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

“I can do what you can’t do and you can do what I can’t do; together we can do great things.” -Mother Teresa

Dear reader, I gladly welcome the first part of the fourth installment of this series Co-operative 101. Unfortunately this is also the last installment of this series. This series aimed to achieve the following fundamental objectives: i) to celebrate and acknowledge the successes and ideals of the Co-operative movement locally, regionally and internationally, ii) to increase awareness and basic Co-operative knowledge and understanding especially among the Youth and youthful populace and, iii) to stimulate discussion and interest around the Co-operative ideology and philosophy.  Based on feedback from readers, I’m glad to say this series has achieved its objectives. Co-operatives 101 (i) simultaneously honored the ‘International Co-operative Day’ and/or the ‘International Day of Co-operatives’.

It also gave a detailed discussion and definition of the Co-operative business model as well as its social and economic relevance. It highlighted that in their nature Co-operatives are people centered: they create employment; they alleviate poverty and unite people; they reduce inequalities and promote social justice; and they are a bridge to peace and stability. Co-operatives 101 (ii) focused on the NGCs (New Generation Co-operatives) phenomenon and the Youth Bulge phenomenon. It fundamentally highlighted the transformations and distinction between traditional Co-operative models and modern-day Co-operatives models. It also highlighted the much needed reality that Co-operatives have evolved over time and remain pivotally relevant in today’s economy. It also encouraged our nation to work towards combining the current Youth bulge phenomenon and NGCs phenomenon for a formidable economic development winning formula.

It also gave practical cases-studies of places where the NGCs and Youth Bulge combination has and continues to register amazing economic development progress. Co-operatives 101 (iii) focused on the Co-operative movement and its amazing potential in resolving our country’s hard-hitting, widespread and mounting economic development hardship such as; un- and underemployment, poverty, socio-economic exclusion and rapid urbanization. It gave a very strong argument positioning the Co-operative businesses as the most viable model in advancing our country’s search for jobs and prosperity.

This installment Co-operatives 101 (iv) is a two part offering. It is an olive branch to all, current and potential, Co-operative movement stakeholders. It addresses these stakeholders as standalone sectors and in some cases collectively. As highlighted in previous installments of this series, Co-operatives are magnificent enterprises. They have amazing multiple and cross cutting socioeconomic benefits. Co-operatives are a significant part of what the economic doctors’ order for our country’s somewhat ailing economy.

They are the bright light at the end of the long dark tunnel. However like all other high impact and cross cutting priority areas, the fruits of Co-operative enterprises can only be witnessed and widespread through a deliberate strategic mainstreaming. In all honestly, MITI (Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry) through DCD (Department of Co-operative Development) has and continues to do a great job in terms of advancing, redefining and repositioning the Co-operative business model in this country. But, more still needs to be done.

Part of the things that still need to be prioritized and executed swiftly is the stakeholder mapping and engagement strategy. Best practices case-studies teach us that countries with flourishing Co-operative industries have successfully and swiftly embarked in this fundamental process. Fortunately Botswana’s current Co-operative transformation strategy has rightfully identified some of the key Co-operative movement stakeholders.

In this installment the author attempts to reach out these stakeholders with hope and intention of encouraging and possibly catalyze the Co-operative mainstreaming process. However, some of the potential stakeholders identified below and in the subsequent offering are not identified in the Co-operative transformation strategy; they were identified via an independent stakeholder mapping exercise conducted separately by this author. In no particular order the stakeholders are as follows:  

1. Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture (MYSC) –Youth Desk

Firstly we should appreciate and acknowledge that MYSC has long opened its doors and encouraged establishment of Youth Co-operatives. Through its most lucrative Youth empowerment initiative –YDF (Youth Development Fund) MYSC recognizes and funds Youth Co-operatives. Despite the fact that figures of funded Youth Co-operatives is not easily accessible. This author strongly suspects the number is still a bit minimal.

In my hypothesis and observation the limiting factor in this regard is lack of proper technical training on Co-operatives among the Youth populace. It is therefore fundamental and economic for MYSC and MITI to consider swiftly moving into a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) or strategic partnership that will facilitate skills development and technical guidance on Co-operative establishment, management and collaboration, whilst ensuring increased and sustainable Youth access to enterprise seed funding through the YDF program.

This will ultimately ensure actualization of the aims and objectives of the National Youth Policy and the Co-operative Transformation Strategy simultaneously.

2. Poverty Eradication Programme

Botswana, like other developing countries, is faced with a poverty reduction and/or eradication challenges. In purist of this development agenda Botswana has developed and adopted an aggressive initiative termed ‘Poverty Eradication Programme’. Like every other initiative the Poverty Eradication Programme has and continues to be subjected to subterranean public and political scrutiny, some negative and some positive.  Nonetheless over coming poverty is a significant and noble endeavor, every upright and fair-minded compatriot would agree with me.

I have canvassed several parts of our country, in the process I have come across several Poverty Eradication projects, some seemingly thriving, some struggling and some abandoned. Some of the projects that are struggling and/or abounded seem to be lacking satisfactory community buy-in and support.

Remedying this reality therefore needs more community inclusive approaches towards poverty eradication projects. It calls for a more socially and economically relevant business approach within the host communities. It calls for incorporation of the Co-operative model in the Poverty Eradication Programming. It calls for a swift and strategic MoU or strategic partnership in this regard.

3. Gender Affairs Department (GeAD) – Women Economic Empowerment Programme

News of the Women Economic Empowerment programme coordinated via the GeAD  (Gender Affairs Department) has reached all of us. Its noble intentions are highly welcome and long overdue.

The fact that this programme encourages applicants to come in groups/collectives makes it an exceptional and progressive initiative. Its intended outputs are guided by National Policy on Gender and Development and in line with our national Co-operative Transformation Strategy. It is therefore vital for the Department of Gender Affairs and Department of Co-operative to swiftly and strategically forge alliance to jointly advance the aspiration of their noble guiding instruments. The alliance is guaranteed to produce fruitful results for the departments and our nation at large.  
 

4 Legislators and Policy Makers

Dear Legislators and policy makers, you have a huge and pivotal role to play in shaping our country’s policy frameworks towards the Promised Land. I understand most of our country’s economic development hardships are centered on job creation, redressing income inequalities and reducing poverty. Lately these economic development indicators seem to be relentless and in some cases escalating. In my view, this is a sign that there is need for alternative policy interventions. It is a clear signal that there is urgent need for more inclusive economic development approaches and programing. The Co-operative movement enthusiasts hope that as you continue to align our policy positions in line with our current and foreseeable economic development hardships please remember and consider the Co-operatives model as one the very few viable avenues in this regard.

5 Human Resource Development Council (HRDC)

Dear HRDC (Human Resource Development Council), the whole country has been following your recent restructuring and merging transition. Honestly, it was one of the most complex restructuring and margining process in our life time by far. Well, the only thing that brought hope and assurance in the mist of it all was the constant reminder that the process was meant to make skills development and knowledge acquisition much better and more focused. Now that the dust seems to have settled and the road ahead looks a bit clear, Co-operative movement enthusiasts would like to make a humble request to office especially the division devoted to curriculum development and appraisal. We would like you to consider incorporation and mainstreaming of Co-operative education in basic education curriculum.

This submission is based on best practice benchmarks and the need for versatile and market ready learners. Co-operative movement enthusiasts sturdily believe with sound Co-operative education graduates of our education system will be well empowered to establish thriving and competitive Co-operatives capable of creating employment and diversifying our mineral based economy.

Allow me to rest my pen at this point; An Olive Branch to Stakeholder (ii) will follow next week. It will specifically speak to the following key stakeholders: Bot50; The Fourth Estate (media); Business Development Centers, Research Institutes and Think Tanks; Village Level institutions; Framers Associations; Funding Institutions and; Motswana ko lwapeng.   
 

*Taziba is a Youth Advocate, Columnist & Researcher with keen interest in Youth Policy, Civic Engagement, Social Inclusion and Capacity Development (7189 0354/gtaziba@yahoo.co.uk) 

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Opinions

Can we cure ourselves from the cancer of corruption?

28th October 2020
DCEC DIRECTOR: Tymon Katholo

Bokani Lisa Motsu

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” Carl Sagan

Corruption is a heavy price to pay. The clean ones pay and suffer at the mercy of people who cannot have enough. They always want to eat and eat so selfishly like a bunch of ugly masked shrews. I hope God forgives me for ridiculing his creatures, but that mammal is so greedy. But corruption is not the new kid on the block, because it has always been everywhere.

This of course begs the question, why that is so? The common answer was and still is – abuse and misuse of power by those in power and weak institutions, disempowered to control the leaders. In 1996, the then President of The World Bank, James D. Wolfensohn named the ‘C-Word’ for the first time during an annual meeting of the Bretton Woods Institutions. A global fight against corruption started. Transparency International began its work. Internal and external audits mushroomed; commissions of inquiry followed and ever convoluted public tender procedures have become a bureaucratic nightmare to the private sector, trying to fight red tape.

The result is sobering corruption today is worse than it was 25 years ago. There is no denying that strong institutions help, but how does it come that in the annual Transparency International Ranking the same group of countries tend to be on the top while another group of countries, many African among them, tend to be on the bottom? Before one jumps to simple and seductive conclusions let us step back a moment.

Wolfensohn called corruption a cancer that destroys economies like a cancer destroys a body. A cancer is, simplified, good cells in a body gone bad, taking control of more and more good cells until the entire body is contaminated and eventually dies. So, let us look at the good cells of society first: they are family ties, clan and tribe affiliation, group cohesion, loyalty, empathy, reciprocity.

Most ordinary people like the reader of these lines or myself would claim to share such values. Once we ordinary people must make decisions, these good cells kick in: why should I hire a Mrs. Unknown, if I can hire my niece whose strengths and weaknesses I know? If I hire the niece, she will owe me and support my objectives.

Why should I purchase office furniture from that unknown company if I know that my friend’s business has good quality stuff? If I buy from him, he will make an extra effort to deliver his best and provide quality after sales service? So, why go through a convoluted tender process with uncertain outcome? In the unlikely case my friend does not perform as expected, I have many informal means to make him deliver, rather than going through a lengthy legal proceeding?

This sounds like common sense and natural and our private lives do work mostly that way and mostly quite well.

The problem is scale. Scale of power, scale of potential gains, scale of temptations, scale of risk. And who among us could throw the first stone were we in positions of power and claim not to succumb to the temptations of scale? Like in a body, cancer cells start growing out of proportion.

So, before we call out for new leaders – experience shows they are rarely better than the old ones – we need to look at ourselves first. But how easy is that? If I were the niece who gets the job through nepotism, why should I be overly critical? If I got a big furniture contract from a friend, why should I spill the beans? What right do I have to assume that, if I were a president or a minister or a corporate chief procurement officer I would not be tempted?

This is where we need to learn. What is useful, quick, efficient, and effective within a family or within a clan or a small community can become counterproductive and costly and destructive at larger corporate or national scale. Our empathy with small scale reciprocity easily permeates into complacency and complicity with large scale corruption and into an acquiescence with weak institutions to control it.

Our institutions can only be as strong as we wish them to be.

I was probably around ten years old and have always been that keen enthusiastic child that also liked to sing the favourite line of, ‘the world will become a better place.’  I would literally stand in front of a mirror and use my mom’s torch as a mic and sing along Michael Jackson’s hit song, ‘We are the world.’

Despite my horrible voice, I still believed in the message.  Few years later, my annoyance towards the world’s corrupt system wonders whether I was just too naïve. Few years later and I am still in doubt so as to whether I should go on blabbing that same old boring line. ‘The world is going to be a better place.’ The question is, when?

The answer is – as always: now.

This is pessimistic if not fatalistic – I challenge Sagan’s outlook with a paraphrased adage of unknown origin: Some people can be bamboozled all of the time, all people can be bamboozled some of the time, but never will all people be bamboozled all of the time.

We, the people are the only ones who can heal society from the cancer of corruption. We need to understand the temptation of scale and address it. We need to stop seeing ourselves just a victim of a disease that sleeps in all of us. We need to give power to the institutions that we have put in place to control corruption: parliaments, separation of power, the press, the ballot box. And sometimes we need to say as a niece – no, I do not want that job as a favour, I want it because I have proven to be better than other contenders.

It is going to be a struggle, because it will mean sacrifices, but sacrifices that we have chosen, not those imposed on us.

Let us start today.

*Bokani Lisa Motsu is a student at University of Botswana

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Opinions

Accounting Officers are out of touch with reality

19th October 2020

Parliament, the second arm of State through its parliamentary committees are one of Botswana’s most powerful mechanisms to ensure that government is held accountable at all times. The Accounting Officers are mostly Permanent Secretaries across government Ministries and Chief Executive Officers, Director Generals, Managing Directors of parastatals, state owned enterprises and Civil Society.

So parliament plays its oversight authority via the legislators sitting on a parliamentary committee and Accounting Officers sitting in the hot chair.  When left with no proper checks and balances, the Executive is prone to abuse the arrangement and so systematic oversight of the executive is usually carried out by parliamentary committees.  They track the work of various government departments and ministries, and conduct scrutiny into important aspects of their policy, direction and administration.

It is not rocket science that effective oversight requires that committees be totally independent and able to set their own agendas and have the power to summon ministers and top civil servants to appear and answer questions. Naturally, Accounting Officers are the highest ranking officials in the government hierarchy apart from cabinet Ministers and as such wield much power and influence in the performance of government.  To illustrate further, government performance is largely owed to the strategic and policy direction of top technocrats in various Ministries.

It is disheartening to point out that the recent parliament committees — as has been the case all over the years — has laid bare the incompetency, inadequacy and ineptitude of people bestowed with great responsibilities in public offices. To say that they are ineffective and inefficient sounds as an understatement. Some appear useless and hopeless when it comes to running the government despite the huge responsibility they possess.

If we were uncertain about the degree at which the Accounting Officers are incompetent, the ongoing parliament committees provide a glaring answer.  It is not an exaggeration to say that ordinary people on the streets have been held ransom by these technocrats who enjoy their air conditioned offices and relish being chauffeured around in luxurious BX SUV’s while the rest of the citizenry continue to suffer. Because of such high life the Accounting Officers seem to have, with time, they have gotten out of touch with the people they are supposed to serve.

An example; when appearing before the recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Office of the President Permanent Secretary, Thuso Ramodimoosi, looked reluctant to admit misuse of public funds. Although it is clear funds were misused, he looked unbothered when committee members grilled him over the P80 million Orapa House building that has since morphed into a white elephant for close to 10 successive years. To him, it seems it did not matter much and PAC members were worried for nothing.

On a separate day, another Accounting officer, Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Naledi Mosalakatane, was not shy to reveal to PAC upon cross-examination that there exist more than 6 000 vacancies in government. Whatever reasons she gave as an excuse, they were not convincing and the committee looked sceptical too. She was faltering and seemed not to have a sense of urgency over the matter no matter how critical it is to the populace.

Botswana’s unemployment rate hoovers around 18 percent in a country where majority of the population is the youth, and the most affected by unemployment. It is still unclear why DPSM could underplay such a critical matter that may threaten the peace and stability of the country.
Accounting Officers clearly appear out of touch with the reality out there – if the PAC examinations are anything to go by.

Ideally the DPSM Director could be dropping the vacancy post digits while sourcing funds and setting timelines for the spaces to be filled as a matter of urgency so that the citizens get employed to feed their families and get out of unemployment and poverty ravaging the country.
The country should thank parliamentary committees such as PAC to expose these abnormalities and the behaviour of our leaders when in public office. How can a full Accounting Officer downplay the magnitude of the landless problem in Botswana and fail to come with direct solutions tailor made to provide Batswana with the land they desperately need?

Land is a life and death matter for some citizens, as we would know.

When Bonolo Khumotaka, the Accounting Officer in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, whom as a top official probably with a lucrative pay too appears to be lacking sense of urgency as she is failing on her key mandate of working around the clock to award the citizens with land especially those who need it most like the marginalised.  If government purports they need P94 billion to service land to address the land crisis what is plan B for government? Are we going to accept it the way it is?

Government should wake up from its slumber and intervene to avoid the 30 years unnecessary waiting period in State land and 13 years in Tribal land.  Accounting Officers are custodians of government policy, they should ensure it is effective and serve its purpose. What we have been doing over the years, has proved that it is not effective, and clearly there is a need for change of direction.

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Opinions

Is it possible to make people part of your business resilience planning after the State of Public Emergency?

12th October 2020

THABO MAJOLA

His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi EK Masisi, the President of the Republic of Botswana found it appropriate to invoke Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, using the powers vested in him to declare a State of Public Emergency starting from the 2nd April 2020 at midnight.

The constitutional provision under Section 17 (2b) only provided that such a declaration could be up to a maximum of 21 days. His Excellency further invoked Section 93 (1) to convene an extra- ordinary meeting of Parliament to have the opportunity to consult members of parliament on measures that have been put in place to address the spread and transmission of the virus. At this meeting Members of Parliament passed a resolution on the legal instruments and regulations governing the period of the state of emergency, and extended its duration by six (6) months.

The passing of the State of Emergency is considered as a very crucial step in fighting the near apocalyptic potential of the Novel COVID-19 virus. One of the interesting initiatives that was developed and extended to the business community was a 3-month wage subsidy that came with a condition that no businesses would retrench for the duration of the State of Public Emergency. This has potentially saved many people’s jobs as most companies would have been extremely quick to reduce expenses by downsizing. Self-preservation as some would call it.

Most organisations would have tried to reduce costs by letting go of people, retreated and tried their best to live long enough to fight another day. In my view there is silver lining that we need to look at and consider. The fact that organisations are not allowed to retrench has forced certain companies to look at the people with a long-term view.

Most leaders have probably had to wonder how they are going to ensure that their people are resilient. Do they have team members who innovate and add value to the organisation during these testing times? Do they even have resilient people or are they just waiting for the inevitable end? Can they really train people and make them resilient? How can your team members be part of your recovery plan? What can they do to avoid losing the capabilities they need to operate meaningfully for the duration of the State of Public Emergency and beyond?

The above questions have forced companies to reimagine the future of work. The truth is that no organisation can operate to its full potential without resilient people. In the normal business cycle, new teams come on board; new business streams open, operations or production sites launch or close; new markets develop, and technology is introduced. All of this provides fresh opportunities – and risks.

The best analogy I have seen of people-focused resilience planning reframes employees as your organisation’s immune system, ready and prepared to anticipate risks and ensure they can tackle challenges, fend off illness and bounce back more quickly.  So, how do you supercharge your organizational immune system to become resilient?

COVID-19 has helped many organisations realize they were not as prepared as they believed themselves to be. Now is the time to take stock and reset for the future. All the strategies and plans prior to COVID-19 arriving in Botswana need to be thrown out of the window and you need to develop a new plan today. There is no room for tweaking or reframing. Botswana has been disrupted and we need to accept and embrace the change. What we initially anticipated as a disease that would take a short term is turning out to be something we are going to have to live with for a much longer time. It is going to be a marathon and therefore businesses need to have a plan to complete this marathon.

Start planning. Planning for change can help reduce employee stress, anxiety, and overall fear, boosting the confidence of staff and stakeholders. Think about conducting and then regularly refreshing a strategic business impact analysis, look at your employee engagement scores, dig into your customer metrics and explore the way people work alongside your behaviours and culture. This research will help to identify what you really want to protect, the risks that you need to plan for and what you need to survive during disruption. Don’t forget to ask your team members for their input. In many cases they are closest to critical business areas and already have ideas to make processes and systems more robust.

Revisit your organisational purpose. Purpose, values and principles are powerful tools. By putting your organisation’s purpose and values front and center, you provide clear decision-making guidelines for yourself and your organisation. There are very tough and interesting decisions to make which have to be made fast; so having guiding principles on which the business believes in will help and assist all decision makers with sanity checking the choices that are in front of them. One noticeable characteristic of companies that adapt well during change is that they have a strong sense of identity. Leaders and employees have a shared sense of purpose and a common performance culture; they know what the company stands for beyond shareholder value and how to get things done right.

Revisit your purpose and values. Understand if they have been internalised and are proving useful. If so, find ways to increase their use. If not, adapt them as necessities, to help inspire and guide people while immunizing yourself against future disruption. Design your employee experience. The most resilient, adaptive and high performing companies are made up of people who know each other, like each other, and support each other.

Adaptability requires us to teach other, speak up and discuss problems, and have a collective sense of belonging. Listening to your team members is a powerful and disruptive thing to do. It has the potential to transform the way you manage your organisation. Enlisting employees to help shape employee experience, motivates better performance, increases employee retention and helps you spot issues and risks sooner. More importantly, it gives employees a voice so you can get active and constructive suggestions to make your business more robust by adopting an inclusive approach.

Leaders need to show they care. If you want to build resilience, you must build on a basis of trust. And this means leaders should listen, care, and respond. It’s time to build the entire business model around trust and empathy. Many of the employees will be working under extreme pressure due to the looming question around what will happen when companies have to retrench. As a leader of a company transparency and open communication are the most critical aspects that need to be illustrated.

Take your team member into confidence because if you do have to go through the dreaded excise of retrenchment you have to remember that those people the company retains will judge you based on the process you follow. If you illustrate that the business or organization has no regard for loyalty and commitment, they will never commit to the long-term plans of the organisation which will leave you worse off in the end. Its an absolutely delicate balance but it must all be done in good faith. Hopefully, your organization will avoid this!

This is the best time to revisit your identify and train your people to encourage qualities that build strong, empathetic leadership; self-awareness and control, communication, kindness and psychological safety.  Resilience is the glue that binds functional silos and integrates partners, improves communications, helps you prepare, listen and understand. Most importantly, people-focused resilience helps individuals and teams to think collectively and with empathy – helping you respond and recover faster.

Article written by Thabo Majola, a brand communications expert with a wealth of experience in the field and is Managing Director of Incepta Communications.

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