Despite substantive efforts to re-ignite recovery, global economic growth remains low and unemployment persistently high. The Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016 calls for productivity-enhancing reforms to break with this pattern.
Botswana is ranked at position 71 out of 140 countries in the 2015-2016 report and the stats are not appealing to the eye on a number of pillars. In the last report Botswana was ranked 74 out 144 countries. The latest ranking cannot be regarded as an improvement because of the decrease in the number of overall countries participating in the rankings.
Poor work ethic in the labour force is one of the major concerns for Botswana. Based on the fact that the rankings are based on the opinion of various stakeholders including the business community, it is assumed that these views reflect what the employers are saying about the country’s workforce.
A score of 19.0 in this category almost puts the country at emergency status when it comes to this category, there is need to initiate positive changes in this area. In emerging markets and developing countries in particular, there is scope for raising productivity through structural reforms. In addition the report states that raising productivity growth increases potential output and can contribute to boosting overall growth.
Inefficient government bureaucracy remains a teething problem. Botswana is seen as one of the countries with over-regulation is most sectors and this is seen to be hindrance to prosperity for the country. According to the report, potential investors shun countries with too many red-tapes and Botswana is a case in example. Botswana managed a score of 12.7 in this category.
Restrictive labour regulations are a headache in the country, the Global Competitiveness scorecard suggests. With a score of 11.9, it is clear that Botswana must revisit her labour regulations in order to compete meaningfully in the global space.
Recently the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs progress report indicated some intended changes in the country’s labour laws. Employers are of the view that dismissals and retrenchments have been crafted to become unnecessarily cumbersome.
Access to financing has also been identified to be a crippling factor to Botswana’s competitiveness. According to the report it is not easy to access finance in Botswana especially for start-up businesses. Botswana managed a score of 10.4 in this pillar.
In the last decade Botswana has open up the education sector, allowing private tertiary institutions to receive government funded students into their campuses with the hope to improve the higher learning ranking.
But the latest Global Competitiveness report fingers an ‘inadequately educated workforce’ as one of the reasons why the country ranks lowly in the world, with a score of 9.3, the Ministry of Education and Skills Development may want to engage stakeholders, especially the Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC), partners in the production of this report, to identify problem areas.
The business community has complained about the quality of graduates in some instances, noting that the education sector must forge further working relations with industry to produce the right candidates for Botswana’s job market. The Global Competitiveness Report says strong vocational skills remain an important source of comparative advantage.
Inadequate supply of infrastructure hampers Botswana’s competitiveness and also jeopardises chances of prosperity as espoused by the country’s Vision 2016 and probably the new Vision. The main problem areas are in the area of water and energy as evidenced by recent developments. However lately government has taken bold steps in these areas, with the Minister of Minerals, Energy, and Water Resources reporting directly to Cabinet on projects earmarked to address these sectors.
Corruption is also top on factors that affect Botswana’s competitiveness and so is insufficient capacity to innovate.
Crime and theft; Tax rates; Inflation; Policy instability; Complexity of tax regulations; Poor public health; Government instability/coups; and Foreign currency regulations are not real concerns for Botswana, the country is doing well on these fronts and is competing at international level.
Leveraging the human factor
According to the report, at the heart of an economy’s competitiveness is its capacity to leverage talent. High unemployment figures weigh heavily on societies, risking not only prolonged lower demand but also the de-skilling of a significant segment of the labour force and growing discontent, the report states.
“This holds even truer in the post-crisis years, which coincide with a fundamental shift away from the traditional manufacturing industry while the widespread use of ICT is generating entirely new industries and disrupting others. Talent-driven economies are best equipped to adapt to the changes brought about by this tech revolution and to reap their benefits.”
A tool for policy-makers
“Growth recovery in unchartered territory will require recognizing that we need a shared assessment and understanding of the future sources of competitiveness. By reducing complexity and providing a tool to identify strengths and weaknesses and track progress, the Report serves to inform and support policy-makers, businesses and civil society in their development of a shared, long-term vision. Beyond the vision, enhancing competitiveness is a complex and often protracted process that demands difficult trade-offs, careful consideration for sequencing reforms and room for calibration in changing conditions. Steering the course towards enhanced competitiveness requires vigilance and commitment from all stakeholders and throughout the process, for which the Report serves as a guide and monitoring tool.”
Competitiveness drives resilience
The Global Competitiveness Report shows that competitiveness – understood as higher productivity – is a key driver of growth and resilience. The historic proportions of the economic crisis and the relative performance of economies since its onset in 2008 have shed light on how structural weaknesses can exacerbate the effects of, and hinder recovery from shocks.
During the crisis, the more competitive economies systematically outperformed the least competitive in terms of economic growth: they either withstood the crisis better or recovered more quickly. This result holds true at every stage of development.
The Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016 assesses the competitiveness landscape of 140 economies, providing insight into the drivers of their productivity and prosperity. The Report series remains the most comprehensive assessment of national competitiveness worldwide. In this year’s report, Switzerland, Singapore, United States of America, Germany, and the Netherlands, top the pile in that order.
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.