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The Social Breakdown Syndrome

How Behaviour on Botswana Roads is a Fair Reflexion of What Happens in Our Society

Many things happen in public roads in Botswana that provide a good reflection of what is happening in society at large. The state of our society, especially as reflected by the negative characteristics that generate topics of discussion in many fora, is a major source of worry for many people in the country.

In recent months many fora have discussed the deteriorating behaviour and social trends in the country, especially as reflected in the behaviour of the youth, but not by all means confined to that important section of our society.

Just to name a few worrying things that generate a lot of discussion: lack of respect by the young for adults such as failure to greet adults and exhibitions of amorous behaviour in public, drinking of alcohol by the under-aged, irresponsible drinking by the older ones, other substance abuse by both groups, sexual activity resulting in teenage pregnancy and dropping out of school which is a sign of early sexual debut and the widespread indulgence in unprotected sex, a tendency to vandalize public property etc.

On another front, there is the poor work ethic that compounds the lack of jobs, and there are general signs of irresponsible behaviour, including small things like urinating in public, deliberately littering in roads and other public places and vandalizing public/government property as happens in schools.

So, I thought I would take a slightly different direction in discussing these oft-discussed topics and tackle them from a different angle, just to get people thinking. My approach is to look at behaviour in our roads and to see to what extent such behaviour can be used as a proxy of what is happening in our society in general. In other words, is behaviour in our roads a good reflection of what is happening in our society in general? I will look at drivers, pedestrians, and indirect users of the roads such as cattle farmers.

Let us look at the drivers. There are many laws and rules that are daily flouted on our roads that the law enforcement agencies seem to have given up on. One needs to drive on any busy Gaborone road for only a few minutes to see i) drivers openly talking on their cell-phones, ii) children playing around in the cars or standing next to drivers without any restraining seat-belt or child seat, or iii) drivers nonchalantly driving through red lights; in fact when the traffic light turns green for you, you have to wait for a few seconds as several cars from the direction that has turned red will pass before you can go on.

Minibus and taxi drivers do fascinating things; they will either cut in front of you and then drive very slowly, or too fast! Weaving between lanes irrespective of how much the other drivers are being inconvenienced by having to slam on their brakes is very common as well, and this is universal, not just done by the taxis.

Many drive under the influence of alcohol- just look at the number of vehicles parked at bars and similar establishments and wonder where the drivers are. Even more interesting, if all those involved in accidents were to be breathalysed, we would get a much truer picture of the actual incidence of accidents caused driving under the influence, than currently when only those who are suspected are breathalysed.

Those in the alcohol industry should stop quoting current figures and then claiming that driving under the influence only accounts for a small percentage of accidents, because we cannot know the actual figure unless all those involved in accidents are breathalysed or tested.

Gaborone has the distinguishing feature of being the only city I have personally been to, (and I have been to virtually all the capital cities of SADC, and many in the rest of Africa and around the world) where a large number of traffic lights have simply been knocked down by motorists.

It is a character of drivers very typical of Botswana! In addition, our motorists will gladly drive through traffic circles and also knock down walls near such circles. One cannot help but sympathize with the University of Botswana authorities; their wall next to the traffic circle nearest to them (the UB circle as it is called), is routinely knocked down by motorists during weekends. It must be costing them a pile to keep repairing the wall; I notice nowadays they leave it unrepaired for long periods, one can’t blame them.

In the highways things are not any better- the Gaborone-Lobatse road is a case in point. Drivers do amazing things. The most common and irritating one is to go very slowly, sometimes as slow as 50KPH, and completely ignore the traffic jam they are causing.

This is despite the fact that the road has a shoulder in most parts where slow-moving drivers can drive and allow faster drivers to move on. At night, and this is in all the roads, drivers do not switch on lights long after sunset. Such cars are dangerous, one can hardly see them even when one has one’s own lights on. Recently a correspondent wrote to the press expressing disgust that the Gaborone-Lobatse segment of the A1 is not a dual carriageway.

I sympathize with him, but I also sympathize with the Government. The Government has to prioritize where to use our taxpayers’ money, and believe me, prioritization is a major problem. Do you want to dual this particular road while many roads are not even tarred at all?

At what point does the balance of priorities favour this one? Motorists are a major problem here, they could make the road much more tolerable, by driving professionally and being courteous to others, and where there is a shoulder, moving there and facilitating smoother traffic flow.

In our dual carriageways, there seems to be no rule regarding left and right lanes. It is not unusual to find a very slow-moving car in the right lane which is supposed to be the fast lane. Drivers seem to select the lanes randomly- the drive left and overtake right seems not to be operative at all.

So much for drivers, now for pedestrians. Pedestrians using zebra crossings can really be irritating. Many of them will make a driver stop and give way to let them cross, and then they will take a leisurely walk across the pedestrian crossing while the driver waits. In many cases, and this is common with Secondary School students, you can see they are doing it deliberately to annoy you the motorist, as they chat and laugh.

Pedestrians do other terrible things; they walk along the roads and deposit all sorts of nasty litter on the road. It is not unusual, especially during weekends, to find empty beer and other beverage bottles nicely put next to traffic lights. All other litter is thrown about the roads, such as empty take-away food cartons.

To be frank, motorists also contribute to the littering. I have followed and seen motorists and their passengers throwing all sorts of litter through windows onto the road, from beer and other beverage tins to all sorts of cartons. It is usually the young well-to-do; of course they are the ones who can afford to drive cars.

Finally, cattle owners. All the roads in Botswana have the problem of stray cattle, but the problem is particularly irritating in the A1, as it is our major road, and is most annoying in the Gaborone-Lobatse segment. The interesting thing with cattle on the roads is that the Government could do something about it but lacks the political will to do so. All that is needed is for cattle in gazetted roads and in towns to be impounded and be auctioned off in a week or so.

In addition, the charges for keeping impounded cattle (and other livestock) should be enough to be deterrent. The current charges are cheaper than engaging a herdman. Cattle owners actually let their animals roam the streets of Gaborone and other towns, and major roads like the A1, with impunity, because the charges are convenient.

So, going back to our original question, can all this behaviour outlined above be used to judge the extent of our social breakdown status, or anti-social behaviour? Let’s look at the various categories of behaviour described above, and see what they suggest in terms of negative behaviour:

Lawlessness and anarchy: The drivers in our roads obviously don’t care for the law- the use of cell phones, driving with unrestrained children in the cab, jumping red lights, driving under the influence etc. typify this. Knocking down traffic lights and driving into walls, especially under the influence of alcohol, would also fall under this category.

Lack of professionalism: Drivers on our roads don’t care to be courteous to other drivers- not allowing for faster flow of traffic by moving to shoulder, weaving in traffic between lanes or going very slowly in a fast (right) lane, all demonstrate this.

Lack of respect for older people and for others generally: Pedestrians contribute to negative behaviour. Strolling across pedestrian crossings is very discourteous, especially as it is done largely by young people. They also tend to do things like holding hands and behaving intimately in public roads.

Public disorderliness and lack of pride in one’s country or society: A good example of this is pedestrians placing beer and other beverage bottles on the roads, not uncommonly at traffic lights. The same applies to throwing other litter all over the roads. Motorists also do this, especially young drivers under the influence of alcohol, trying to demonstrate defiance.

A culture of entitlement: Livestock owners, especially cattle owners, demonstrate an unbelievable sense of entitlement by simply allowing their animals to roam in towns and road reserves. They say that these roads and towns are situated where their cattle posts used to be. In many cases this is not true.

Where it may be true, surely they know that there are always areas where livestock is not allowed. They actually open gates of the road reserve fence to let their animals in!
So, all in all, our modernity is fostering many negative behaviours. Parents, adults and society in general seem to be unable to handle the attendant changes.

As I have said a few times before, the challenge is change management. Our society (led by various categories of leaders- traditional, political, public servants etc.) needs to manage these modernizing changes among the people of Botswana and minimize the negative behaviours, because the changes will come whether we want it or not.

While we may be able to resurrect some positive things from the past, we can never move our society back to what it was centuries or even decades ago. Being nostalgic about traditional or cultural practices whose time has passed will not help us in this particular challenge.

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IEC Disrespects Batswana: A Critical Analysis

10th November 2023

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has recently faced significant criticism for its handling of the voter registration exercise. In this prose I aim to shed light on the various instances where the IEC has demonstrated a lack of respect towards the citizens of Botswana, leading to a loss of credibility. By examining the postponements of the registration exercise and the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively, it becomes evident that the institution has disregarded its core mandate and the importance of its role in ensuring fair and transparent elections.

Incompetence or Disrespect?

One possible explanation for the IEC’s behavior is sheer incompetence. It is alarming to consider that the leadership of such a critical institution may lack the understanding of the importance of their mandate. The failure to communicate the reasons for the postponements in a timely manner raises questions about their ability to handle their responsibilities effectively. Furthermore, if the issue lies with government processes, it calls into question whether the IEC has the courage to stand up to the country’s leadership.

Another possibility is that the IEC lacks respect for its core clients, the voters of Botswana. Respect for stakeholders is crucial in building trust, and clear communication is a key component of this. The IEC’s failure to communicate accurate and complete information, despite having access to it, has fueled speculation and mistrust. Additionally, the IEC’s disregard for engaging with political parties, such as the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), further highlights this disrespect. By ignoring the UDC’s request to observe the registration process, the IEC demonstrates a lack of regard for its partners in the electoral exercise.

Rebuilding Trust and Credibility:

While allegations of political interference and security services involvement cannot be ignored, the IEC has a greater responsibility to ensure its own credibility. The institution did manage to refute claims by the DISS Director that the IEC database had been compromised, which is a positive step towards rebuilding trust. However, this remains a small glimmer of hope in the midst of the IEC’s overall disregard for the citizens of Botswana.

To regain the trust of Batswana, the IEC must prioritize respect for its stakeholders. Clear and timely communication is essential in this process. By engaging with political parties and addressing their concerns, the IEC can demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. It is crucial for the IEC to recognize that its credibility is directly linked to the trust it garners from the voters.


The IEC’s recent actions have raised serious concerns about its credibility and respect for the citizens of Botswana. Whether due to incompetence or a lack of respect for stakeholders, the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively and handle its responsibilities has damaged its reputation. To regain trust and maintain relevance, the IEC must prioritize clear and timely communication, engage with political parties, and demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. Only by respecting the voters of Botswana can the IEC fulfill its crucial role in ensuring free and fair elections.


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Fuelling Change: The Evolving Dynamics of the Oil and Gas Industry

4th April 2023

The Oil and Gas industry has undergone several significant developments and changes over the last few years. Understanding these developments and trends is crucial towards better appreciating how to navigate the engagement in this space, whether directly in the energy space or in associated value chain roles such as financing.

Here, we explore some of the most notable global events and trends and the potential impact or bearing they have on the local and global market.

Governments and companies around the world have been increasingly focused on transitioning towards renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. This shift is motivated by concerns about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Africa, including Botswana, is part of these discussions, as we work to collectively ensure a greener and more sustainable future. Indeed, this is now a greater priority the world over. It aligns closely with the increase in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing being observed. ESG investing has become increasingly popular, and many investors are now looking for companies that are focused on sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint. This trend could have significant implications for the oil and fuel industry, which is often viewed as environmentally unsustainable. Relatedly and equally key are the evolving government policies. Government policies and regulations related to the Oil and Gas industry are likely to continue evolving with discussions including incentives for renewable energy and potentially imposing stricter regulations on emissions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a strong role. Over the last two years, the pandemic had a profound impact on the Oil and Gas industry (and fuel generally), leading to a significant drop in demand as travel and economic activity slowed down. As a result, oil prices plummeted, with crude oil prices briefly turning negative in April 2020. Most economies have now vaccinated their populations and are in recovery mode, and with the recovery of the economies, there has been recovery of oil prices; however, the pace and sustainability of recovery continues to be dependent on factors such as emergence of new variants of the virus.

This period, which saw increased digital transformation on the whole, also saw accelerated and increased investment in technology. The Oil and Gas industry is expected to continue investing in new digital technologies to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This also means a necessary understanding and subsequent action to address the impacts from the rise of electric vehicles. The growing popularity of electric vehicles is expected to reduce demand for traditional gasoline-powered cars. This has, in turn, had an impact on the demand for oil.

Last but not least, geopolitical tensions have played a tremendous role. Geopolitical tensions between major oil-producing countries can and has impacted the supply of oil and fuel. Ongoing tensions in the Middle East and between the US and Russia could have an impact on global oil prices further, and we must be mindful of this.

On the home front in Botswana, all these discussions are relevant and the subject of discussion in many corporate and even public sector boardrooms. Stanbic Bank Botswana continues to take a lead in supporting the Oil and Gas industry in its current state and as it evolves and navigates these dynamics. This is through providing financing to support Oil and Gas companies’ operations, including investments in new technologies. The Bank offers risk management services to help oil and gas companies to manage risks associated with price fluctuations, supply chain disruptions and regulatory changes. This includes offering hedging products and providing advice on risk management strategies.

Advisory and support for sustainability initiatives that the industry undertakes is also key to ensuring that, as companies navigate complex market conditions, they are more empowered to make informed business decisions. It is important to work with Oil and Gas companies to develop and implement sustainability strategies, such as reducing emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy. This is key to how partners such as Stanbic Bank work to support the sector.

Last but not least, Stanbic Bank stands firmly in support of Botswana’s drive in the development of the sector with the view to attain better fuel security and reduce dependence risk on imported fuel. This is crucial towards ensuring a stronger, stabler market, and a core aspect to how we can play a role in helping drive Botswana’s growth.  Continued understanding, learning, and sustainable action are what will help ensure the Oil and Gas sector is supported towards positive, sustainable and impactful growth in a manner that brings social, environmental and economic benefit.

Loago Tshomane is Manager, Client Coverage, Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB), Stanbic Bank Botswana

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Brands are important

27th March 2023

So, the conclusion is brands are important. I start by concluding because one hopes this is a foregone conclusion given the furore that erupts over a botched brand. If a fast food chef bungles a food order, there’d be possibly some isolated complaint thrown. However, if the same company’s marketing expert or agency cooks up a tasteless brand there is a country-wide outcry. Why?  Perhaps this is because brands affect us more deeply than we care to understand or admit. The fact that the uproar might be equal parts of schadenfreude, black twitter-esque criticism and, disappointment does not take away from the decibel of concern raised.

A good place to start our understanding of a brand is naturally by defining what a brand is. Marty Neumier, the genius who authored The Brand Gap, offers this instructive definition – “A brand is a person’s gut feel about a product or service”. In other words, a brand is not what the company says it is. It is what the people feel it is. It is the sum total of what it means to them. Brands are perceptions. So, brands are defined by individuals not companies. But brands are owned by companies not individuals. Brands are crafted in privacy but consumed publicly. Brands are communal. Granted, you say. But that doesn’t still explain why everybody and their pet dog feel entitled to jump in feet first into a brand slug-fest armed with a hot opinion. True. But consider the following truism.


Brands are living. They act as milestones in our past. They are signposts of our identity. Beacons of our triumphs. Indexes of our consumption. Most importantly, they have invaded our very words and world view. Try going for just 24 hours without mentioning a single brand name. Quite difficult, right? Because they live among us they have become one of us. And we have therefore built ‘brand bonds’ with them. For example, iPhone owners gather here. You love your iPhone. It goes everywhere. You turn to it in moments of joy and when we need a quick mood boost. Notice how that ‘relationship’ started with desire as you longingly gazed upon it in a glossy brochure. That quickly progressed to asking other people what they thought about it. Followed by the zero moment of truth were you committed and voted your approval through a purchase. Does that sound like a romantic relationship timeline. You bet it does. Because it is. When we conduct brand workshops we run the Brand Loyalty ™ exercise wherein we test people’s loyalty to their favourite brand(s). The results are always quite intriguing. Most people are willing to pay a 40% premium over the standard price for ‘their’ brand. They simply won’t easily ‘breakup’ with it. Doing so can cause brand ‘heart ache’. There is strong brand elasticity for loved brands.


Now that we know brands are communal and endeared, then companies armed with this knowledge, must exercise caution and practise reverence when approaching the subject of rebranding. It’s fragile. The question marketers ought to ask themselves before gleefully jumping into the hot rebranding cauldron is – Do we go for an Evolution (partial rebrand) or a Revolution(full rebrand)? An evolution is incremental. It introduces small but significant changes or additions to the existing visual brand. Here, think of the subtle changes you’ve seen in financial or FMCG brands over the decades. Evolution allows you to redirect the brand without alienating its horde of faithful followers. As humans we love the familiar and certain. Change scares us. Especially if we’ve not been privy to the important but probably blinkered ‘strategy sessions’ ongoing behind the scenes. Revolutions are often messy. They are often hard reset about-turns aiming for a total new look and ‘feel’.



Hard rebranding is risky business. History is littered with the agony of brands large and small who felt the heat of public disfavour. In January 2009, PepsiCo rebranded the Tropicana. When the newly designed package hit the shelves, consumers were not having it. The New York Times reports that ‘some of the commenting described the new packaging as ‘ugly’ ‘stupid’. They wanted their old one back that showed a ripe orange with a straw in it. Sales dipped 20%. PepsiCo reverted to the old logo and packaging within a month. In 2006 Mastercard had to backtrack away from it’s new logo after public criticism, as did Leeds United, and the clothing brand Gap. AdAge magazine reports that critics most common sentiment about the Gap logo was that it looked like something a child had created using a clip-art gallery. Botswana is no different. University of Botswana had to retreat into the comfort of the known and accepted heritage strong brand.  Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital was badgered with complaints till it ‘adjusted’ its logo.



So if the landscape of rebranding is so treacherous then whey take the risk? Companies need to soberly assess they need for a rebrand. According to the fellows at Ignyte Branding a rebrand is ignited by the following admissions :

Our brand name no longer reflects our company’s vision.
We’re embarrassed to hand out our business cards.

Our competitive advantage is vague or poorly articulated.
Our brand has lost focus and become too complex to understand. Our business model or strategy has changed.
Our business has outgrown its current brand.
We’re undergoing or recently underwent a merger or acquisition. Our business has moved or expanded its geographic reach.
We need to disassociate our brand from a negative image.
We’re struggling to raise our prices and increase our profit margins. We want to expand our influence and connect to new audiences. We’re not attracting top talent for the positions we need to fill. All the above are good reasons to rebrand.

The downside to this debacle is that companies genuinely needing to rebrand might be hesitant or delay it altogether. The silver lining I guess is that marketing often mocked for its charlatans, is briefly transformed from being the Archilles heel into Thanos’ glove in an instant.

So what does a company need to do to safely navigate the rebranding terrain? Companies need to interrogate their brand purpose thoroughly. Not what they think they stand for but what they authentically represent when seen through the lens of their team members. In our Brand Workshop we use a number of tools to tease out the compelling brand truth. This section always draws amusing insights. Unfailingly, the top management (CEO & CFO)always has a vastly different picture of their brand to the rest of their ExCo and middle management, as do they to the customer-facing officer. We have only come across one company that had good internal alignment. Needless to say that brand is doing superbly well.

There is need a for brand strategies to guide the brand. One observes that most brands ‘make a plan’ as they go along. Little or no deliberate position on Brand audit, Customer research, Brand positioning and purpose, Architecture, Messaging, Naming, Tagline, Brand Training and may more. A brand strategy distils why your business exists beyond making money – its ‘why’. It defines what makes your brand what it is, what differentiates it from the competition and how you want your customers to perceive it. Lacking a brand strategy disadvantages the company in that it appears soul-less and lacking in personality. Naturally, people do not like to hang around humans with nothing to say. A brand strategy understands the value proposition. People don’t buy nails for the nails sake. They buy nails to hammer into the wall to hang pictures of their loved ones. People don’t buy make up because of its several hues and shades. Make up is self-expression. Understanding this arms a brand with an iron clad clad strategy on the brand battlefield.

But perhaps you’ve done the important research and strategy work. It’s still possible to bungle the final look and feel.  A few years ago one large brand had an extensive strategy done. Hopes were high for a top tier brand reveal. The eventual proposed brand was lack-lustre. I distinctly remember, being tasked as local agency to ‘land’ the brand and we outright refused. We could see this was a disaster of epic proportions begging to happen. The brand consultants were summoned to revise the logo. After a several tweaks and compromises the brand landed. It currently exists as one of the country’s largest brands. Getting the logo and visual look right is important. But how does one know if they are on the right path? Using the simile of a brand being a person – The answer is how do you know your outfit is right? It must serve a function, be the right fit and cut, it must be coordinated and lastly it must say something about you. So it is possible to bath in a luxurious bath gel, apply exotic lotion, be facebeat and still somehow wear a faux pas outfit. Avoid that.

Another suggestion is to do the obvious. Pre-test the logo and its look and feel on a cross section of your existing and prospective audience. There are tools to do this. Their feedback can save you money, time and pain. Additionally one must do another obvious check – use Google Image to verify the visual outcome and plain Google search to verify the name. These are so obvious they are hopefully for gone conclusions. But for the brands that have gone ahead without them, I hope you have not concluded your brand journeys as there is a world of opportunity waiting to be unlocked with the right brand strategy key.

Cliff Mada is Head of ArmourGetOn Brand Consultancy, based in Gaborone and Cape Town.

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