The European Union (EU) has a number of opportunities to support Co-operatives financially because Co-operatives have a wealth of experiences to share for the benefit of many through their ideal combination between solidarity and entrepreneurship, Hermann Spitz, Head of Cooperation at the Delegation of the EU to Botswana told the just ended 11th Africa Co-operative Ministerial Conference.
The EU was keen to channel support towards investment in agriculture, energy, infrastructure and green sectors. This is because investing in agriculture gives the highest return on poverty eradication as small farmers are the main actors in agriculture in developing countries. ”They produce 80% of our food globally. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in agribusiness are job generators. They are central to our efforts for poverty reduction”
Hermann said real or perceived high risks often prevents investment in agriculture and in order to reduce this risk, there is need to increase available finance in order to reduce risks on the productive side through the provision of business and advisory services, skills, technology and innovation as well as through providing greater risk bearing through blending.
More than 2 billion euros in grants has been channeled through blending since 2007 to finance more than 250 projects, while EU grant contributions have leveraged over 44 billion euros in total investment in developing countries.
The EU intends to scale up its blending activities by multiplying its grant contribution by 3 over the period 2014 – 2020 to mobilize up to 100 billion euros of total investment. An African Investment Facility has been set up to support Africa more effectively in sectors such as energy, agriculture, transport, infrastructure, climate financing, and access to financing for small and medium sized enterprises.
Through private sector support, the EU appreciates the strategic role of cooperative enterprises in international development to lead the way in providing decent jobs, sustainable livelihoods and inclusive solutions to social problems.
In this regard, the EU will next year launch new initiatives, such as the Agriculture Financing Initiative (AgriFI), aimed at increasing investment in smallholder agriculture and agribusiness enterprises; the new Electrification Financing Initiative which was formally launched at the Sustainable Energy for All Forum in New York in May 2015.
The new interest in Co-operatives in Botswana comes after decades of neglect, collapse and stigmatization and relegation to the fringes of Cooperatives enterprises nationally, and the advent of a major paradigm shift in government policy formulation towards Co-operatives.
Participants at the just ended 11th Co-operative Ministerial Conference of the need to appreciate that Co-operatives value based business model is central to efforts towards inclusive growth, sustainable development, poverty eradication, employment creation, economic empowerment of marginalized socio-economic groups such as women and the youth.
A Co-operative are defined by the International Co-operative Alliance as an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily tom meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.
They are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In addition to their founders, Co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
Deputy Director of Co-operatives, Boniface Tsheko told Weekend Post on the sidelines of the Conference that the need thinking in government manifests in the formulation of a new policy on cooperatives currently being implemented.
The Department of Cooperatives in supporting the development of cooperatives in Botswana through collaboration with other Ministries and government departments whereby various government empowerment programmes like those related to poverty eradication are pooled together for the benefit of groups their than individuals.
Tsheko says the challenge is to change prevailing public negative mindset against Co-operatives. His department, he says is looking a more innovative business models and encourage members to venture into production oriented activities where they enjoy a comparative advantage of having access to land such horticulture and property development and leave retail and consumer based enterprises to those better able to manage them.
The Conference participants were told that Co-operatives provide individuals and communities with an instrument of self-help and influence over their socio-economic development. Co-operatives have a long term aim of sustainable economic growth, social development and environmental responsibility.
They are builders of sustainability, spur growth and development in all sectors of the economy and achieve this by working in partnership with other stakeholders who have a common vision and interest.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.
The State has chosen to ignore intents by kingpins in the P100 billion scandal to sue for a combined P85 million as tables turn against the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.
Key players in the matter; the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Bank of Botswana (BoB) have eroded the prospects of success following the duo’s institutions’ appearance before parliamentary committees recently.