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Friday, 19 April 2024

DO YOU KNOW JESUS?

Opinions

"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death" (Philippians 3:10). â€¨â€¨There are few words in his writings which reveal how committed to the Lord Jesus this man Paul was.

The whole context is one consummate outpouring of his heart to the One whom he said had "apprehended" him, and he focuses all in a brief half sentence: "That I may know him." Living in a country where about 76% of the population professes to be Christian, I can't help but wonder if the majority of them really know Jesus, the heart of Christianity. Yes, Botswana is a secular state and not a Christian state.

That the majority of the population leans towards Christianity doesn't by default make the country Christian. It merely suggests that they hold Christian values and a Christian worldview. But Christianity is more than a mental assent to Biblical worldview. It is a very personal walk. Paul knew this and pursued this revelation with a relentlessness that beggars belief. â€¨â€¨The impressive thing about this expressed ambition is the time at which it is made. Here is a man who has had a revelation and knowledge of Jesus Christ greater than any other man up to that time. That knowledge commenced whence as he said, "it pleased God to reveal his Son in me".

That beginning devastated him, and sent him into the desert to try to grasp its implications. Later he had been "caught up into the third heaven and shown unspeakable things, which (he said) were not lawful to be uttered". Between, and around those two experiences, there is evidence of an ever growing knowledge of Christ. Here, after all that, near the end of his life, he is crying passionately: "That I may know him.

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The very least that we can say about this is that the Christ in view was a very great Christ indeed, who outstrips the greatest capacity and comprehension of man. This stands in such tremendous contrast to the limited Christ of our recognition and apprehension! How very much more there is in Christ than we have ever seen! But we must break down our verse. It is divided by its main words, and can be stated in its four phrases.

(1) The all-governing passion: "That I may know him."

(2) The effectual power: "The power of his resurrection."

(3) The essential basis: "The fellowship of his sufferings."

(4) The progressive principle: "Conformed to his death."



1. THE ALL-GOVERNING PASSION

"That I may know him."

Here a little study in words is both helpful and necessary. In the original language of the New Testament there are two words for "knowing" or "knowledge" or "to know." They run in numerous occasions and connections right through the New Testament.

One of these words has the meaning of knowledge by information; being told, reading, by report. It is more the knowledge which comes by observation, study, searching, or talk. It is rather knowledge about things, persons, etc. The other word carries the meaning of personal experience, intimate acquaintance; and inward knowledge.

Sometimes there is a prefix which gives the meaning of "full knowledge" (epi). The second of these words and meanings is that which Paul is using and employing here: "That I may have or gain more of the knowledge of Him which is personal experience by personal acquaintance, by living, firsthand relationship with Him."

This removes everything from the realm of mere theory, the intellect, and being told. It is the result and effect of an act of the Holy Spirit within. That is why Paul links with this knowledge "the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings." It is powerful knowledge, born of deep experience. And this is the only true knowledge of Christ! It is planted or wrought deep in the inner life. 



2. THE EFFECTUAL POWER

"The power of his resurrection."

While there is a future aspect of the whole statement, that is, the consummation in glory, we must understand that in each of these phrases Paul is thinking of this life. Even in the next verse, where he speaks of attaining to the "outresurrection from among the dead", he is thinking primarily of present spiritual and moral out-raising. He had known something of this power already. His conversion was such. Again and again, in what he called "deaths oft" he had known it. Perhaps greatest of all were his experiences in Asia and Lystra (II Corinthians 1:9; Acts 14:19-20).



Resurrection power and life are the knowledge of Christ. This is how we know Him, and this is available for every believer. It is for endurance, for overcoming, for fulfilment of ministry, for maintaining the Lord's testimony in the world; for every need which demands it in relation to the interests and glory of Christ. It puts life on a supernatural basis. It is the power of His resurrection, the greatest miracle in history.

3. THE ESSENTIAL BASIS

"The fellowship of his sufferings."

In this connection there are some things that we must at once set aside.

There were sufferings of Christ which we do not share, and are not called upon to share, although sometimes there seems to be a very fine and thin line between them.

We do not share the atoning sufferings of Christ. There is a whole realm of suffering which was His alone. The work of man's redemption was His alone, for us. When He who was without sin was made sin for us He was alone, even God-forsaken in that eternal moment. Upon that fact the whole truth of His unique Person hangs, and the whole system of perfect sacrifice rests; the spotless Lamb.



But when all that is accepted and established, there are sufferings of Christ in which we have fellowship with Him. We also, for His sake, may be despised and rejected of men. We can be discredited, ostracised, persecuted, mocked, tortured, and even "killed", both in an act and "all the day long". Paul speaks of a residue of Christ's sufferings which he was helping to fill up for "His body's sake which is the church". This is another, and different, area and system of suffering.

Paul looked upon this as an honour and something in which to rejoice, because it was for the One whom he so deeply loved. But he also saw that this suffering with and for Christ provided the basis for knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection This Apostle would agree that only those who know this fellowship truly know the Lord. We know that! It is perfectly evident that real usefulness in a spiritual way comes out of the winepress, and "they that have suffered most have most to give" There is nothing artificial about the fruit of Christ.



4. THE PROGRESSIVE PRINCIPLE

"Becoming conformed unto his death."

It is important in understanding the Apostle to realise that he was not thinking of conformity to Christ's death as the end of all else. His real meaning was that he should increase in the knowledge of Christ, know the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings by becoming conformed to His death. His death – Christ's – was behind, something at the beginning, and the spiritual history of the believer is a working back to what that death meant. It meant the end of the "old man", crucifixion to the world mind and will; the closing of the door to a whole system which was not Christ-centered and Christ-governed.



All this had been stated and presented in Paul's earlier letters; but it was a meaning which had to be progressively made real and true in spiritual experience. The meaning of Christ's death – Paul taught – was to be the inner history of the believer, and this would work out – progressively – in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. So that, by being conformed to His death, he would come to the fuller knowledge of Him and of that Divine power. It is ever so. The all-governing passion opens the way for the effectual, and effectuating power, by the essential basis, through the progressive principle of conformity to His death. Do you know Him?

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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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