Enclave tourism in the Okavango Delta marginalize communities
A new study has demonstrated that tourism industry in the Okavango is pre-dominantly foreign owned, and that the local people have been severely marginalized.
Figures indicate that 81.5 percent of the tourist facilities in Maun and in the Okavango Delta have foreign influence in which 53.8 percent are 100% foreign owned.
The study has further revealed that enclave tourism in the Ngamiland district is rife but the downside of it is that locals are economically and politically marginalized and have no control over natural resource management and conservation.
Weekend Post has learnt that much of the land and its natural resources that are the main tourist attractions are owned and controlled by private tour operators or by the government.
When addressing the Botswana symposium on wetlands and wildlife 2015 recently, Professor Joseph Mbaiwa, of University of Botswana revealed that the development of ‘enclave tourism’ is one of the major problems affecting the growth of tourism in the Okavango Delta. He described enclave tourism as tourism that is concentrated in remote areas in which the types of facilities and their physical location fail to take into consideration the needs and wishes of surrounding communities. Such tourist facilities are characterized by foreign ownership and are designed to meet the needs and interests of foreign tourists.
Mbaiwa explained that in the Okavango Delta, the type of tourism that has so far developed is characterized by tourist facilities such as hotels, lodges and camps that are also foreign owned and controlled.
It is has been further revealed that 81.5 percent of the tourist facilities in Maun and in the Okavango Delta have foreign influence in which 53.8 percent are 100% foreign owned. Citizens and expatriates are reported to jointly own about 27.7 percent of them while only 18.5 percent are 100% owned by citizens.
Another study shows that about 95 percent of the accommodation and transport sectors in Maun have foreign involvement, with 60 percent of them being 100% foreign owned, 35 percent of them jointly owned between locals and expatriates with only one percent being 100% locally owned.
Data from the licensing office in the Department of Tourism indicate that in the year 2000, out of 103 tourism-related businesses registered and operational in Maun and in the delta, 16 (15.5%) were citizen owned, 36 (35%) jointly owned (between Botswana and non-citizens) while 51 (49.5%) were non-citizens owned. This suggests that 87 (84.5%) of the tourism-related companies registered in Maun and operational in the Okavango region have direct foreign involvement.
Tawana Land Board indicates that in a total of 15 concession areas under its custody in the Okavango Delta, four (26.7%) were leased to citizen companies, six (40%) to jointly owned companies (between citizens and non citizens) and five (33.3%) to non-citizen companies. This means 73.3% of the non citizen companies operate in 11 concession areas, excluding those controlled by the central government and also leased out to operators.
Prof Mbaiwa revealed that local people in Ngamiland indicated that there was a general assumption that the delta had been taken from them by government and given to foreign tour operators. He added that as a result, citizens view the approach negatively because they perceive the domination by non-citizens as ‘selling out’ of their resources. Mbaiwa revealed that the suspicions and mistrusts between the local communities and tour operators in the Okavango Delta have since developed into another problem of racism between the two groups.
The Ministry of Wildlife, Environment and Tourism, Department of Labour and Home Affairs and the Ngamiland District Council has confirmed these reports of racism, Weekend Post can reveal. It is reported that the racism in the tourism industry between the local black population and white tour operators was confirmed to be in existence by 53% of the managers and 73% of workers in safari camps and lodges in the delta and 60% of the managers and 47.6% of workers in tourism-related industries in Maun.
Mbaiwa explained that the racism was characterized by failure on the side of tour operators to employ local people in top management positions, hence the assumption that management positions in the tourism industry were reserved for expatriate workers. He added that part of it was due to the unpleasant working conditions for local workers in the delta like working long hours without compensations, poor accommodation in camps, and unfair dismissal of local workers and the use of abusive language often used by employers towards local workers.
According to Prof Mbaiwa, Botswana’ Tourism Policy of 1990 is to blame for the development of enclave tourism in the delta. The policy, he revealed it emphasized the promotion of high-cost–low-volume tourism. He explained that the strategy was adopted to raise the needed revenue for the industry to sustain itself. Mbaiwa argued that as a result, from 1990 there has been a shift from encouraging casual tourist campers in favour of tourist who occupy permanent accommodation. Mbaiwa added that the policy also presumed that low volumes of tourists are more consistent with the need to protect the environmental basis of the industry.
“The Tourism Policy was implemented through targeted marketing and imposition of high fees for the use of public facilities. High-spending tourists have as a result been encouraged to visit the Okavango Delta while low-budget tourists are indirectly being discouraged by the high fees charged,” he posited.
Mbaiwa highlighted that enclave tourism is characterized by high prices charged in tourist facilities and services, such prices become unaffordable to the majority of the local people. He showed that in the Okavango Delta on average a tourist is expected to pay 400 US dollars as accommodation charge per night in a tourist camp or lodge and a one hour flight in the Okavango Delta costs on average about 220 US dollars.
“These charges make the Okavango Delta a very expensive resort area for locals to visit. Rich foreign tourists from North America and Western Europe therefore mostly use the Okavango Delta,” the professor said.
He also stressed that low level of Botswana’s economic development and a great deal of capital needed for tourism development and high levels of management in the tourism sector also contribute to tourism in the Okavango Delta being under the control of foreign investors. He highlighted that the facilities are operated with minimum commercial trading including local agriculture and social links with existing local communities.
“This situation therefore made it possible for a lot of money that is paid for tours by visitors to never arrive in the Okavango or Botswana, since bookings is mostly done outside Botswana either in Johannesburg, America or Europe. The exclusive nature of tourism in the Okavango Delta has tended not to be of direct benefit to the people of Ngamiland District as much of the tourist revenue is not retained in Ngamiland or in Botswana,” he decried.
Mbaiwa warned through quoting other environmental experts about the dangers enclave tourism could bring to the Okavango Delta. He explained that operators have the tendency to desire maximized profit within a short period of time even at an environmental cost. He cautioned that once the resources are depleted, tour operators and tourists usually re-locate elsewhere where there is a tourism boom and the cycle starts all over again.
Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.
These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.
The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”
The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.
“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”
Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.
The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.
Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.
One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.
But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.
One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.
Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.
In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.
Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.
Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.
United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.
According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.
“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.
A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.
Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.
In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”
While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.
Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility. Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.
For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies. European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.
It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.
According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.
The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.
“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”
“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.” The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”