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Development: a decade of lost opportunities!


This is a follow-up on last week’s submission where I visited the 2008 inaugural address by the president; when he presented his four lanes roadmap, each with a D inscription (Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline). He thankfully later added a Delivery lane. This was the road map to the promised land of peace, tranquility and plenty for all Batswana and residents.

Before I move onto the second lane of Development, I would like to digress a little.  Some of the speeches at the memorial service of the late seven Matsha students who perished in a cattle truck that should never have been used to transport them in the first place; some  of the exchanges in parliament and councils  chambers regarding this unfortunate event, point to a bleak future of intolerance where leadership instead of accepting responsibility that is clearly and squarely theirs and dealing with the consequences blame and viciously seek to silence those who call upon them to account.  Instead of apologising to the nation, they play ignorant and chastise those angry citizens who dare to raise their voices against the incompetency that allowed such a truck to be used for our dear children. Our democracy is indeed flawed. This is the same country with ’a shining example of democracy in Africa’, a   ‘democratic country’ in which only those belonging to the ruling party; those who sing their praises are said to be patriotic citizens, others are unpatriotic people who deserve to rot in hell. How naïve and how wrong? With this mentality can we really achieve the Development aspirations that this great nation deserves; the Development that the nation was promised in 2008 by our loving president?

With this type of mentality, what can we expect on the second lane of the presidential road map? We find a lot of pot holes, the road is bumpy and the driving is slow and perilous.  Here I am talking about lack of systems, procedures and human capital to drive the Development vehicles, the Development agenda. Also reviewing progress on this lane is very difficult if not impossible because it is not clear what is contained and packaged in these vehicles. It should have been clear at the onset; that vehicle A has these goods which will be delivered at this station, on such and such a day and the goods are for this particular purpose. This was never given; hence the difficulty in evaluation.

But perhaps we should guess.  What are the possible outcomes that the nation should legitimately expect to be delivered by these Development vehicles?  What are the outcomes to be expected from any development for that matter?  My guess would be to improve the lives of the people broadly in these areas; more jobs created, increased business opportunities, improved health services and care, improved personal safety, improved security (personal and property), better standard of education, more educational facilities, improved and more recreational facilities, improved and more road networks, better and more railway transport, improved competiveness, improved global recognition etc, etc. These are some of the legitimate expectations Batswana would aspire for as the country develops.

What have we achieved from 2008 to todate? What will we have achieved during this decade from 2008 to 2018? We are only left with three years.  What can be achieved in the remaining three years?  We can only really talk about the achievements so far and based on these achievements we can then perhaps make some projections. Let me briefly look at the list of expectation I made above:

JOB CREATION

Since 2008 the economy has lost more jobs than it has created. The official rate of unemployment remains at about 20 %.  The mining sector has lost over a thousand jobs due to restructuring and closures caused by the market and possibly poor planning on the part of owners including government inability to positively influence the developmental direction.  We have created and lost jobs in the diamond beneficiation industry. In my humble view, we could have done better if our planning was robust and far sighted.

CREATION OF BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

The relocation of the Diamond Trading Centre from London to Gaborone should have created a lot of business opportunities for Batswana but how much have actually been created?  This should not only be measured by the number of Batswana who have benefitted directly but by how much compared to the total value available. Without measuring these numbers, we are just talking and fooling ourselves.  The diamond business is a multi dollar business and for Batswana to meaningfully benefit they must be credit worthy, must have access to requisite financial resources and must also have the requisite business skills? These skills will not necessarily come from having a degree in business, but in adequate exposure to the diamond business. A proactive government would have ensured that our people are adequately prepared and equipped to benefit immensely from the relocation of the diamond business.

OTHER JOB AND BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

There are also a number of failed projects that would have created both jobs and business opportunities if we had been more proactive and far sighted.  What happened to the 1200 MW Mmamabula energy project?  This was a coal mine and power station to supply electricity mainly to South Africa and Botswana. Due to poor long-term planning by both Botswana and South Africa, this project was suspended because the two countries thought they would have enough power by 2012 or thereabout. Look where both South Africa and Botswana are now? We are still constantly in the dark. This project would have created thousands of mining, energy and logistics jobs as well as revenue from energy sales and possible business opportunities for local investors. The business losses ad expenses incurred as a result of power outages would have been averted. We could have created more industries and attracted more foreign direct investment.  We must all learn that short-termism is really expensive.

What happened to the ACTIVOX Refinery plant in Francistown whose bankable feasibility was completed and construction of the plant commenced only to be stopped due to the drop of recessionary nickel prices and uncertainty in the power supply. We know recession come and go and astute business minded people invest during the recessions in preparation for the next boom cycle. This plant was a unique patented hydrometallurgical plant that would have recovered copper and nickel metal from sulphide concentrates at high recovery rates. This would not only have obviated the need for expensive smelting process and refinery oversees but would also  have enabled us to recover more metals from low grades. This would have made Botswana a regional hub for metal refinery allowing us to export finished products to Europe and elsewhere. What a missed opportunity!

There are others like the famous fengae glass factory project in Palapye that was abandoned because of incompetency and possible corruption after close to P550 million was disbursed and plant built. This factory was going to source coal, silica and soda ash from Botswana and would employ over 500 people.  We have lost millions of Pula, job and revenue opportunities. We have lost an opportunity to be a regional glass exporter. Indeed a decade of lost opportunities.

OTHER ASPIRATIONS FROM ANTICIPATED DEVELOPMENTS

I will now group the other aspirations that include health care, education, safety, security, recreation, transport and competitiveness among others. I am not aware of any improvements in this area accept perhaps in the area of sport competitiveness and global recognition in some good and bad ways. We have done well in the sporting arena. Our athletes have done us proud and we need to motivate them all the sport codes to do more.  We have built more stadia albeit grossly outside budget and time. We expect more in the coming years on our sports and art Development.

As for education, we have deteriorated badly in terms of quality and infrastructure. We have lost the reason for sending our children to school as they graduate and stay at home or do ipelegeng. The situation is dire and needs argent attention.

We have added heath facilities but our hospitals remain over loaded, under staffed and in many cases without medicines. We have cases of millions of pula worth of expired medicines that have been thrown away.  We seem to have an incompetent health system that builds hospitals and clinics when there is no provision for requisite medical staff including just medical doctors and nurses?

The transport system is a failure as evidenced by many people hiking on all our roads. It becomes a nightmare during the holidays. The Bechuanaland train finally gave up the ghost increasing the load and cost on our road transport. Safety on our roads has thus been severely compromised by bad road behaviours, congestions and possible increase of unqualified drivers with fraudulent acquired licenses.

Depending on what a Motswana calls recreation, the reduction of night life hours has deprived many Botswana from their livelihoods. This was not replaced by any modern facilities where people can meet and mingle in public and have fun and share their life stories and miseries. We have not seen theaters and recreational facilities being built to support the performing art industry. The billions of pula from the alcohol levy that we seem to be so proud of should have been used for some of these alternatives.  

How about our personal security and security of our properties?  We continue to experience increased breakages in our homes and people killed by thugs and some disappearing.  We continue to hear increased cases of car theft.  When we were growing up, we never locked up our homes and cars. We never imagined someone snatching and running away with our belongings. These are now daily occurrences and the nation is increasingly getting scared.

CONCLUSION

It is very clear that our development vehicles as well as the road they are travelling on require carefully planned maintenance including appropriate schedules and man power.  How can we have developments when we have failed to produce enough electrical power for domestic and industrial use? How can we have developments when we cannot supply enough water to drink and to propel our industrial growth?   How can we have developments when our people do not have land to develop for themselves and industrialise? How can we have Development if we do not have adequately trained manpower to support industry?

I believe the water situation is dire and first priority in our development together with power. If no developmental measures are taken urgently, we are headed for a rapidly collapsing economy. The water from Letsibogo and Dikgatlhong dams will not sustain the SPEDU region with its planned agricultural projects together with the entire eastern corridor and southern parts of the country including Lobatse, Barolong, Bangwaketse and Bakwena regions. It is impossible especially with our erratic rainfall patterns and on going irresponsible use of our rivers.  My advice is that each area must have its own local fully equipped underground water supply.  We must not entirely depend on surface water including possible supply from Lesotho and Chobe. These should just be available as and when required to supplement our own local efforts.

The much talked about ESP should have focused only on sustainable water and electricity supply. We need massive underground water exploration across the country and fully functional supply infrastructure. We also need to urgently treat and re-use all the waste water in our towns and major settlements.  To avoid the massive evaporative losses we experience on our dams we should be spending money on infrastructure for using available surface water to recharge and keep our water in our underground aquifers away from the evaporative losses we experience as a result of hot weather and large surface areas of our dams.  With electricity we should know what to do.

Instead of praying for rain, we should pray for wisdom to enable us to deal effectively with the Developmental challenges we face.

Bernard Busani
E mail;  HYPERLINK "mailto:bernard.busani@gmail.com" bernard.busani@gmail.com;   Tel; 71751440

 

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021

MELANIE WALKER

The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

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