The information, Communication and technology (ICT) sector could create thousands of jobs. Technology experts revealed to the participants at the first annual Job Summit that a change in mindset in embracing ICT will lead to prosperity.
As a keynote speaker, Rapelang Rabana, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Rekindle Learning, enthralled the audience as she took them on her journey through the male dominated ICT industry. Her conquests in ICT include being a co-founder of Yeigo Communications, an innovative company that developed some of the earliest mobile VoIP application.
But her biggest achievement to date is being the founder of Rekindle Learning, which provides learning and performance support tools. It was such a great feat that it earned her a spot on the cover of Forbes magazine. However Rabana did not only talk about herself at the job summit, she extolled the virtues of ICT and the unlimited opportunities it offered.
“Technology and the internet is a powerful tool for prosperity,” she announced to the already encapsulated participants. Rabana urged the youth not to be heavily dependent on the government, adding that they should not see the government as a “money making scheme.”
Instead they should seek to engage in businesses that offer sustainable growth, businesses that can change lives. She also had sound advice for the government. “Set up the government and get out of the way,” she said this was because the government has a way of limiting people through its bureaucracy and lack of understanding of certain things, particularly the unlimited opportunities ICT offers.
The high flying technological entrepreneur said Botswana should become more open to trading with other countries. In matters of ICT, she called on the government to provide quality broadband and low cost bandwidth. Rabana reminded the audience that the internet knows no borders, “On the internet Botswana is not a landlocked country” therefore it should not limit itself in pursuing ICT excellence.
To show the power of the internet, Rabana confirmed that when they started their first mobile applications, they did not know everything; they had to literally google their way to success. As a parting shot, she persuasively said, “If underdevelopment can be designed, so could prosperity.”
Richard Neill, Director Special and Strategic Projects, Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), said that “Botswana is in its second phase of transformations, from agriculture to diversified knowledgeable economy.”
He added that in the knowledge economy, Botswana comes fifth in Africa but the country is still struggling in the world rankings. Neill said that knowledge economy is about sustainable development, furthermore it creates quality jobs.
However, knowledge economy requires substantial funding in the fields of “research and innovation” in the ICT sector. Moreover, he said that the benefits and returns of ICT outweigh the costs.
“Every pula invested in IT will pay off in growth and GDP. For example Mauritius created about 10000 jobs in the ICT sector.” Neill said investments in infrastructure are not enough, what is required and needed is proper ICT infrastructure.
Going forward, Neil hopes that the government and private sector would realise that ICT is the core to efficiency. He also said given the highest number of mobile penetration in Botswana, the government and private sector should take advantage of this and improve E-commerce.
Although there are challenges such as skills, competence and managing projects, Neil is hopeful that it’s something that can be solved through a deeply embedded collaboration between the government and private sector.
If there ever was a time for global approach and solutions, the time is now. At least that’s what Monametsi Kalayamotho, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Moro Group, told the participants at the Job summit. Monametsi, one of Botswana’s successful ICT entrepreneurs, talked about his passion for ICT and seeing youth lead in creating jobs. “I used to be passionate about ICT, and now I’m obsessing about ICT and jobs creation,” he confessed.
It’s not hard to see the fire that burns when Kalayamotho talks about ICT, he is a man on a mission to do right. He has been told to tone it down, but he won’t because he “Sincerely believes we could be creating applications in Botswana.”
It is this sincere belief that has put him on collision course with people who just don’t get it, but it appears Kalayamotho is scoring some victories in convincing them that ICT is the future. Kalayamotho said that we need leaders who believe in themselves and if they don’t, then they should give the opportunity to someone who believes in their ability. Regarding the economic stimulus package, Kalayamotho does not hide his disappointment.
“ICT should have been given priority together with those identified sectors that need to be stimulated. In fact ICT should be the driver, it should be the pillar,” he said, adding that its nothing new since even during budget allocations ICT is not given priority. This is something he really wants to change.
“We need a change in mindset. Do not see ICT as a by product,” he said. Kalayamotho believes the most important thing is the jobs that can be created through ICT. To do these, it will require cutting down on the import bill because some of the things imported could be assembled in Botswana thus creating jobs.
“It doesn’t mean if it’s made in Botswana, it’s going to be different,” he chuckled before explaining that in ICT they adhere to the highest international standards, meaning any product assembled here will meet international certifications.
Kalayamotho gave credit to the government for improving the broadband and fibre infrastructure development as well as rolling it to many areas. Nonetheless he had some wisdom to share concerning the infrastructure. “When you talk infrastructure, you talk applications and content. That’s when people use your infrastructure. What’s the point of having infrastructure when you don’t have content?” he asked. Kalayamotho says this is where the bulk of the ICT jobs will come from.
There are too many applications and content to create, it could be games, educational applications, health applications even language content. He beamed when he talked about the talented youth in the country, although he conceded they will need further training and education so that they could be the best.
“We should appreciate how ICT works. Applications and content is a huge opportunity. I’m talking 3000 jobs in 24 months,” he said, adding that this is because content changes every day. In essence jobs in ICT could be said to be regenerative particularly in content creation, it’s a continuous process of development and enhancement.
Kalayamotho is not naive to the challenges that lie ahead, and he fully understands them. He called on the private sector to be supportive to entrepreneurs. He pleaded with the Human Resource Development Council to come on board by paying for ICT training. Kalayamotho says there a need to continuously build capacity locally. He applauded BOCRA for doing a fine job in ensuring that people get access to connectivity.
In his closing argument, he pleaded with the government and private sector to not be dismissive when ICT businesses require a higher capital injection, because “Sometimes it’s not about number of the jobs that will be created but the scale of impact it would have on people’s lives.” This was met with a thunderous applause from the audience.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”