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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/gtaziba@yahoo.co.uk) 

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021

MELANIE WALKER

The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

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