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Thursday, 18 April 2024

Our decisions should reflect our ethical values

Opinions

We always make decisions as individuals or as a nation. The question is, do we ever stop to think whether our decisions conform to our ethical or moral values. It is imperative in my view that whatever we do or decide to do must be based on the fact that it is the right thing to do. We should not do things just because we have the right to do or have the power to do it so.

Before we discuss whether it is important to make sure that whatever we decide on should always reflect our ethical values. Let us start by examining what we understand by ethics.

A good friend of mine and a former colleague at Kgolagano College Dr. Vincent Dippenaar once said “ethicists are endangered species”. He was giving a public lecture on current moral issues facing Botswana. According to Dippenaar, ethics is about the truth and many people prefer lies than the truth. What this mean is that sometimes people know the right thing to do and in most cases do the wrong thing.

Ethics from Christian perspective is the study of how human ought to live as informed by the Bible and Christian conviction. However, ethics is a broader concept. The English word ethic comes from the Greek word ethica, which comes from ethos meaning what relates to character.

The ancient Greek ethicist Aristotle suggested that ethica is derived directly from ethos which means custom or habit. In more general sense, ethics is often viewed as one major branch of broader discipline of philosophy. In that case ethics is regularly defined as moral philosophy. The origin of the term moral is the Latin mos (adjective moalis) which is like Greek contemporary meaning custom or usage

There is a thin line between ethics and morality or morals. Ethics is the study of the right and the good and morality is the practice or living out what one believes to be right and good. Morality involves the actual living out of one’s beliefs that such things as lying and murder are wrong, whereas ethics entails the study of why it is that these practices are immoral.

Wayne Meeks describes ethics as a reflective second-order activity and morality is referred as self-conscience. Although ethics and morality may not be completely synonymous, to set up too strict a distinction between the two, is probably arbitrary. The presences of the terms in the English language reflect the ethical Greek and Latin heritage of the English language.

It was the great Greek thinkers like Socrates in the fifth century B.C who perused the question of the good. They sought to determine what constitutes a good person. Since Socrates’ day generation of philosophers have reflected of morality, moral problems and moral arguments. Jack  Glickman for example, describes moral philosophy as consideration of various kinds of questions that arrive in thinking about how one ought to live one’s life.

Glickman then explains, we want to know, for example, which actions are right and which are wrong. Which activities and goals are worthwhile and which are not; and which action and institutions are just and which are unjust. At the same time we especially want to find out how one can justify judgments about what is right, good, just or worthwhile and precisely what such judgment mean. We also want to know how all these various questions are interrelated.

Seen as the moral philosophy as the pursuit of question such as these, ethics is not an exclusively Christian endeavor. One does not need to be a Christian to engage in philosophical reflections on morality nor does this endeavor necessarily draw primarily from scriptures or the Christian tradition. Rather human reasons stand at the centre of philosophical, ethical enterprise.

Ethics as moral philosophy seek to develop a conception of the ethical life in which all humans could participate and to which all humans could have access through the use of human reason. And it is especially concerned to providing a rational justification for morality, perhaps in a somewhat scientific manner.

Ethicists divide ethics into three major dimensions namely empirical, normative and analytical. Empirical ethics or descriptive morals, involves the observation of moral decision making process with a goal of description or explanation of the phenomenal. Empirical ethicists studies how people actually make ethical decisions. Normative ethics, when we hear or use the word ethics, we more likely have the normative ethics in mind.

Normative comes from the word norm, which in this context means standard or principle. So normative ethics is connected with the formulation of standards or principle of living. It involves assertions as to what is or is not worth pursuing and what is or not to be done.

We engage in normative ethics whenever we form opinions or judgments about what is right, good or obligatory and whenever we offer reasons for such judgments we also enter the realm of normative ethics when we describe a person, things or acts or good or evil, admirable or despicable. In ethics such discussions are about theories of values.

Each day we make arguments of various types. Many of them fall under the context of normative ethics, for they reflect what we consider to be the norms or standards of moral obligation for, state what someone is morally obligated to do or be.

These maybe quite particular, referring to a specific in a specific situation. There is a saying that honesty is the best policy meaning that people are morally obligated to tell the truth. Unlike judgments of moral obligation, judgments of moral values do not declare….what someone ought to do or be, rather they express what we value.

The third aspect of the ethical discipline is analytical ethics. Analytical derives from analyze which means to take things apart, to look at the constituent pieces of something. Therefore analytical ethics take ethics apart. It explores the nature of morality itself. It attempts to build a theory as to what value judgment mean and how they can be justified.

Analytical ethicists pursue the question of definition. What is good and ought to mean? What are we asserting when we say a person is free or responsible? What does it mean to say something is good? On what basis can one say judgment is good or true? But they also seek to determine how such ethical judgment can be established or justified. They raise the question, what form the foundation for making value judgments? For example on what basis can one say that the relocation of Basarwa from CKGR was morally wrong?

One person who did not merely talk about boundary situation, but actually focused on ethical quandary was Socrates. According to Plato, Socrates’ student Crito and friend advised him while Socrates was on death row that there was plan to rescue him from prison. Socrates refused to escape from prison neither did he allow his enemy to kill him; instead he decided to take his own life.

Decision making is not a simple process; it needs among other things intelligence, determination and bravery. You don’t wake up in the morning and decide about your future or the future of the organization or the people you lead. Human beings are social animals, whatever you think is personal and making decision for yourself will somehow somewhere affect others in one way or another.

Those we elect to represent us in different institutions and organizations should know that the decisions they make should always reflect the ethical values of the organization or institution they lead. But some of them, the moment they have been elected into those positions they forget completely about those who voted them into power.

Sometimes when you listen to some members of parliament and councilors tabling motions, or debating issues, you are forced to ask yourself the central question, are these people in the council chambers or parliament by mistake. Some will oppose something even if it is going to benefit his or her….constituency just because it is from the opposition or vice versa. If an idiot says, let’s run the rain is coming and you just stay because it is the idiot, who says the rain coming first, then it is you who is an idiot and the idiot becomes a clever person. If the BDP come up with some programs which are helping people encourage people to use those programs to better their lives.

And if the opposition comes up with motions which might help the people, my expectation is that BDP MPs should support those motions. When MPs are in parliament they should work as a team to serve Batswana. This does not mean opposition MPs should always support BDP otherwise there will be no opposition.

The same can be said about the BDP MPs. They cannot be expected to support everything from the opposition, but there are times when what is proposed either side is in the interest of the nation. Those who are elected to represent their constituencies in parliament and they miss the parliament sessions and at the end of the month they get their salaries, ethically speaking they are thieves.

They have stolen from the nation because they were given money which they did not deserve. They are worse than those who accepted housing allowances by mistakes while staying in government houses. When we take ethics to its logical conclusion, we can see that while we make noise everyday about moral crisis facing the youth, the real moral crisis is the one faced by the elders. When 95% of the wealth of the country is owned by 2% of the population of this country, then we have a serious moral crisis.

Immorality is more than just who is sleeping with whom, where and how or (matanyola). Some of the so called ills of the society are in fact they are symptoms of the real diseases of the society. In ethics we say social ethics produce individual ethics, not the other way round. How do you expect a young poor boy to refuse matanyola when matonyola can bring food on the table.

That is why Thomas Sankara used to say there are different kinds of prostitutions and prostitutes. The difference according to Thomas Sankara is on time and amount involved. There are those who stand in the streets and get $10 for thirty minutes and some for $20 for an hour. Some $50 for a night and others $100 for a week or month. Some marry for a year or two and then they divorce after getting what they wanted. In Sankara’s view, they are all prostitutes.

The difference is time and amount. My former German Pastor, Peter Ohligschlager, used to say almost the same about thieves. According to Pastor Peter Ohligschlager, there are those small thieves who pick pocket, those who break into houses, and those who make laws in their favor in order to enrich themselves from public wealth. Ethically according to Ohligschlager they have taken what they don’t deserve.

What I am stating here are ethical issues. And according to Socrates, ethical questions must be settled by reason alone. And secondly ethical questions are answered according to the standards of the person involved, not in consideration of what others think.

And third according Socrates, the outcome of an act is irrelevant the only consideration is whether it is intrinsically right or wrong. In this declaration Socrates delineated what has become a fundamental watershed in ethics, the differentiation between the deontological and theological (or consequentialist) approaches to ethical decision making.

He set forth he divide between those who declare that the right should be done for its own sake and those who base moral duty on some goal to be thereby attained. It is imperative in my view that when we make decision we ask ourselves whether it is intrinsically right or wrong. And more importantly, when we say so and so, it’s immoral, we ought to look at the standard of the person we are talking about.

As I said, above most of the time we blame the youth of immorality. If we compare the standard of the youth to that of some elders who are engaged in immoral activities under the cover of law or legality, ethically speaking what is intrinsically wrong is wrong regardless of what the law says. Remember Socrates was sentenced to death by court of law but he did nothing wrong. His “crime” was to teach the youth about the truth and their right. Let us make decision which one is comparable to our standards as leaders and also which are intrinsically right.

Dr. Cosmos Kebinang Moenga

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Opinions

IEC Disrespects Batswana: A Critical Analysis

10th November 2023

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has recently faced significant criticism for its handling of the voter registration exercise. In this prose I aim to shed light on the various instances where the IEC has demonstrated a lack of respect towards the citizens of Botswana, leading to a loss of credibility. By examining the postponements of the registration exercise and the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively, it becomes evident that the institution has disregarded its core mandate and the importance of its role in ensuring fair and transparent elections.

Incompetence or Disrespect?

One possible explanation for the IEC’s behavior is sheer incompetence. It is alarming to consider that the leadership of such a critical institution may lack the understanding of the importance of their mandate. The failure to communicate the reasons for the postponements in a timely manner raises questions about their ability to handle their responsibilities effectively. Furthermore, if the issue lies with government processes, it calls into question whether the IEC has the courage to stand up to the country’s leadership.

Another possibility is that the IEC lacks respect for its core clients, the voters of Botswana. Respect for stakeholders is crucial in building trust, and clear communication is a key component of this. The IEC’s failure to communicate accurate and complete information, despite having access to it, has fueled speculation and mistrust. Additionally, the IEC’s disregard for engaging with political parties, such as the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), further highlights this disrespect. By ignoring the UDC’s request to observe the registration process, the IEC demonstrates a lack of regard for its partners in the electoral exercise.

Rebuilding Trust and Credibility:

While allegations of political interference and security services involvement cannot be ignored, the IEC has a greater responsibility to ensure its own credibility. The institution did manage to refute claims by the DISS Director that the IEC database had been compromised, which is a positive step towards rebuilding trust. However, this remains a small glimmer of hope in the midst of the IEC’s overall disregard for the citizens of Botswana.

To regain the trust of Batswana, the IEC must prioritize respect for its stakeholders. Clear and timely communication is essential in this process. By engaging with political parties and addressing their concerns, the IEC can demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. It is crucial for the IEC to recognize that its credibility is directly linked to the trust it garners from the voters.

Conclusion:

The IEC’s recent actions have raised serious concerns about its credibility and respect for the citizens of Botswana. Whether due to incompetence or a lack of respect for stakeholders, the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively and handle its responsibilities has damaged its reputation. To regain trust and maintain relevance, the IEC must prioritize clear and timely communication, engage with political parties, and demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. Only by respecting the voters of Botswana can the IEC fulfill its crucial role in ensuring free and fair elections.

 

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Opinions

Fuelling Change: The Evolving Dynamics of the Oil and Gas Industry

4th April 2023

The Oil and Gas industry has undergone several significant developments and changes over the last few years. Understanding these developments and trends is crucial towards better appreciating how to navigate the engagement in this space, whether directly in the energy space or in associated value chain roles such as financing.

Here, we explore some of the most notable global events and trends and the potential impact or bearing they have on the local and global market.

Governments and companies around the world have been increasingly focused on transitioning towards renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. This shift is motivated by concerns about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Africa, including Botswana, is part of these discussions, as we work to collectively ensure a greener and more sustainable future. Indeed, this is now a greater priority the world over. It aligns closely with the increase in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing being observed. ESG investing has become increasingly popular, and many investors are now looking for companies that are focused on sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint. This trend could have significant implications for the oil and fuel industry, which is often viewed as environmentally unsustainable. Relatedly and equally key are the evolving government policies. Government policies and regulations related to the Oil and Gas industry are likely to continue evolving with discussions including incentives for renewable energy and potentially imposing stricter regulations on emissions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a strong role. Over the last two years, the pandemic had a profound impact on the Oil and Gas industry (and fuel generally), leading to a significant drop in demand as travel and economic activity slowed down. As a result, oil prices plummeted, with crude oil prices briefly turning negative in April 2020. Most economies have now vaccinated their populations and are in recovery mode, and with the recovery of the economies, there has been recovery of oil prices; however, the pace and sustainability of recovery continues to be dependent on factors such as emergence of new variants of the virus.

This period, which saw increased digital transformation on the whole, also saw accelerated and increased investment in technology. The Oil and Gas industry is expected to continue investing in new digital technologies to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This also means a necessary understanding and subsequent action to address the impacts from the rise of electric vehicles. The growing popularity of electric vehicles is expected to reduce demand for traditional gasoline-powered cars. This has, in turn, had an impact on the demand for oil.

Last but not least, geopolitical tensions have played a tremendous role. Geopolitical tensions between major oil-producing countries can and has impacted the supply of oil and fuel. Ongoing tensions in the Middle East and between the US and Russia could have an impact on global oil prices further, and we must be mindful of this.

On the home front in Botswana, all these discussions are relevant and the subject of discussion in many corporate and even public sector boardrooms. Stanbic Bank Botswana continues to take a lead in supporting the Oil and Gas industry in its current state and as it evolves and navigates these dynamics. This is through providing financing to support Oil and Gas companies’ operations, including investments in new technologies. The Bank offers risk management services to help oil and gas companies to manage risks associated with price fluctuations, supply chain disruptions and regulatory changes. This includes offering hedging products and providing advice on risk management strategies.

Advisory and support for sustainability initiatives that the industry undertakes is also key to ensuring that, as companies navigate complex market conditions, they are more empowered to make informed business decisions. It is important to work with Oil and Gas companies to develop and implement sustainability strategies, such as reducing emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy. This is key to how partners such as Stanbic Bank work to support the sector.

Last but not least, Stanbic Bank stands firmly in support of Botswana’s drive in the development of the sector with the view to attain better fuel security and reduce dependence risk on imported fuel. This is crucial towards ensuring a stronger, stabler market, and a core aspect to how we can play a role in helping drive Botswana’s growth.  Continued understanding, learning, and sustainable action are what will help ensure the Oil and Gas sector is supported towards positive, sustainable and impactful growth in a manner that brings social, environmental and economic benefit.

Loago Tshomane is Manager, Client Coverage, Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB), Stanbic Bank Botswana

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Opinions

Brands are important

27th March 2023

So, the conclusion is brands are important. I start by concluding because one hopes this is a foregone conclusion given the furore that erupts over a botched brand. If a fast food chef bungles a food order, there’d be possibly some isolated complaint thrown. However, if the same company’s marketing expert or agency cooks up a tasteless brand there is a country-wide outcry. Why?  Perhaps this is because brands affect us more deeply than we care to understand or admit. The fact that the uproar might be equal parts of schadenfreude, black twitter-esque criticism and, disappointment does not take away from the decibel of concern raised.

A good place to start our understanding of a brand is naturally by defining what a brand is. Marty Neumier, the genius who authored The Brand Gap, offers this instructive definition – “A brand is a person’s gut feel about a product or service”. In other words, a brand is not what the company says it is. It is what the people feel it is. It is the sum total of what it means to them. Brands are perceptions. So, brands are defined by individuals not companies. But brands are owned by companies not individuals. Brands are crafted in privacy but consumed publicly. Brands are communal. Granted, you say. But that doesn’t still explain why everybody and their pet dog feel entitled to jump in feet first into a brand slug-fest armed with a hot opinion. True. But consider the following truism.

 

Brands are living. They act as milestones in our past. They are signposts of our identity. Beacons of our triumphs. Indexes of our consumption. Most importantly, they have invaded our very words and world view. Try going for just 24 hours without mentioning a single brand name. Quite difficult, right? Because they live among us they have become one of us. And we have therefore built ‘brand bonds’ with them. For example, iPhone owners gather here. You love your iPhone. It goes everywhere. You turn to it in moments of joy and when we need a quick mood boost. Notice how that ‘relationship’ started with desire as you longingly gazed upon it in a glossy brochure. That quickly progressed to asking other people what they thought about it. Followed by the zero moment of truth were you committed and voted your approval through a purchase. Does that sound like a romantic relationship timeline. You bet it does. Because it is. When we conduct brand workshops we run the Brand Loyalty ™ exercise wherein we test people’s loyalty to their favourite brand(s). The results are always quite intriguing. Most people are willing to pay a 40% premium over the standard price for ‘their’ brand. They simply won’t easily ‘breakup’ with it. Doing so can cause brand ‘heart ache’. There is strong brand elasticity for loved brands.

 

Now that we know brands are communal and endeared, then companies armed with this knowledge, must exercise caution and practise reverence when approaching the subject of rebranding. It’s fragile. The question marketers ought to ask themselves before gleefully jumping into the hot rebranding cauldron is – Do we go for an Evolution (partial rebrand) or a Revolution(full rebrand)? An evolution is incremental. It introduces small but significant changes or additions to the existing visual brand. Here, think of the subtle changes you’ve seen in financial or FMCG brands over the decades. Evolution allows you to redirect the brand without alienating its horde of faithful followers. As humans we love the familiar and certain. Change scares us. Especially if we’ve not been privy to the important but probably blinkered ‘strategy sessions’ ongoing behind the scenes. Revolutions are often messy. They are often hard reset about-turns aiming for a total new look and ‘feel’.

 

 

Hard rebranding is risky business. History is littered with the agony of brands large and small who felt the heat of public disfavour. In January 2009, PepsiCo rebranded the Tropicana. When the newly designed package hit the shelves, consumers were not having it. The New York Times reports that ‘some of the commenting described the new packaging as ‘ugly’ ‘stupid’. They wanted their old one back that showed a ripe orange with a straw in it. Sales dipped 20%. PepsiCo reverted to the old logo and packaging within a month. In 2006 Mastercard had to backtrack away from it’s new logo after public criticism, as did Leeds United, and the clothing brand Gap. AdAge magazine reports that critics most common sentiment about the Gap logo was that it looked like something a child had created using a clip-art gallery. Botswana is no different. University of Botswana had to retreat into the comfort of the known and accepted heritage strong brand.  Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital was badgered with complaints till it ‘adjusted’ its logo.

 

 

So if the landscape of rebranding is so treacherous then whey take the risk? Companies need to soberly assess they need for a rebrand. According to the fellows at Ignyte Branding a rebrand is ignited by the following admissions :

Our brand name no longer reflects our company’s vision.
We’re embarrassed to hand out our business cards.

Our competitive advantage is vague or poorly articulated.
Our brand has lost focus and become too complex to understand. Our business model or strategy has changed.
Our business has outgrown its current brand.
We’re undergoing or recently underwent a merger or acquisition. Our business has moved or expanded its geographic reach.
We need to disassociate our brand from a negative image.
We’re struggling to raise our prices and increase our profit margins. We want to expand our influence and connect to new audiences. We’re not attracting top talent for the positions we need to fill. All the above are good reasons to rebrand.

The downside to this debacle is that companies genuinely needing to rebrand might be hesitant or delay it altogether. The silver lining I guess is that marketing often mocked for its charlatans, is briefly transformed from being the Archilles heel into Thanos’ glove in an instant.

So what does a company need to do to safely navigate the rebranding terrain? Companies need to interrogate their brand purpose thoroughly. Not what they think they stand for but what they authentically represent when seen through the lens of their team members. In our Brand Workshop we use a number of tools to tease out the compelling brand truth. This section always draws amusing insights. Unfailingly, the top management (CEO & CFO)always has a vastly different picture of their brand to the rest of their ExCo and middle management, as do they to the customer-facing officer. We have only come across one company that had good internal alignment. Needless to say that brand is doing superbly well.

There is need a for brand strategies to guide the brand. One observes that most brands ‘make a plan’ as they go along. Little or no deliberate position on Brand audit, Customer research, Brand positioning and purpose, Architecture, Messaging, Naming, Tagline, Brand Training and may more. A brand strategy distils why your business exists beyond making money – its ‘why’. It defines what makes your brand what it is, what differentiates it from the competition and how you want your customers to perceive it. Lacking a brand strategy disadvantages the company in that it appears soul-less and lacking in personality. Naturally, people do not like to hang around humans with nothing to say. A brand strategy understands the value proposition. People don’t buy nails for the nails sake. They buy nails to hammer into the wall to hang pictures of their loved ones. People don’t buy make up because of its several hues and shades. Make up is self-expression. Understanding this arms a brand with an iron clad clad strategy on the brand battlefield.

But perhaps you’ve done the important research and strategy work. It’s still possible to bungle the final look and feel.  A few years ago one large brand had an extensive strategy done. Hopes were high for a top tier brand reveal. The eventual proposed brand was lack-lustre. I distinctly remember, being tasked as local agency to ‘land’ the brand and we outright refused. We could see this was a disaster of epic proportions begging to happen. The brand consultants were summoned to revise the logo. After a several tweaks and compromises the brand landed. It currently exists as one of the country’s largest brands. Getting the logo and visual look right is important. But how does one know if they are on the right path? Using the simile of a brand being a person – The answer is how do you know your outfit is right? It must serve a function, be the right fit and cut, it must be coordinated and lastly it must say something about you. So it is possible to bath in a luxurious bath gel, apply exotic lotion, be facebeat and still somehow wear a faux pas outfit. Avoid that.

Another suggestion is to do the obvious. Pre-test the logo and its look and feel on a cross section of your existing and prospective audience. There are tools to do this. Their feedback can save you money, time and pain. Additionally one must do another obvious check – use Google Image to verify the visual outcome and plain Google search to verify the name. These are so obvious they are hopefully for gone conclusions. But for the brands that have gone ahead without them, I hope you have not concluded your brand journeys as there is a world of opportunity waiting to be unlocked with the right brand strategy key.

Cliff Mada is Head of ArmourGetOn Brand Consultancy, based in Gaborone and Cape Town.

cliff@armourgeton.com

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