The nation awaits completion of the Botswana Innovation Hub’s acclaimed central iconic building. The magnificent, state-of-the-art, iconic masterpiece of architecture is a world class building that provides modern high quality premises that are easily adaptable with plug and play shared facilities within the Botswana Innovation Hub Science and Technology Park.
The multi-use building boasts unfurnished office space, laboratories and an array of shared amenities such as meeting, board and training rooms, restaurants, coffee shops, gyms and wellness centers, postal services, banking and ATM services, and many other complementary services that provide work, live and play type of environment.
Included in the mix of offerings is uninterrupted water, electricity and data connections as well as services such as common area cleaning, maintenance, security, and administration within a secure business and networking environment. Designed by New York based ShoP Architecture, the central buildings are a prestigious, stately, iconic work of genius whose designs won the 2013 Autodesk Design Awards. The building is regarded as one of Africa’s pioneering ‘green’ structures.
According to the World Green Building Council, “Green building (also known as green construction or sustainable building) refers to a structure and using process that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life cycle: from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition.”
This requires close cooperation of the design team, the architects, the engineers, and the client at all project stages. The Green Building practice adopted in the design and construction of the Icon Building expands and complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort.
One of the critical roles of a science and technology park is to foster an innovation ecosystem through technology transfer. Technology transfer refers to, “the process of transferring skills, knowledge, technologies, methods of manufacturing, samples of manufacturing and facilities among governments or universities and other institutions to ensure that scientific and technological developments are accessible to a wider range of users who can then further develop and exploit the technology into new products, processes, applications, materials or services.”
Invariably, technology transfer is an integral part of the development of advanced science and technology innovation capital and activities at the Botswana Innovation Hub Science and Technology Park. The process that calls for, “investment in dynamic capabilities, particularly those that shape the ability of national stakeholders to uptake and absorb technologies and make improvements in line with local circumstances,” is imbedded in the parks design, construction and operation.
ShoP Architects’ resident architect, Adam Koogler says, “Technology Transfer is infused at all stages of development of the Botswana Innovation Hub Science and Technology Park from design to construction through to the operation of the Science and Technology Park.”
He explains that one of the cutting edge technologies that is being used by SHoP Architecture in the design ingenuity and construction of the high-tech Icon Building is Virtual Design and Construction (VDC).
“VDC is the management of integrated multi-disciplinary performance models of design-construction projects, including the product, work processes and organization of the design – construction – operation team in order to support explicit and public business objectives,” he said.
The VDC technology was demonstrated to the Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology, Honourable Nonofo Molefi during his ongoing crusade to monitor government projects to ensure they are delivered on time, within budget and in approved specifications.
Speaking during his recent tour of the Botswana Innovation Hub Science and Technology, Park, Hon. Molefi said it is important for government to benefit from this cutting edge technology deployed in the design and construction of the country’s first science and technology park.
The Minister said government officers must be trained in the use of the VDC software in order to improve their skills and competencies and their management and execution of government projects. “The technology will go a long way in monitoring projects to ensure buildings are built to the correct specs to contain costs and meet scheduled targets every step of the way,” he said.
The Minister encouraged the adoption of technologies that will help avert whatever impediments to progress that might arise and help government officers to move swiftly to address these. He cautioned against the adoption of moribund technology. “As government we are obliged to protect the country from being laden with technology that will be obsolete in the near future,” he warned.
Construction of the Icon Building is scheduled for completion in 2016 in line to be commissioned as part of the flagship projects that celebrate Botswana’s 50th anniversary of independence.
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”