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Co-operatives 101 (iv): An Olive Branch to Stakeholders (ii)

“…Drops in separation could only fade away, drops in co-operation made the ocean“ -Mahatma Gandhi

Dear reader, welcome to part ii (two) of part iv (four) of this series, Co-operative 101. This installment is an extension of part i (one) of part iv (four) -‘An Olive Branch to Stakeholders’. Part one started the journey of extending a Co-operative olive branch to current and potential Co-operative movement stakeholders. It spoke to the following stakeholders: Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture (MYSC) –Youth Desk; Poverty Eradication Programme; Gender Affairs Department (GeAD) – Women Economic Empowerment Programme; Legislators and Policy Makers; and the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC).

It addressed these stakeholders distinctly and in some cases collectively. It fundamentally showed the relevance of the stakeholders in Co-operative development, as well as the relevance of the Co-operative movement in the respective stakeholder’s aims, objectives and mandate. Furthermore it called for swift and strategic partnership in advancement of identified common objectives. This installment continues the same spirit and purpose. It extends a Co-operative olive branch to other strategic partners, namely: Bot50; The Fourth Estate (media); Business Development Centers, Research Institutes and Think Tanks; VLIs (Village Level Institutions); Framers Associations; Funding Institutions and; Motswana ko lwapeng.    

1. Bot50;

Dear Bot50, we know it hasn’t been long since your established and you will probably not been in existence post the 50 years celebrations. We also acknowledge your existence this far has not been an easy one, actually it has been one the most difficult and consistently criticized establishments in our life time so far. ESP (Economic Stimulus Programme) and the Vision 2036 council had their fair share of tribulations and criticism but they are far from matching the Bot50 level. Nonetheless, some of us earnestly believe Bot50 is a noble establishment; its establishment was necessary and monumental.

Its mandate is essential especially in this spectacular year -as Botswana celebrate 50 years of independence and relative prosperity.  I assume Co-operative enthusiasts, like every other sector, wish Bot50 well in their mandate and associated obligations. It is equally important to acknowledge that a lot of work has already been done and probably at an advanced stage. However we would like to plead and remind you that Co-operatives have amazing stories to tell and prove regarding our country’s fifty years of independence. Furthermore; Co-operatives have a seemingly promising and inclusive future to offer Botswana and Batswana. A future centered on redressing shortfalls of the past fifty years whilst preserving and escalating our country’s gains this far. Based on this brief background it is evident a strategic partnership between Bot50 and the Co-operative movement is necessary and long overdue.

2. The Fourth Estate (Media);

The title ‘Fourth Estate’ is used herein to show the utmost respect to the media fraternity at large. The title best describes the media’s distinct and critical role as the fourth arm of government. From a Co-operative enthusiast standpoint, I would like express greatest appreciation for the support and coverage the ‘Fourth Estate’ has extended the Co-operative movement so far. Most of us learnt about the Co-operative movement and ideology through the ‘Fourth Estate’. Most outreach programs and recruit of members to the Co-operative movement is largely through the ‘Fourth Estate’.

Similarly, most Co-operative enterprise goods and services reach their target market through the ‘Fourth Estate’. Most of the critical Co-operative movement advocacy and lobbying efforts reach legislators and policy makers through the ‘Fourth Estate’. The existence, growth and prosperity of the Co-operative movement rely heavily on the ‘Fourth Estate’. It is in this regard that the efforts of the ‘Fourth Estate’ in advancing the growth and prosperity of the co-operative movement should be noticed encouraged and continued. Though the Co-operative movement media relation and partnership strategy seems undefined yet, it is necessary for the Co-operative movement to swiftly move towards a clearly defined media relations strategy to enable the ‘Fourth Estate’ to better and easily help the co-operative movement advance its noble purpose.

3. Research Institutes and Think Tanks;

One of the biggest challenges the local Co-operative movement, like many other sectors in country, face is the lack of timely, reliable and accurate local research or data generation. This has resulted in the movement’s advocacy relying heavily on generalized West Africa research findings and recommendations. Though the findings and recommendations are mostly relevant, easily generalized and applicable to our context, it is essential for us (Botswana) to start conducting our on research and drawing our own findings and recommendations.  These will help our advocacy and lobbying to be more relevant, precise and focused.

There is a generally heated debate on the relevance and significance of our ‘Think-Tanks’ and ‘Research Institutes’. There is a school of thought arguing that our ‘Think-Tanks’ and ‘Research Institutes’ have lost focus and becoming a waist of funds. I opt not to go into that debate in this installment. This installment is purely meant to link the Co-operative movement to our ‘Research Institutes’ and ‘Think-Tanks’. There is a lot of advocacy and lobbying the Co-operative movement has to undertake, in this advocacy and lobbying journey the movement will need backing and technical mentorship from these institutes. Furthermore Economic Development and Community Development research fellows in these institutes will also need viable research areas to advance and/or maintain their academic and professional relevance. With that said handshakes between the Co-operative movement, research institutes and think tanks is necessary and long overdue.

4. Village Level Institutions (VLIs);

Unfortunately, one of the erroneously undermined development institutions in our country are VLIs (Village Level Institutions). VLIs herein are deduced from the three main institutional structures in our society; -central, district and local.  VLIs fall under local structures. The most common VLI is the VDC (Village Development Committee) and DYCs (District Youth Councils). These are simply locality-based community institutions that have been established to legitimize/authorize participation by ordinary Batswana in the implementation of the country’s decentralized programming efforts. I would not like to get into the specifics of why VLIs such as VDCs and DYCs are not doing very well and what could be done to enable them to achieve much more. I would only like to encourage the leadership of VLIs to consider Co-operatives as one the most viable and relevant economic development models in their respective jurisdictions. Compared to central and district level structures, local level structures are best placed to advance Co-operative enterprises. Out of the possible local level development options, Co-operatives are one of the best avenues. This is simply based on their distinguished and inherent values such as; self-help, self-responsibility, democracy equality and concern for community.

5. Framers Associations;

History teaches us the Co-operative ideology was heavily centered on sustainable agricultural production. Even today the largest chunk of the combined international Co-operative movement revenue is generated by agriculture related Co-operatives. Furthermore agriculture plays a very critical role in Food and Nutrition Security of every country. In the same light, the whole world is concerned by acute contemporary challenges facing the food production sector at large. Some of these challenges include high and escalating costs of production, unfair competition against import products and frequent disease out breaks. Best practice case studies from neighboring countries shows that farmers there found refuge and solace in the Co-operative business model. These farmers joined hands to: -benefit from economies of scale, -speak and lobby in one voice, -support each other through the tribulations of the risky farming business and; -produce in unity to feed their nation; create jobs and; reduce the import bill. This is the direction every farmer and country wishes to take. This is the direction the co-operative movement wishes to take in unison with the farming community in our country.

6. Funding Institutions;

The journey to get funding institutions to consider funding Co-operatives has been a long and seemingly fruitless one. One of the key pillars of Botswana’s Co-operative Transformation Strategy focuses purely on the element of Co-operative funding/financing. It is in this regard that Co-operatives individually and the Co-operative movement as a block have been trying relentlessly to convince funding institutions to consider funding Co-operative enterprises. However, the good news is CEDA (Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency) has already come to the party and has opened its doors to well managed and viable deserving Co-operative establishments. Hopefully this development will motivate and encourage other funding institutions to open their doors to deserving and convincing Co-operatives. Funding institutions should note that deserving viable Co-operatives, like other sectors, have the interests of their sectors and the country at heart. They intended to stimulate necessary economic activity, generate income, create jobs and diversify our mineral based economy.   

7. Motswana ko lwapeng.   

Motswana ko lwapeg, kindly note that you have a huge role to play in the progress and prosperity of Co-operatives. Co-operatives thrive on membership; membership is a collective of individuals starting with you. It is therefore important for you to consider joining or establishing a Co-operative of your interest and aspirations. Secondly Co-operatives thrive on clients purchasing their products/goods and services. Simply put they rely on you taking a deliberate decision to support their goods and services before considering other competitors. Motswana ko lwapeg kindly remember that by supporting Co-operative enterprises you are; alleviating poverty, uniting people, reducing equalities and promoting social justice.

*Taziba is a Youth Advocate, Columnist & Researcher with keen interest in Youth Policy, Civic Engagement, Social Inclusion and Capacity Development (7189 0354/ 

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Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.  This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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Our Strength is our Unity

18th March 2022

Putin Chose War.  We Remain United with Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador Craig L. Cloud

This is a dangerous moment for Europe and for freedom-loving people around the world.  By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy.  But the people of Ukraine are resilient.

They’ve had a democracy for decades, and their bravery is inspiring the world.  The United States, together with our Allies and partners across the globe, will continue to support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country.  By choosing to pay for a war instead of investing in the needs of Russians, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be a strategic failure for the Kremlin and ravage the future of the Russian people.

When the history of this era is written, it will show that Putin’s choice to launch an unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated attack left the West more unified and Russia exponentially weaker.

United in Our Response

This will not end well for Vladimir Putin.  Together, the United States and our Allies and partners are taking action to hold Russia accountable.  As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank.

President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that will damage Russia’s economy, financial system, and access to cutting-edge technology.  After Putin began his invasion, the ruble hit its weakest point in history, and the Russian stock market plunged.

Along with the United Kingdom and European Union, the United States imposed sanctions on the architects of this war, including Putin himself.

By moving in close coordination with a powerful coalition of Allies and partners representing more than half of the global economy, we have magnified the impact of our actions to impose maximum costs on Putin and his regime.  In response to Putin’s war of choice, we will limit Russia’s ability to do business in U.S. dollars.

We will stunt Russia’s ability to finance and grow its military.  We will impair Russia’s ability to compete in the global economy.  And we are prepared to do more.

In addition to economic penalties, this week President Biden authorized an additional $1 billion over the $350 million of security assistance he recently approved, and a $650 million in 2021, to immediately help Ukraine defend itself, bringing America’s total security assistance to Ukraine over the past year to $2 billion.

We also stand ready to defend our NATO Allies.  President Biden has coordinated with Allied governments to position thousands of additional forces in Germany and Poland as part of our commitment to NATO’s collective defense.

He authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks:  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.  Our Allies have also added their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense.  There should be no doubt about the readiness of the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world:  NATO is more united than ever.

The United States has also coordinated with major oil-producing and consuming countries to underscore our common interest in securing global energy supplies.  We are working with energy companies to surge their capacity to supply energy to the market, particularly as prices increase.

Putin’s Unprovoked and Premeditated War

This was an attack that Vladimir Putin has planned for a long time.  He methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border.  He moved blood supplies into position and built field hospitals, demonstrating his intentions all along.

He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering by engaging in diplomacy and dialogue.

Putin executed his playbook exactly as we had warned he would do.  We saw Russia’s proxies increase their shelling in the Donbas.  We saw the Russian government launch cyber-operations against Ukraine.  We saw staged political theater in Moscow and heard outlandish and baseless claims made about Ukraine in an attempt to justify Russia’s aggression.

Russia continues to justify its military aggression by falsely claiming the need to stop “genocide” in Ukraine – despite there being no evidence that genocide was occurring there.  We saw Russia use these tactics before when they invaded Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.

And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his invasion in violation of international law.  Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine.  Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all riding a renewed wave of disinformation and outright lies.

We have been transparent with the world.  We declassified our intelligence about Russia’s plans so there could be no confusion and no cover up.  Putin is the aggressor.  Putin chose this war.  And now his people will bear the consequences of his decision to invest in war rather than in them.

Transatlantic Unity and Resolve Stronger Than Ever

Putin’s goal of dividing the West has failed.  In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity.  We have united, coordinating intensively to engage as one with Russia and Ukraine, provided assistance to Ukraine, developed a broad response, and reaffirmed our commitment to NATO.

Putin has failed to divide us.  Putin has failed to undermine our shared belief in the fundamental right of sovereign nations to choose their destiny and their allies.  And Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine.

The next few days, weeks, and months will be incredibly difficult for the people of Ukraine.  Putin has unleashed great suffering on them.  But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence, and they have repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.

The world is watching this conflict closely, and if Russian forces commit atrocities, we will explore all international mechanisms that could be used to bring those responsible – whether members of the military or their civilian leadership – to account.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will cost Russia profoundly, both economically and strategically.  The Russian people deserve better from their government than the immense cost to their future that this invasion has precipitated.

Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression.  In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake:  Freedom will prevail.

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