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Gender equity: Time to think differently!


The question of gender is one that raises emotions when discussed, but it is a subject that we should engage in with honestly, without fear or favour and with carefully moderated emotions. In many cases I see that a lot of us try desperately to be political correct when addressing this issue because of fear of backlash from activists who can be very aggressive and emotional.

Gender equity should not be about women; it should not be about men; it should be about empowering all our women and men, all our girls and boys so that they can all play their full part in society not inhibited by any discriminatory laws and societal norms.

Only biological or physical differences should limit us; a man for obvious reasons cannot bear a child but he can fully take care of a child; a crippled man cannot climb stairs but he can be assisted to get to the very top.  Any human-made discriminatory tendencies should be eliminated to allow full use of all our human capital, male and female, to meet the needs of the individual as well as the interests of humanity.


It is no accident that we have both women and men. God created both man and woman; he created them equal in his own image. However, he created them at different times and differently in order for them to perform certain Godly assigned complementary functions. God said after creating man, ‘It is not good for a man to be alone; I will therefore make a helper suitable for him’.

Therefore, although women and men were not created biologically, physically and emotionally the same, the differences where a deliberate act of creation meant to empower us for the different roles and functions we were created to play in filling the earth and building it to serve humanity. We need to understand this in order for us to appreciate and to help each other to reach full potential. We must understand that no one is better than the other because of the accident of gender. We do not choose to be female or male, do we?


Since creation we have distorted and manipulated God’s plan. Over the years we have created structures, systems, customs, laws, dogmas etc that discriminated and disadvantaged God’s people based on gender. It looks like women suffered the most, but there are many areas where men are also discriminated against, but gender activists turn a blind eye. One can also say men are largely responsible for the creation of these inequalities and therefore to a large extent men must be urged to champion and lead the reversal of these bad practices.


In Botswana although there are still many discriminatory practices, practices and laws that unjustly prevented women from doing certain jobs and women being paid less than men for the same jobs have long been scrapped. I am not aware of any law in Botswana that discriminates against women, but if they are any they ought to be repelled immediately by parliament. I am however, aware of many entrenched practices that are discriminatory.  Gender activists who happen to be largely women do not talk about discriminatory practices against men.

For instance, the adoption law or practice where permission for adoption is only sought from the mother and not the father of the child; customary marriage where men must pay a bride price (lobola) for them to marry; customary practices where men must pay for ‘damages’ when a child is born out of wedlock.

These examples clearly demonstrate discriminatory tendencies against men. Both men and women must take equal responsibility in such cases. If a girl gets pregnant before marriage, unless the girl was raped, all the parties concerned must bear the consequences; the boy, the girl and parents of the two must take equal responsibility because they have all failed the society.


Maybe I should explain why! As society we must firmly place responsibility on the family to bring up their children in a manner that promotes social harmony, integrity, cohesion and moral uprightness. Society must demand that both the girl and the boy child cannot have sex until they are married. It used to be like this in our society, even before Christianity was entrenched in Botswana. 

It was uncommon, even a taboo in the 40s, 50s and 60s to have children born out of wedlock.  It was just not cool. This is also what the Bible preaches. Nowadays, besides pregnancy and the fact that it is ungodly, we have all sorts of diseases to contend with. 

Therefore if a girl gets pregnant before marriage both the parents of the girl and of the boy must be made to account by the society for failing their children. The consequences for pregnancy before marriage must be severe including forcing them to get married.  I think it used to be like that in the past, even king David in the Bible had to marry Bathsheba, the mother of king Solomon after the indiscretion he committed that led him to impregnate her (2 Samuel, chapter 11).


Assuming that most Batswana are Christians, we should perhaps use the Bible to attempt to understand the vexing question of gender equity.  After God had created the world and everything in it and saw that it was good, He created man and gave him have dominion over everything he created. 

God then said, ‘it is not good for a man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.” So God created a woman (Eve) and gave her to the man (Adam). The Bible then says, ‘therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh’.

The Bible also says, ‘He created both male and female in His own image’ as equals and gave them dominion over everything he created. Why should we then want to redo what God has done for us by denying people God given privileges based on gender?  How can we expect God to be happy with us when we do this?


God created man first and appointed him head of the family, but he commanded him to love and cling to his wife, and the wife to submit to and respect his husband. Submission does not imply making the wife a servant.  She is one with you, the same flesh. The man’s role as head of family is to protect his wife and family and not to abuse and enslave them. 

Women and men have complementary roles in building the family and consequently the nation.  If you love your wife, if you love your daughter, if you love your sister, if you love your mother, if you love your neighbour as the Bible commands, how then can you discriminate against anyone at all? The society including myself and all of us must change and go back to what God demands from us for our families and people.


The Bible does not say, therefore a man shall pay lobola and then leave his father and mother to cling to his wife. It says, ‘therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh’ Where then did paying of the lobola come from? I believe it is a practice created by men to enforce male dominance over women.

No wonder some men interpret this to mean buying and owning a wife. This practice has become a source of conflict in marriages; in many cases resulting in increased rate of divorce when women start demanding equality and men denying them that equality because they ‘bought” them with a price.


The lobola practice also denies many men from marrying because they cannot afford to pay lobola (bogadi) and the expensive ceremonies that go with our contemporary marriages. This results in social ills such as cohabitation; children born out of wedlock; single parenting of children etc, leading to the creation of an unfulfilled society that despises the institution of marriage.  I have never heard gender activists complain about these malpractices. This is a serious discriminatory practice that has been created and accepted by society, but does it promote gender equity?


To make it worse, when a child is born out of wedlock, the man who also cannot marry because he cannot afford the expensive marriage system that the society demands is punished by the parents of the girl who demands payment of ‘damages’. The society is treating women like property to be ‘bought’ and ‘damaged’ like pieces of furniture. This cannot be right.  We definitely need to change this.


Normalising our marriage processes in order to promote gender equity, healthy and fulfilled families is a must do now. We must simplify our marriage processes and promote the marriage institution. Why should marriages be so expensive for men anyway? Why should men pay lobola and all the expenses pertaining to contemporary marriages? Why do our women accept this practice? Many of our societal ills (single parentage, divorces, passion killings, unfaithfulness, wayward behaviour of children etc) are a result of us having strayed away from God’s principles of marriage and His ways of justice for all.


There has been a lot of talk about the SADC gender protocol that Botswana has refused to sign. The protocol in my view is just another ‘feel good’ document that is meant to pacify gender activists and nothing else. Botswana government has been steadfast in stating that it does not support some clauses in the proposed protocol and therefore it shall not sign.

Why do we want to pressurize Botswana to sign, when it is not ready? Botswana has also said that she supports gender equity and is doing everything in its power to promote gender equity and added that 43 % of public institutions are headed by women.  The problem is with political representation where women continue to fail to make a significant mark.

However, women cannot and should not be imposed on the electorate. The call for changing our electoral system to enhance democracy is valid and must be adopted for a number of reasons including leveling of the political playing field, but should not specifically be done to get women to parliament. This would be against the guiding principle of gender equity which should be to empower all to reach their full potential. Everyone should be given the same opportunities regardless of gender.


In a democratic dispensation, we cannot and should not force people to elect women to positions of power simply because they are women; they must be elected based on merit and their ability to represent their people. The people must have a choice provided by an unbiased democratic set up, not an affirmative action as some gender activists demand. 

Appointments to positions of any kind should not be based on gender but the superior ability by the individual to carryout the functions of that office; otherwise we will be promoting unacceptable mediocrity in our country.  We have very capable women in this country; we must just support them and encourage them to reach their full potential, but without disadvantaging anyone.  Any self respecting and honourable woman would not want to be given a position simply because she is a woman.


In conclusion we must as a country work towards gender equity; by empowering all our people through education; by eliminating all discriminatory practices and adopting and enforcing best practices that will also inspire women aspiring for political office. But let us not be in a hurry to sign some of these regional and international protocols that binds us. If we adopt some of these protocols we must do so because they serve our purposes as a nation and are aligned to our national aspirations; fits in with our own realities, our own priorities, our time frames and our fiscal constraints.

Bernard Busani
Email: bernard.busani@ gmail.com Cell: 71751440

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Opinions

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.

Conclusion:

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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Opinions

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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Opinions

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.

cliff@armourgeton.com

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