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Co-operatives 101 (ii): Creating Jobs -the strength of Co-ops.

“As our resources are finite, we must focus on our national priorities; which include accelerated job creation…” HE Seretse Khama Ian Khama

Dear reader, welcome to part three of this series Co-operatives 101. This installment presents an argument for Co-operatives in relation to Job Creation. It presents Co-operatives as one of the pivotal models in achieving Botswana’s number priority -Job creation.

In recent times it has been apparent the search for sufficient and sustainable jobs has become an integral part of the African continent’s development agenda. This is a phase seasoned development economists, Greg Wills and Jeffrey Herbst describe as, “Africa's Third Liberation: The New Search for Prosperity and Jobs”. It is a phase that needs the African continent to introspect profoundly and take the recommendations of renowned African economists and writers into consideration. These writers include; Dambisa Moyo, Linje Manyozo, Mamphela Ramphele and Thabo Mbeki. 

Through their respective offerings, these authors profoundly and correspondently emphasize the need for the African continent to look within itself for sustainable solution to the economic development challenges it currently faces. The authors believe African’s convectional economic model, characterized by exportation of raw material and foreign aid, can only take the African continent this far. They strongly believe it is time for the African continent to adjust and look within to win its inevitable third liberation, the search for jobs and prosperity.

Our country (Botswana) has not been an exception in this regard. Notwithstanding our remarkable economic growth and upper-middle income World Bank ranking, we (Botswana) find ourselves faced with huge economic development challenges like most, if not all, African countries. A renowned economist once argued that despite our impressive World Bank raking we are still suffering from acute low-income country signs and symptoms. His submissions were based on our economic development rankings at large; one of the key indicators was the critical element of unemployment.

As we all know unemployment has a very strong link to poverty, inequality, exclusion and compromised quality of life. Based on the ILO classification unemployment in Botswana is currently around 19.8% (Masisi, 2015), our unemployment statistics have relentlessly remained around 20% since 2007.  Furthermore youth constitute over 70% of our total unemployment, and the girl child is relatively more affected compared to the boy child. Bearing in mind the shortfalls and restrictions of the ILO definition, it must be noted that Botswana’s actual unemployment is possibly way beyond this figure. The ILO definition disregards figures of discouraged job-seekers; it also considers social welfare beneficiaries as employed.

Unemployment trends the world over show that more and more citizens join and fall under the category of ‘Discouraged Job-Seekers’.  ‘Discouraged Job-Seekers’- “are persons who, while willing and able to engage in a job, are not seeking work or have ceased to seek work because they believe there are no suitable available jobs” (OECD, 1995). The trends further reveal that most citizens considered as employed are in most cases underemployed and work unsustainable short-lived jobs. These are key dynamics that should be taken into consideration when job creation interventions and policies are put in place and/or reviewed. In this regard the IMF Global Agenda Council on Employment & Social Protection (2012) calls on policy-makers to develop a new model of growth, employment and social protection informed by the principles of sustainability and decent work.

It is equally important to note and acknowledge that Botswana has never taken the unemployment battle ‘lying down’. She has, and continues, to earnestly invest considerable amounts of funds into the huge battle against youth unemployment in particular and unemployment in general. In fact, Botswana remains unmatched regionally and internationally on the percentage of GDP invested into education and skills development. Botswana is also one of the very few republics that offer grants and interest free loans for youth and women entrepreneurship development as seed funding. Unfortunately the remarkable efforts and unmatched financial investments have not produced the desired results in terms of drastic reduction of unemployment and creation of sustainable and decent jobs.

However this should not be a reason for hopelessness and despair, it should actually be a reason for introspection, collaboration and tact. When addressing the private sector on Job creation early this year, Vice President Mokgweetsi E. Masisi, acknowledged that “unemployment has proven to be a challenge that reminds us that our past achievements give us no room for complacency; a challenge that confirms the need for a more sustainable development model, where all actors in the economy facilitate growth.

Together we can transform the state of affairs”. I am glad the Job Creation debate has taken center stage in all corners of republic, Government of Botswana of Botswana has made job creation priority number 1, academics at UB (University of Botswana) and elsewhere are genuinely doing their part, our think tanks such as BIDPA (Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis) are doing their part, our respective strategic sectoral HUBS are at it as we speak,  families and communities are also playing a critical supportive role, civil society and the private sector are also working around the clock trying to tackling this is monster called unemployment.

The sole purpose of this article is to introduce and promote a viable and sustainable job creation model often overlooked, and in some cases undermined, in Job creation debates. The Co-operative business model is one of the very few viable options we need to swiftly embrace in our battle against this stubborn monster called unemployment. Cooperatives are associations of people who voluntarily come together for their mutual social, economic and/or cultural benefit (Herry etal, 1996). Co-operatives are simply a business model that fosters job creation, economic growth and equality at the same time (ICA, 2015). 

The recognition of Co-operatives as crucial means for employment creation, poverty alleviation and economic growth has been widely acknowledged, it is for this reason that co-operatives have been promoted in virtually all African countries since the colonial period (Sifa, 2013). There are currently five (5) main specific co-operative sectors in line with prevailing needs of developing countries, i) Industrial, Artisanal and Worker based Co-operatives, ii) Specialized Sector Co-operatives, iii) Agricultural Co-operatives, iv) Housing Co-operatives and, iv) Savings and Credit Co-operatives. 

The Co-operative business model is not a mere academic philosophy; it is a tried and tested model. It has produced desirable social and economic benefits in many countries across the globe, these include; India, Senegal, Spain, Tanzania, Kenya and Lesotho. For instance; In Lesotho out of school and school going youth form and benefit from co-operatives that deal with tourism, savings and credit, market research and product marketing among others. In Kenya cooperatives contribute almost 50% of the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product), ILO (2009) also established that 63% of the Kenyan population derives their livelihoods from Co-operatives. In Senegal, a Co-operative project has improved food security for 1 million individuals across 60 rural communities, improving household income by 250%. In Tanzania a Co-operative University (Moshi University College of co-operative and Business Studies) has been established.

The university serves to increase the cop-operative philosophy and business acumen of the nation, thus insuring a flourishing co-operative movement in the country.  
At international level the co-operatives agenda is advanced by ICA (International Co-operative Alliance) guided by the Co-operative Decade blueprint-2011-2020. At regional level the Co-operative agenda is advanced by ICA-Africa (International Co-operative Alliance Africa. In our country the Co-operative agenda is advanced by MITI (Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry), specifically DCD (Department of Co-operative Development) through the Co-operative Transformation Development Strategy. As you can see the Co-operative model is not a farfetched concept it is a model that is recognized and encouraged in our country, government resources continue to be channeled towards their fruitful and prosperous existence.

The good news is BOCA (Botswana Co-operative Association), MITI and DCD are currently in the process of implementing Botswana’s Co-operative Transformation Strategy. The Strategy strives to resuscitate, revamp and re-direct the development of Co-operatives into globally competitive businesses (DCD, 2012). Its sole intention is to turn Co-operatives into vibrant, competitive and profitable business Enterprises, it is centered on 8 strategic pillars, 1) Brand co-operatives as autonomous, vibrant, viable, competitive and profitable business enterprises, 2) Develop co-operative growth pillars and linkages, 3) Improve the co-operative environment for doing business, 4) Improve co-operatives access to financing and insurance, 5) Increase youth participation in co-operative businesses, 6) Promote mindset change from predominantly social-oriented to business-oriented co-operative enterprises, 7) Develop co-operatives with good co-operative governance, 8) Increase member participation and commitment to the co-operative movement.

This strategy is directly in line with all economic development blueprints. It is in line with vision 2016, it is in line with Job Creation, it is in line with EDD (Economic Diversification Drive), it is in line Poverty Eradication, it is in line with Citizen Economic Empowerment, it is line with the (NYP) National Youth Policy and its action plan, it is in line with the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), it is in line with NDP-10 (National Development Plan-10), it is in line with each and every economic development and economic growth framework we have. I’m sure it is also in line with our next national vision and the subsequent NDP. As the debate and pursuit for job creation, income generation and economic diversification intensifies, it is important for us to clearly define the type of jobs, income generation and economic diversification we want. Furthermore it is important for us to understand the larger economic development challenges facing our mineral based economy.

Therefore, in our noble journey towards sufficient decent jobs and prosperity, it is important for us to slant towards models that are able to create significant numbers of decent jobs and generate economic whilst fostering equality, community ownership/participation and fair wealth distribution. The Co-operative model is one of the very few viable and strategic models we must strategically slant towards. Co-operatives are one of the very few viable weapons we can use to bring down this huge and stubborn monster called unemployment.
Co-operatives 101 (iv) will be the final installment of this series. It will be an olive branch to all current and potential co-operative movement stakeholders. It looks at these stakeholders as sectors and in some cases collectively.  It will also reflect on this author’s valuable experiences and interactions based on direct feedback from readers and beneficiaries of this installment.

*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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