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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

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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Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022
piracy

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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Opinions

Our Strength is our Unity

18th March 2022
Craig-Cloud

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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