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New Generation Co-operatives; a call to Youth

Like most people I am aware our societies have predefined our definition of success and prosperity. Like most of you, I am aware our communities have relegated and/or restricted attributes of success and prosperity to superficial and financial/materialistic parameters.

Like most you, I know today’s sole measure of our people’s success or lack thereof is solely defined by; the amount of money in your account, the type and location of your wedding, the type of school you and your children attend, the location and size of your house, number plots (title-deeds) under your name, number and type of cars you own/drive, the type of food, restaurants and brands you are associated with. I have had this conversation with many of our people before; officially and unofficially this appears to be a nationally accepted success barometer.

In this author’s view this reality is directly linked and/or responsible for our country’s disheartening economic development hardships such as; high income inequality, mounting un- and underemployment, relentless poverty, weak industrialization and slow economic diversification. Renowned nationalists, reformists and/or nobel laureates such as; Mandela, Nkurumah, Ghandi, Sankara and Fanon, earned respect and liberated many nations and people, particularly Youth and Women, by unequivocally discouraging this mind set among their communities and nations.

These legends encouraged communities to see their value and purpose in life beyond material wealth and material incentives. They encourage their communities to measure their purpose and success by the state of their communities and neighbors. Not only did they preach this, they lived it and led by example.

They planted the spirit of ubuntu-‘I Am Because We Are’. Consequently their societies and communities were founded on principles; of social inclusion, democratic economy and fair wealth distribution. Even contemporary technocrats, academics and multinational development partners encourage nations to reconsider bygone social, environmental and economic model(s). Their vast research findings and reports directly and indirectly speak highly of the models once used by distinguished leaders cited earlier.

I encourage anyone with time and interest to interrogate Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with aim of distilling its fundamental inspiration and intents.  You are bound to notice a very strong emphasis on inclusive wealthy communities. One of my basic recommendations in this regard will be a paper titled; ‘From Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals’ by special adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Jeffery Sachs.

At this point I assume the fact that Botswana has one the highest inequalities (gap between the rich and the poor) is not a secret. I also assume the fact that Botswana’s unemployment figures have relentlessly remained around 20% since 2007 is also not a secret.

I also assume the fact that Botswana’s remarkable Economic Growth has not translated into equivalent Economic Development is also not a secret. Concurrently, it has been empirically, theoretically and otherwise proven that Botswana, like most African countries, is blessed with a youthful population.

About sixty-five (65) percent of her population is people under 35 years of age. Therefore Botswana’s economic development hardships are felt mostly and mainly by its young people. Furthermore Botswana’s possible economic transformation and prosperity rests mainly on its Youthful populace.

To be precise; it rests on their energy, creativity and innovative spirit; educational skills and achievements; willingness to volunteer; and, willingness to take risks. It is on this bases that those with regard for the future and prosperity of this country have and continue to place major focus on Youth Socioeconomic Empowerment and Development.

It is also in this regard that this author found it appropriate to offer this installment titled; ‘New Generation Co-operatives; a call to Youth’. I suspect by now most occasional and habitual followers of this author’s offerings here and elsewhere know I am among the few Co-operatives Development and Prosperity advocates. We advocate for development and prosperity of Co-operatives based on their exclusive inherent founding principle of economic growth and equality simultaneously.

The call and plead in this installment and its subsequent offerings is targeted at, but not limited to, the Youth of our country (Botswana).  Firstly, I must admit the Co-operative model and philosophy has not strategically transformed with the times in many countries, Botswana inclusive. However I must also admit there are few critical transformations and developments surrounding the Co-operative model and philosophy, more especially during this critical phase of alignment to new development blueprints such as SDGs.

These transformations are mainly targeted towards converting Co-operatives into sustainable competitive and viable business ventures. These transformations include expanding common bonds beyond the traditional areas and venture into non-traditional Co-operatives such as; consultancy, insurance, banking, transportation and housing just to mention but a few.

The transformations also include; deliberate aggressive Co-operative branding and mindset change, mapping of Co-operative growth pillars, enhancement of Co-operative environment of doing business, increased youth involvement in Co-operatives, reviewing of Co-operative financing and insurance, and enhancement of co-operative corporate governance to mention but a few.  This transformation is universally acclaimed and ratified in every continent and country.

We (Botswana) have not been left behind in this key transformation process; the ‘Co-operative Transformation Strategy for Botswana’ justifies our commitment and plan of action in this regard. Slowly but surely these transformations have proved to be the long awaited midwife of New Generations Co-operatives (NGCs). NGCs are simply an adaptation of traditional cooperative structures to modern, capital intensive industries.

They are sometimes described as a hybrid between traditional co-operatives and limited liability companies. They were first developed in California and spread and flourished in the US Mid-West in the 1990s (Alberta, 2011). NGCs are reported to be very common in Canada where they operate primarily in agriculture and food services, where their primary purpose is to add value to primary products. For example, producing ethanol from corn, pasta from durum wheat, or gourmet cheese from goats milk (Alberta, 2011).

Recent data from the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) indicates that Youth in most countries are collaborating to establish NGCs. The data further shows that due to their comparative educational backgrounds their NGCs seem more relevant, sustainable and competitive compared to purely convectional traditional Co-operatives models. The report further cautions and encourages countries with low NGCs incidences, such as Botswana, to encourage and support the establishment of Youth NGCs.

The direct and indirect benefits of Youth owned NGCs in any country’s economy are unambiguous and cross-cutting. NGCs have a clear direct link to job creation, employment creation, poverty alleviation, economic growth, economic development and economic diversification among others. Myriad research findings have shown that majority of Youth have been reluctant to join and/or start convectional Co-operatives because they consider them somewhat irrelevant and outdated.

I must admit I found this submission valid and substantial, I was convinced if the conventional Co-operative model and philosophy are not revamped, we may as well forget about Youth joining the Co-operative movement and establishing NGCs.

Fortunately the transformation has been put into place and the dream of Youth joining the co-operative movement is fast becoming a reality, more importantly the vision of NGCs is also fast becoming a reality. Many young people across the globe are reported to be escaping the current economic development hardship through establishment of NGCs.

However my main concern and nightmare is the reality that Youth in our country (Botswana) are still left behind in this regard. Despite the harsh economic hardships our young people are faced with, there are still very few NGCs taking-off. Despite the amazing and diverse educational qualifications (skills) our un- and underemployed youthful graduates are blessed with, there are still very few NGCs kick-starting. Despite the shocking level of exportation of raw materials and importation of finished products/services, there are still very few NGCs taking-off.

Despite our government’s earnest commitment and investment in Economic Diversification, there are still very few NGCs taking-off. Botswana is preparing to unleash its new national Vision 2036 blueprint, she is also in the process of developing here National Development Plan (NDP) 11, and she is also bracing herself to advance the universal Sustainable Development agenda. Most of these have not been made public, but it is neither far-fetched nor misguided to assume and predict that all of these will be focused on redressing economic equalities, reducing poverty, creating decent and permanent jobs, stimulating industrialization/value addition and diversifying our mineral based economy. 

As Botswana moves towards this noble journey, it is important for us to explore and promote viable economic development models that can deliver our nation to the promised-land. Without any doubt Youth NGCs are some of the key economic development avenues that can and will help our nation actualize its economic development aspirations; hence I call on Youth in particular and the Youth development fraternity at large to consider and advance NGCs as one of our very few viable economic development avenues. Lastly, I pledge my unlimited support to all Youth and Youth based structures in actualizing this fundamental nation building agenda.

* Taziba is Youth Advocate, Columnist & Researcher with keen interest in Youth Policy, Civic Engagement, Social Inclusion and Capacity Development
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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021


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:

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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.

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


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.

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