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BOCRA must push for communications sector policy – BIDPA

The Botswana Communications Regulations Authority (BOCRA) has been urged to advocate for the development of a policy document for the communications sector. The policy will help improve the capacity of the regulator to further develop the sector.

A policy document will set the performance targets of the sector as well as the governance arrangements and implementation setup, and how performance measurement is to be carried out.

The study has revealed that the majority of the broadcasting sector remains unregulated, or at least remains outside of the ambit of BOCRA’s regulatory authority. The unregulated sector thus includes RB 1 and 2, BTv, all the SABC channels (1, 2, and 3), DSTv Botswana and Multi Choice South Africa. However, in the case of the SABC channels, geographical reach is largely restricted to villages and towns close to South Africa.

“The most influential radio media, RB1 and RB2 and BTv are unregulated by BOCRA. Being thus unregulated implies a lack of capacity by BOCRA to exert regulatory discipline on the most influential media, possibly leading to lack of uniformity of standards.”

According to a Customer Satisfaction Survey commissioned by BOCRA and carried out by the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA), the general view is that overall; respondents are satisfied with communications sector services in Botswana.

But the fact that there is no policy statement/document for the communications sector, which, in turn means no performance targets, implementation arrangements and other implementation measures are set for the sector, remains a cause for concern for BIDPA researchers.

“In order to improve customer understanding of the relationship between technical matters and service quality and pricing, BOCRA must increase targeted educational efforts in those particular matters. For example, the relationship of bandwidth, Internet speed and Internet type to their satisfaction with services are less understood by the users of BOCRA regulated service,” BIDPA researchers noted in their conclusions.

According to the Study, the most commonly used mode of communication in Botswana is the cellular phone. At least 93% of respondents had a mobile phone set. The least common mode of communication in the country is the fixed line telephony.

Only 15% of the respondents indicated owning a fixed line telephone either at work or in their homes a number of factors, such as the improvements in technology, particularly the entrance of mobile telephones ought to explain this development.

The Survey report further notes that the growth in use of the mobile phone as the most common mode of communication in Botswana is in consonance with the finding of the Operator and Customer Perception Survey of 2012 (BTA 2012), carried out at the behest of the then regulator of the telecommunications sector, the Botswana

Telecommunications Authority or BTA. It is also reflected in global trends, where the ITU shows mobile telephony as the most common communications mode for the developed countries.

However, BIDPA researchers are of the view that in order to improve the capacity of the regulator to improve its evidence based decision making processes, BOCRA must pay more focus on generating customer service information.

They note that the regulator would be aided by section 8 of the Communications Regulatory Act to require information from operators that may also aid the information obtained from undertakings such as this one. Further, they say the benefit of this intervention will spread beyond just the communications sector as others, including researchers, policy makers, and service providers will also be able to better understand the sector, including its contribution to national development.

The Survey concludes by stating that exempting state broadcasters from regulatory authority is likely to lead to unbalanced development of the sector, and possibly expose some of the users to suboptimal services. In Botswana’s case, the study notes,  it has been consistently shown that state broadcasters are actually the most influential broadcasters, which implies that regulatory authority is not applied at the most influential parts of the industry

OTHER FINDINGS

The BOCRA Customer Satisfaction Survey noted that the influence of age, gender, geography and education on customer satisfaction tends to vary depending on the sector being analysed. For instance, where mobile telephony is concerned, the youth are clearly the most dominant age group in terms of usage of the technology. Similarly they use many other applications offered by, the Internet, and data usage. However, the youth do not seem particularly keen on fixed lines.

On the other hand, the Survey states that it appears that geographical location has little influence on the choice of billing method for the respondents. This could either be that optimal services are being provided by service providers, in other words, that regulation is effective.

As expected the study confirmed that most people are multiple users of communication modes. Whereas the study set out to interview a 1000 people, it has turned out that the study generated over 2600 responses.

“Such a pattern signifies the fact that any one user of communications modes uses more than just one. Another notable matter is that these modes of communication offer different solutions. The cellular phone offers voice calls, short messaging, Internet services, social media and others. Similarly the post office offers more than just posting letters-it offers philately, old age pensions, money orders and others. It can be concluded therefore that the development of any of the subsectors of the communications sector will further add to the satisfaction of customers,” the researchers write in their report.

They note that high rates of knowledge prevail in terms of the correct conduct of using mobile phones.

“Similarly respondents knew of the need to not disturb infrastructure meant for mobile, radio, television and other communications. For instance, the majority of the respondents understood the importance of NOT sending pornographic and other obscene materials. The study has revealed that generally consumers do not pay much attention to standard technical details that have a bearing on quality, pricing and efficiency. Such issues as the speed of the Internet, the type of the Internet directly impact the quality of service, but generally customers tend to pay little attention to either.”

The Survey notes that the capacity of each sector to perform optimally depends, to varying degrees on that of other sectors:  

“For example, the fact that the majority of Internet services are accessed through mobile phone sets means that satisfaction levels in the Internet service provision are, to some extent reliant on the optimality of mobile phone network capacity. Similarly the Kitsong Centres, provided through post offices provide access to Internet, and similarly some radio services are provided online. On the other hand, the post offices, with their wide network of bureaus and agencies improve mobile phone access by selling air time vouchers; whereas part of access to the public broadcaster, BTv is carried by the DSTv signal. There are probably many other interdependencies in the communications sector which can be improved through targeted developmental and regulatory activities.”

IMPLICATIONS

The above finding has one implication for any evaluation; it means that assessments of customer satisfaction matters are not without complexity. As stated, for instance, that part of the BTv signal is carried through DSTv, it implies that the capacity of DSTv to deliver, instance clear signal could impact on the customer satisfaction of BTv watchers.

Similarly, the satisfaction of Internet users who use mobile phone handsets to access the web may be influenced directly by the capacity of the carriers such as Mascom, Orange and be Mobile to provide a quality service. These are actually the majority of Internet surfers in Botswana.

The BIDPA researchers observe that from an interventionist policy perspective however, it suggests that lags in developments by any of the sector may lead to underperformance by other subsectors.

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No deal was made with Disney World – Tsogwane

16th April 2021
disney-carlifonia-park

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has been touring the entire world since occupying Presidential office in 2018. Few months down the line, he flew to Florida in the United States of America where he landed at the Disney World.

This is the world’s largest entertainment complex opened in 1971, with four theme parks (consisting of Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom).

Upon his return in the country from the fairytale land, Masisi said Botswana struck a partnership with Disney World. The partnership primarily focused on turning the country’s capital, Gaborone, into an international tourism and leisure destination.

“We have struck a partnership with Disney World as a company. They focus on making people happy and bringing tourists. I want tourists in this country. Visa restrictions are out. They will be issued on arrival. I have tasked Minister Makgato’s Ministry to categorize taxis so that there can be value in the taxi industry.

I am very committed to making Gaborone an international venue center and this will bring revenue to our country,” Masisi said at the time. Masisi, has now appointed Makgato as Botswana’s High Commissioner – designate to the Commonwealth of Australia.

However, two years later, there is no sign of Gaborone being turned into a tourism hub. In fact, the partnership Masisi struck with Disney World never emerged. It is now becoming more of a pipeline dream, and politicians are keen to know what really transpired.

In a dramatic turn of events, Masisi’s flanking Minister, Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng, slammed Vice President Slumber Tsogwane with questions on this said ghost partnership, demanding answers on Masisi’s long dead promise.

Vice President Tsogwane told Parliament on Thursday that Masisi was looking for investors to come and do business in Botswana, either in partnership with government or the private sector.

“The President and his delegation engaged in meetings with the management of Disney World to identify opportunities for the company to collaborate with in Botswana. There were a number of opportunities Mr. Speaker for collaboration that were identified to be followed up with by bilateral negotiations with various institutions.

The key area that was identified for collaboration was the implementation of an enhanced customer care training and development akin to that of Disney World.

The Botswana Public Service College was assigned to collaborate with Disney World, to roll out a training programme which will achieve excellent customer service for the public sector in Botswana, Tsogwane said via virtual Parliament.

He further said representatives of Disney World visited Botswana on a fact finding mission in May 2019.

“While in Botswana, the team toured selected sites such as Gaborone bus rank, Tlokweng Boarder post, and Department of Roads, Training and Safety offices amongst others. Following this, Disney World produced a scoping report which detailed training and engagement timelines for consideration by government,” said Tsogwane.

In fulfilment of their procurement requirement, Tsogwane said Disney Institute was requested to submit a proposal based on their scoping report indicating associated cost implications. He said, Disney declined to submit citing that it does not deal directly with government.

“After being advised by their Disney World Board, they therefore advised Botswana government to deal with another company in the United States of America, which according to them does the Disney World way. This never proceeded because our interest was on Disney World and not any other company that point in time.”

As a result, Tsogwane told Parliament that no deal or contract was signed with Disney World. “The issue of easing of restrictions which is part of the question, between any two countries is a matter that is negotiated through diplomatic channels and whenever agreements are reached, proper communication is made. With regard to Visa restrictions between Botswana and the US, Tsogwane says they will continue discussions on how to ease restrictions,” he said on Thursday.

Morwaeng wanted Tsogwane to update Parliament on: Government’s deal with Disney World, the terms of the deal propounded by the President in March 2019; Whether the deal was signed, when it was signed and clear specifics of the deal and its benefits to Botswana tourism; when visa restrictions between the two countries (Botswana and the United States of America) will be eased and visas issued on arrival as per the Disney World deal pronouncement; and If the deal struck with Disney World was not just mere electioneering talk that will never see the light of the day.

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Gov’t has no budget for Magosi’s SADC chase

12th April 2021
Elias Magosi

Despite the government of Botswana’s ambition to have one of its own to lead Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) since its establishment in 1980, the Presidency says there is no budget specifically dedicated to the campaign.

The Government has released the name of Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Mpedi Magosi, as the candidate for the SADC Executive Secretary position. Magosi is expected to face off with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) candidate, Faustin Mukela. The position will become vacant in August this year.

However, despite the optimism the Botswana Government has not yet set aside a budget to assist Magosi to win against the seemingly DRC giant. “We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s ability to effectively fund any new project. This campaign is not an exception. As such, we do not have any budget for the campaign. However, we have so far managed to take advantage of His Excellency the President’s working visits to the neighbouring countries to also carry out the campaigns,” Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, explained.

Botswana has housed SADC since the establishment of the then SADCC in 1980, but has never occupied top most leadership positions at the SADC Secretariat.  “We therefore, strongly believe that we should also have an opportunity to contribute to the management of our regional body as it continues to drive the important issues of regional integration industrialization and socio-economic development.

This will also profile Botswana as a strong advocate of regional integration,” he responded to this publication’s questionnaire as to why the Government wants to occupy the plum post. SADC is a Member State driven organization. As such, Leagajang said, needs a well-grounded Executive Secretary with a blend of management and leadership acumen; a transformational leader with political awareness and integrity; private and public sector experience; a deep culture of corporate governance; as well as strategic agility and result-oriented consummate diplomat.

“These are the unique attributes of our candidate,” he said. So far President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited nine out of 16 SADC member states on a working visit and also taking an opportunity to present to them his candidate.

“The countries have appreciated this effort and we remain hopeful. However, it is important to note that this is a democratic and competitive process which must be respected,” he responded when asked about the reception and assurances from various countries to cast a vote for Magosi.

In 2018, when Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged for the Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, the government appointed former President Festus Mogae to be the campaign leader. Does the Government have anyone apart from Masisi to help with the campaign?

“The campaigns for the candidate are strictly led by the Government of Botswana. Since this is a candidate for Botswana, not just the Government, it will be appreciated if all Batswana, including the media, could also shoulder the responsibility to campaign for the candidate in their own spheres of influence,” Leagajang responded.

While there are sceptics on Magosi winning against the DRC man, the Government is confident and believes that with the unique traits that he possess, Magosi stands a chance. He is said to be a strong advocate of justice and fairness as he has played this role in his current role as PSP and in his previous roles as PS and in the private sector. He has helped individuals and companies to find justice and fairness in most of their dealings with Government.

Magosi is also said to be a proponent of corporate governance and which he has relentlessly pursued in most of his career including in Government and other sectors. A strong believer in following laid down procedures and laws. “He carries a variety of skills as an HR expert with experience in different sectors, a strategist and an Organization development specialist.

His experience and exposure spans government, parastatal, private sector and at regional level as well, thus making him a suitable candidate for the regional role. He has worked with governments, businesses, development partners and politicians and is comfortable navigating through all of them,” Leagajang concluded.

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Mzwinila’s P4.3 Billion gamble to keep water flowing

12th April 2021
orth-South-Carrier

The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila looked a politician set to shoot the moon as he laid bare his billions of pula development agenda recently in Parliament.

His Ministry’s combined Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals for the 2021/ 2022 Financial Year is pegged at Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty – Five Million, two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P4, 365, 219, 560). This is a budget 38.3% more than the allocation for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.

Mzwinila preluded his request to parliament with a demonstration that his Ministry has no champagne taste on a beer budget – indicating that his ministry’s expenditure at the end of February 2021P2.111 Billion or 96% of development budget; and P910 million or 90% of the recurrent budget.

Notwithstanding the budget dust, the Minister justified this year’s increase in the Ministry’s total budget. He attributed the escalation to the commencement of major projects under the water sector. These include the implementation of the North South Carrier (NSC) 22.2 covering various sub projects. Mzwinila noted that these are all public value projects which are aimed at improving the lives of Batswana.

Mzwinila’s Ministry has projected that the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty –Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty – Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P963, 947, 560) be permitted for the Recurrent Budget and stand part of the 2021 / 2022 Appropriation Bill ( No. 1 of 2021).

“55% of the Recurrent Budget is geared towards the Revenue Support Grant for 12 Land Boards and their subordinate authorities while the sum of P5 Million is allocated to the Real Estate Advisory Council (REAC). The remaining 44% is proposed for the Ministry Departments.”

The sum of Three Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Two hundred and Seventy –Two Thousand Pula (P3, 401, 272, 000), for the Development Budget was approved and stand part of the same schedule of the appropriation (2021/2022).

When breaking down the Development Budget, Minister Mzwinila noted that Water Supply and Sanitation projects will account for P1.098 Billion to finance the Maun Water and Sanitation project, Molepolole Sanitation projects and the Shakawe Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation.

With all the implementation bottlenecks troubling several projects in the country, Mzwinila had to satisfy the question of whether his Ministry demonstrated a dire need for the budget with reference to its execution of the budget for the financial year 2020/2021 and its delivery of strategic initiatives and projects?

Mzwinila’s pitch found favour with parliament and his ministry will get an aggregate budget of P3.198 Billion for the 2020/ 2021 Financial Year. Within this allocation, P2.188 Billion is for the Development Budget and P1.010 Billion will cover the Recurrent Budget.

The Minister revealed his strategic interventions for land management, water and sanitation services. Highlighting that efforts by Government to provide serviced residential land to citizens on the waiting list are being hampered by limited resources. He shared that his ministry needs P94 Billion to cover such costs which will directly link to water, sewage, roads, electricity, telecommunications and storm water drainage leading to the allocation of 4 587 plots on un-serviced land.

The minister projected that 22 952 un-serviced residential plots are planned to be allocated in the next financial year. However, there is a trend where allocated land remains fallow and undeveloped which raises misgivings that the requests could have been made on speculative plans.

Mzwinila noted that in the spirit of forging stronger International connections, the Ministry will in June 2021 sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Land matters between Namibia and Botswana with the aim of opening doors to the creation of Dry Ports in the country, facilitate international trade through Walvis Bay Sea Port.

Botswana is already challenged by scarcity of naturally occurring water resources due to the aridity of the country creating persistent water shortages. The type of infrastructure required to improve national water security is a true reflection of intensive investment needed in the water sector The Minister stressed.

“An emerging issue such as the COVID -19 pandemic poses serious challenges as the control of the virus requires reliable water supply. In an effort to mitigate the challenge, the Ministry has undertaken extensive bowsing throughout the country which included the provision of additional capacity for supplementary bowsing to areas with pervasive water shortages, plus an additional forty one (41) un-gazetted settlements.

Operational costs due to bowsing were at an average of P6 Million per month before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased to an unsustainable amount of the order of P13 Million per month, since the beginning of the State of Emergency in April 2020,” the minister shared.

Through the support of a World Bank Loan, the Ministry is implementing several initiatives under the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency (BEWSE) project. Through BEWSE the Raw Water Pricing and Abstraction Strategy will assess the pricing of water in a manner that enables the provision of water to support new economic development, the strategy is planned to be completed in June 2021.

The Ministry has commenced the development of a long term National Water Security Strategy to improve resilience to climate change impacts. The strategy development entails prioritization of the proposed future mega water transfers such as the Chobe – Zambezi water transfer, the Atlantic Ocean water transfer to Botswana through Namibia and Lesotho – Botswana water transfer.

Following the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in November 2017 for the Lesotho –Botswana Water Transfer project, a 24 months contract for a combined prefeasibility and feasibility study for the development of a bankable Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer project feasibility study was signed and is to be completed in 2022.

One of the Ministry’s famous major water supply projects such as the North South Carrier (NSC) 2.2 has experienced hiccups; having tenders for contract 1 (Masama to Mmamashia Pipeline) and Contract 2 (Mahalapye to Masama Pipeline) cancelled due to budgetary constraints.

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