soon we will hear that there is no money to sponsor our children to study at our public institution of higher learning, but those children going to private institutions will be sponsored?  Watch the space!

In conclusion, I repeat in part what I said last week. Our politicians need to realise that they must change and start serving the interests of their people. It is disappointing and disheartening that almost all the politicians in the ruling party have sold their soul to their party.  They have regrettably become spineless puppets on the string only to serve the interests of their party.

We need to raise the voice of consciousness and urge these politicians to pursue only their real political mandate regardless of their political affiliation. They must not accept programs and laws that will drain our national coffers without commensurate benefit to the country. We need politicians who will stand for principle, politicians who will champion the interests of their people.

Continue Reading

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.

 

Continue Reading

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

Continue Reading

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

Continue Reading