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WHY ARE YOU GREEN?

It's one of those things we'd like to pretend don't exist. We'd rather not talk about it because it exposes our hypocrisy and shows us the ugliness of our character we'd rather pretend doesn't exist. Unfortunate as that is, humanly speaking, I guess it's understandable. Every person thinks themselves perfect, despite knowing the opposite to be the case. It's human to feign goodness or uprightness.

Even the glaringly morally degenerate protest their innocence, claiming to be misunderstood. My subject matter this week has a long history. In fact, for those who are Bible readers and Bible believers, you'll realize that the subject at hand goes back to just a generation after the Garden of Eden. Yes, it's that old! I'm of course referring to envy and jealousy.

You see, the first instance of envy ever recorded was in the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. That is the very first time we see the manifestation of this vice and its ugly consequences when left unchecked. Envy is found in almost every sphere of life. But it tends to read its ugly head particularly in the arena of possessions and wealth.

For instance look at Genesis 26:12-15. It describes Isaac's accumulated wealth and how his neighbors – the Philistines – "envied him." Isaac's possessions are mentioned three times, so we know he had a lot of stuff. This is interesting because the Philistines certainly weren't poor by any means, but they still envied what Isaac had.

You can have a lot and still be jealous. To be fair, though, it's easy to want just a little bit more than we already have whether you're well off or have very little. I've seen established Pastors driving German sedans envious and intimidated by young upstarts still footing it or driving third-hand Japanese imports! Not only can we envy someone else's possessions, but also their power. In the Book of Numbers, we find that Miriam and Aaron were envious of Moses' power and position among the people so they began to criticize him along with his family (Numbers 12:1). We also see that the tribe of Korah fell into the same trap (Numbers 16:1).

In the books of Kings and Chronicles, we read story after story of kings who usurped the power of other kings, often by criminal and traitorous acts; only to have the same things happen to them once they reached the pinnacle of power. History is littered with the ruins of nations whose leaders, motivated by jealousy and envy, led them to war. I believe that – from a purely human motivation – jealousy and envy were the main reasons the Jews had a part in the crucifixion of Jesus and, later on, the reason they persecuted his apostles (Acts 7:54-8:1).

They feared that their own power was eroding. This is still true even today, sad to say. It is disconcerting and disheartening to see Pastors at each others' throats, covertly or overtly, simply because of envy. I'm not bashing Pastors. After all, I'm one of them and I have a very high regard and respect for them. However, the envy that exists amongst them is highly toxic and very destructive.

Out of envy, Pastors connive and conspire against each other daily. Some go out of their way to sabotage each other, frame each other, and plot against the downfall of one another. They gather with another Pastor as their main agenda. Dare I say, some fast and pray to see each other fall! How sad! How shameful! But why? I'll tell you why. It's nothing but the same thing politicians grapple with – Power. Power circles can be a breeding ground for jealousy in the political and business world.

Sadly, the Church is not exempt. Whose Church is biggest? Who's getting the most media attention? Who has the largest staff or the most members? Who has the best conferences? Who invites the best speakers? Who drives the best car? Who has the nicest building? Who preaches better? Who prophesies better? Who has the most influential and affluent members of society? These are the things Pastors fight over. These are the seedlings of envy that persistently plague the Church and retard its effectiveness.

These are the maladies that continue to ensure that the Church is worldly and carnal. These are the reasons why unity, much talked about as it is whenever Pastors meet, can never happen. Then there is the arena of performance. If there is a circle where Christians are most vulnerable, this is high on the list – individually and corporately. Remember the story in the Old Testament regarding Saul and David? David became the young hero in Israel after he defeated the Philistine bully, Goliath. Jealousy and envy began to grow in Saul's heart as he saw the hearts of Israel go out to David, especially the womenfolk as they started to sing songs of adulation in David's honor.

Women will always get you in trouble, son! Believe you me, sometimes Pastors fight over women – women who are not even their wives! But I digress. Saul spent the rest of his life trying to eliminate the object of his jealousy, tracking David all over the Judean wilderness trying to kill him. He remained a captive to his jealousy and envy until the day he died. It is this madness of competition that has resulted in the murk we find ourselves in. Is it any wonder that we hear rumors of Pastors buying "powers" from Ghana, Nigeria, and Durban? Why this craze and obsession with being the best? It's nothing but the spirit of envy! You envy Pastor X because of what he has, so you travel thousands of miles to consult foreign gods so that you can best him! Our local Churches, I am sorry to say, are places where jealousy and envy lurk big time.

The enemy is just waiting for a chance to attack us. Perhaps it is because the Church is a "volunteer" organization. People give their money and "volunteer" their time, and as a result, feel they are entitled to certain things, whether it's roles of leadership, or recognition for special acts of service or giving.

People easily become jealous of one another across the board – people jealous of other people and their God-given abilities and even spiritual gifts. Parents are envious of other parents and even of the other parents' children. Women jealous of the Pastor's wife. Choir members fighting to lead songs. Sons trying to out-preach and out-prophesy their Pastors. Women elbowing one another in an attempt to catch the attentions of single brothers or single Pastors.

There is an ever-so-subtle but constant striving in our midst. It's total madness! How shrewd and sinister the enemy is so as to stir up jealousy and envy in our midst. But even worse, how naïve we are to give in to it! The Church of Jesus Christ is the last place the bane of jealousy and envy should ever find a home because grace and love can infect us, making us impervious to envy's attacks.

The seed of all this chaos begins with comparisons. Comparison is the root of all envy. Whenever you start comparing yourself, you’re in a no-win situation. If you compare yourself with someone who is more effective than you, you’ll be full of envy. If you are more effective than they are, you’ll be full of arrogance and pride.

Either way, comparisons will take you down. Jealousy and envy are emotions we all feel from time to time. But if they are allowed to become dominant in our lives, they warp our perspectives, keeping us from realizing our full potential, and ultimately leading us into destructive behaviors. Without question, jealousy and envy impede our growth to spiritual maturity. Once envy takes a hold of you, you soon act out of character.

Envy starts with desire. We all want things we don't have: a lot of money, a big Church, a pretty wife, an expensive car, a magnetic personality, a nice figure, a better home, or more clothes. We long for a happy marriage, successful children, a secure, pleasurable job. There's nothing wrong with these desires as long as we are realistic, recognizing that they do not bestow value on our lives, nor does their absence make us lesser human beings.

However, if and when these things become essential to us and are viewed as the benchmarks of success, we will look with the green eyes of envy at everyone who has what we want. We'll keep working harder and more desperately to reach our goals without ever being content. Eventually, we will be under the full-time control of envy, a brutal taskmaster. John D. Rockefeller, believed to be the wealthiest American who has ever lived, said when he was asked how much money is enough, "Just one more dollar," was his sage reply.

There's nothing wrong with wanting recognition for our achievements. But at times that craving can become a competitive spirit that has to outdo everyone else. When that happens, you can be sure envy is at the root. Today's society values people for their appearance or their achievements. It is very difficult not to be envious of the woman with a beautiful figure when you struggle daily to not gain a kilo. It's hard to feel good about ourselves when we've been driving the same car for ten years while others are enjoying this year's luxury models.

We don't feel accomplished flying economy while the person down the street is posting pictures of themselves daily on social media flying first and business class to exotic destinations. We don't accept ourselves as we are; we are unable to recognize our own strengths. Instead, we compare our weaknesses with others' strengths, and consequently we feel envious. We tend to compare ourselves to our peers. Athletes compare themselves with other athletes.

Lawyers compare themselves with other lawyers. Pastors compare themselves with other Pastors. And we compare ourselves with the ones closest to us. The successful Pastor across the country doesn’t bother us – but the one across the street does. F.B. Meyer was Pastor at Christ Church in London, England late in the 19th Century when Charles Spurgeon came to town.

Spurgeon’s crowds at Metropolitan Tabernacle grew larger and larger. The young story-telling preacher was so popular that his weekly sermons were printed in the paper on Mondays. Meyer became envious, which is a common problem amongst the Pastors I know. Meyer prayed, “God bless me. God fill my pews. God send a revival to my church,” but still he was jealous and competitive toward Spurgeon and other Pastors in London. Then he learned to overcome envy by praying for the success of his “big brother” Pastors on his right and left.

In time he found that his own Church grew from the effects of Spurgeon’s powerful ministry! Similarly, Jack Hayford, a Pastor in Southern California in more recent times, has the same testimony of overcoming envy by praying for the success of other Pastor. When his Church on the Way in Van Nuys was small and getting started there was a large Church down the street called First Baptist.

He prayed for God to bless and prosper that Church. It ended up that Church on the Way grew so much that it used First Baptist’s old building for overflow. That's the way to kill this monster – prayer. Until we can learn to pray for those who intimidate us and wish them well, we'll continue to suffer under the yoke of envy and jealousy.

And, let's not forget that these are not just character flaws or weaknesses – these are sins to be repented of! These are the parents of witchcraft! Back in the villages we hail from, we knew that witchcraft was begotten by envy. Those who were successful in life were often the targets of witchcraft simply because they had something, and the poorer village folks couldn't stand them and therefore resorted to witchcraft so as to halt their rise.

And it wasn't even like they had anything to warrant witchcraft spells! Such folks would be having maybe a small general dealer or a small bakkie! But the village witches would be up in arms! Well, it seems like the more things change, the more they remain the same.

The witches of yesteryear in the village who wore hobo garb and feathers and beads riding baboons and hyenas, have now changed wardrobes and are now wearing Armani suits and driving Range Rovers in the city. Same script, different cast. May God help us to be able to not just handle, but also be able to celebrate the success of our neighbor without turning green and nasty.

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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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