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Friday, 19 April 2024

Can BDP redeem itself?

Opinions


During the elections last year BDP promised to ‘move Botswana forward’ and itemised five key areas which the President put in a red card on which he appended his signature for unequivocal ownership. This is the yardstick that Batswana will use to measure success during the next five years.  Let me remind you of what the Presidential Promise Red Card contained;

Making job creation priority number 1
Taking Batswana out of poverty
Increase education funding
Eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV
Fight corruption in all its manifestations

It is clear that Batswana who voted for BDP and are directly or indirectly affected by the above list will measure success; when they see change in their own lives, when they see change in the lives of their loved ones, when they see change in the lives of the people they know; when they see themselves, their loved ones, their neighbours getting employed meaningfully; when they see themselves, their loved ones, their neighbours graduating  out of poverty and becoming ‘bo se mang mang’ in society; when they see the schools where their children, where the children of their loved one’s and where the children of their fellow citizens go have enough classrooms,  have decent desks and chairs in the classrooms, have no broken widows, falling ceilings and dangling cladding, when all their schools have happy and motivated teachers and above all their children performing just as well as those in private schools; when no more children are born with HIV and  when most of us understand and gallantly fight to eliminate new HIV infection; when journalists are free to report anything that looks like corruption (proven or not proven); when most if not all of us truly abhor corruption and all its manifestations and when we can talk without fear or favour about real or perceived corrupt practices anyway in our public or private institutions; when the tendering and recruitment processes in public and private institutions are corruption free;  when all tenders and jobs are awarded on merit and merit only, not on who knows who or who can financially corrupt who.

Success will therefore be declared in an unsophisticated way when people observe positive change in their lives.  However, my advice for the President is for him to have another card that he shares with the public, a score card with targets against each area on which HE can measure progress objectively.  Without targets, some people might even think this was just electioneering noise (gimmick) never intended to be achieved. This would be veritable travesty and dishonesty that cannot be expected to come from our President. I wish the President well and trust that he will work hard together with his team to put targets and get positive results on these chosen five areas.

My observations and free advice on the five areas for consideration by the President and his party;

JOB CREATION AS A NUMBER ONE PRIORITY

The president is right and need to be commended for identifying job creation as a number one priority.   However, seven months after the election there are no apparent positive signs to indicate that job creation is indeed a number one priority.  The economy has lost close to a 1000 jobs since the elections and there are indications that more job losses are on the cards in both private and public domain.  I am not aware of any new jobs that have been created since the elections. The youth policies that the government has recently introduced will not create employment but will severely eat into government coffers with no worthy returns. The leather park has potential to create over 5000 jobs but I am not convinced that government has invested enough resources in planning and finding what is required to sustain the leather park.

Where is the government going to get the requisite engineers, chemists, marketing gurus to sustain this park? Where will we get the artisans, technicians and operators to run these leather plants?  Have we identified the markets and marketing challenges that we will face? If we are going to rely on expatriates do we have the schools, the medical facilities, accommodation, entertainment and the pay packets that will attract the right caliber of expatriates in Lobatse?  I ask the same questions about the pula steel and the planned SPEDU agro industries in Phikwe. Diamond beneficiation has potential to create much more than the 3000 jobs offered by De Beers and sadly even these jobs are being lost as factories close and retrench.  Government needs to look closely at their agreements with De Beers and get their thinking and independent hats on and make diamond beneficiation a reality that we can be proud of. Beneficiation is doable; viable with potential to create more jobs than we can supply; it only needs government willingness to engage.

We desperately need job creation for both young and old for us to graduate out of government imposed poverty. We must not remove older productive people to replace them with the younger ones for the sake of creating youth employment. This will be ’robbing Peter to pay Paul’ and is disingenuous and will rob Botswana of much needed experience. The youth need to be employed on their own merit, trained and skilled without necessarily displacing others. We need growth in our economy so that all employable Batswana can be meaningfully employed.

TAKING BATSWANA OUT OF POVERTY

Batswana are poor because they have not been given the opportunities they deserve in their own country.  We seem to be glorifying and celebrating poverty by the schemes that we have employed which in my humble view are totally ill advised and burying Batswana deeper into poverty. We need to empower Batswana by providing rewarding jobs and creating business opportunities for business minded Batswana to thrive. We should not be seen to be spoon feeding the nation. Like the Chinese I say, ‘do not give me fish but teach me how to fish and go away’.  The government scheme of building houses for the poor is populist, ill informed and demeaning as well as unsustainable and creating a poverty mentality that says ‘sit back government will provide’. How many of these so called poor people do we have countrywide?  How many houses are we going to build? Are we going to feed and clothes these people and for how long?  The poverty eradication schemes are wasting government finances and should be suspended and the money redirected towards education, training, skilling and job creation.  Creation of decent jobs is the key and a number one priority that will pull our people out of poverty.

INCREASE EDUCATION FUNDING

For me this should also be a number one priority together with job creation. The two are connected together like siamese twins.  It is through education that we will fill positions created by employment opportunities.  It is through education that we will create employment opportunities, hence the irrefutable twinning of the two areas.  Our education is in a mess. Considering the appalling conditions under which most of our students and teachers have to contend with, we must consider ourselves lucky to be still producing graduates. Sample a few primary schools, junior secondary schools, senior secondary schools and see the conditions under which our children and teachers face daily; the broken chairs, broken tables, broken windows, falling ceilings etc; the winter winds and the hot summer days when both the teacher have to be in these classrooms teaching passionately and student listening intently and absorbing what’s being taught; those teachers teaching and students being taught under trees?  How many of us would like to be teachers and can we really get the best from our children? What kind of feedstock are we giving to our institutions of higher learning and subsequently industry? Finally how are these teachers remunerated considering what they are charged to deliver and the conditions under which they operate?

The presidential housing appeal and the monthly presidential and ministerial walk abouts and public servant community services days should be countrywide and redirected towards our schools. They should help with the maintenance and upkeep of the local schools. The housing appeal money must build more classrooms and put air conditioning in our schools for conducive learning environment.

ELIMINATE MOTHER TO CHILD HIV TRANSMISSION

When it comes to HIV, they are two people in this country who will go into our history books as having been real champions in the fight against HIV and aids. These are Rre Louis Nchindo (May he find peace and may his spirit live on) who was very futuristic  in his outlook and realised that HIV and aids had the potential to wipe out our people if nothing was done and done fast. He introduced free HIV monitoring and treatment for all Debswana employees. This was a first in Africa if not the world. President Festus Mogae then followed suit for the country. These are the two men who saved this country from what would have been a national disaster of unimaginable proportions.  This one is an area where all Batswana must champion to honour the efforts of Louis Nchindo and Festus Mogae.

FIGHT CORRUPTION AND ALL ITS MANIFESTAION

I do not real want to talk about this one, but corruption is bleeding this country regardless of what the transparency international says about us being ‘the least corrupt country in Africa’. I really do not know how they gather their data.  Their intelligence gathering systems must be flawed.  For me it seems they just use information supplied by government agencies and embassies.  One of the major reasons why projects fail dismally and why productivity levels are low is because of corrupt practices that we covertly and sometimes overtly condone. How on earth do you get anything to be done properly when some key people in the economy are employed corruptly with no requisite aptitude for the job they do and when many tenders are awarded corruptly to companies that do not qualify? Throttling merit and competency in our procurement and recruitment processes has a devastating effect on productivity and in advancing our economic progression.

In conclusion, can BDP redeem itself? I want to believe so.  The President must redouble his efforts on job creation, education and corruption to regain some ground.  He does not need money as money is being wasted daily in useless endevours and corrupt practices through out government departments. Surely DIS must know where the rot is if it is not corrupt itself and together with the ministry of finance must clean the rot and rechannel the resources. The government needs to change its mind set and begin to engage well meaning and competent Batswana and experts to help in job creation, improving education and curbing corruption.  The rest will then fall in place. The president must demand measurable targets and annual progress report in these three areas and heads must roll if the targets are not met.  He need now more than ever competent people on his side; people with integrity; people who will tell him nothing but the truth to redeem himself and the legacy of his father.

My final advice to the President and BDP is that to survive beyond 2019, BDP needs Ndelu Seretse as chairman and Botsalo Ntuane as secretary general. These are the two men seeking leadership of the party with the requisite intellectual capacity and political savvy to help BDP survive beyond 2019.  This country will need a strong opposition to keep the new government in 2019 in check. Posterity will judge BDP and the President harshly if they fail to see the winds of change that are sweeping the country and if they fail to refocus BDP by getting new capable leadership who will engage and collaborate meaningfully with the up coming astute and transformational leadership of the country!

E mail; bernard.busani@gmail.com;  Tel; 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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