Unlike in other countries with high unemployment rates, workers in Botswana have not engaged in widespread self-employment despite a lack of wage employment opportunities in the country. In a review carried in the Bank of Botswana (BoB) Annual Report for 2015, the central bank has decried high unemployment rate citing the small informal sector among the causes.
Growth of the sector is said to be impeded by among others lack of access to infrastructure and services, insufficient skills, low entrepreneurial drive, and rigid trade and land use regulations.
A generous social and family support system was also named as a culprit as “it could also reduce incentives to engage in informal income earning activity.” The review pointed to evidence from other countries which suggests that the informal sector can be a source of employment opportunities, and emphasized the need to accommodate growth of informal enterprises and recognize them as partners in development.
The banking regulator suggested the provision of an enabling environment by addressing the infrastructure deficit, creating markets, and increasing access to vocational training which includes financial literacy. The bank also proposed the formulation of a comprehensive informal sector policy citing that it would balance the need for regulation with promoting economic activity and expansion of income earning opportunities.
An informal sector survey conducted in 2015 estimates that the informal sector in Botswana employs 191 000 people as of March 2015, which constitutes approximately 31% of total employment. The sector contributes an estimated 5.3% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
Similar sentiments are echoed by David Menyah in a PhD thesis titled The Informal Sector Revisited: Botswana’s Developmental State and Micro Enterprise Development. The study focused on enterprises in Gaborone and found that the sector serves as an important livelihood strategy for the many engaged in it through income and employment generation.
The informal sector in Gaborone is dominated by retail, service and manufacturing respectively. Menyah observed that manufacturing was the most difficult to participate in due to constraints such as lack of suitable premises and lack of prerequisite skills and finance. The enterprises also used low levels of technology. He also observed that while over two thirds of sampled enterprises indicated that they had grown, with manufacturing recording the highest incidence of growth, their employment characteristics indicated low potentiality for growth. Most, he says, are owner operated with no permanent employees. “Less than 5% had plans to employ workers,” he asserts.
Menyah recommends that since most enterprises are owner operated, other forms of ownership like partnerships or cooperatives should be encouraged for purposes of a collective effort to ensure synergies and sharing of ideas. He suggests that government’s procurement processes and requirement should be revisited to make it easy for the informal sector enterprises to access government market. He proposes that permanent structures should be made available for the enterprises to operate from. He suggests upgrading and modernisation of technology used as poor technology and equipment compromises productivity. Finally, he recommends formulation of a comprehensive informal sector development policy.
The relationship between government and the informal sector has been other than cordial. In Gaborone, police often fine vendors and confiscate their wares if they fail to pay.
The Thusanang Bagwebi Association (TBA), an association representing street vendors in the city, has handed petitions to successive mayors over what they termed “harassment by council officials.” Last year, 20 vendors operating in the Francistown bus rank stormed Francistown East constituency offices seeking the intervention of Member of Parliament (MP), Buti Billy. The vendors asked the parliamentarian to rein in council officials whom they said were harassing them and interfering with their small businesses.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.