I can pick any one of the many projects the government plans to execute during the next five years. The core message in this submission would be the same. The objective is to sensitise the relevant authorities that for any project to succeed, holistic and comprehensive identification and assessment of success factors must be conducted.
It is also critical to identify and engage all the relevant stakeholders including those that may be very critical to the project early during the planning phase for inclusion of their input before the project is given the ‘green light’ to go ahead. I would like to mention five most critical success factors that I believe should be considered and quantified for each one of these projects:
The market for the product(s)
The total cost of production including cost of getting the product to the market
The profit margin and growth potential
The available technology and skills to support the technology and the business
This assumes that there is a dedicated coordinating team that does the detailed planning and manages the whole process on behalf of the project owner (government in this case). The planning phase is the most critical aspect of any project. It is during this phase that all the success factors are identified, assessed critically and quantified comprehensibly. It is a phase that required a small dedicated team with diverse skills, generous time frame as well as a generous working budget for it to succeed.
It is during this phase that all unnecessary costs and risks will be identified. Doing this phase thoroughly will not only reduce the total cost of the project but will also reduce the risks of cost and schedule overruns as well as the risks of project failure.
It is during this phase that detailed and wide ranging benchmarking exercises are carried out to fully appreciate the market conditions as well as the technological limitations and opportunities. It is also a must to engage a ‘gloves off’ external team of experts to audit this work on behalf of the project owner before the planning phase is concluded. This ‘gloves off’ team of experts must be used during the course of the project at given intervals to ensure that no ‘cutting of corners’ and underhand tactics are allowed.
This article is motivated by the number of government projects that have failed over the years at great expense to the nation. I believe these phenomenal failures were due to poor planning and failure to comprehensively and holistically identify and quantify the five critical success factors stated above. The project gurus say, ‘failure to plan is planning to fail’. This is true. Botswana government project failure rate is clearly a result of poor or lack of project planning. We all need to contribute in our small way towards reversing this embarrassing national trend. This submission will hopefully reach some key people in the establishment, who hopefully will take note
It is needless to mention the failed projects as most of them are in the public domain but for perspective I would like to mention some before I turn to the leather project example:
Gaborone, Lobatse, Francistown and Serowe stadia!!
Tonota/Francistown road and many more!!
I have worked for Debswana for many years and witnessed first hand many large and small projects over the years, none of which have failed, despite the many challenges. The recent relocation of Diamond Trading Company from London to Gaborone was a mammoth project by any standard, with its many challenges was a resounding success, done on time, within budget and meeting the business objectives of the project owners.
The government must draw some lessons from many projects done by Debswana and De beers in Botswana with impressive success rates. These projects were successful not only with respect to budget, safety and schedule but also importantly in meeting the key business objectives defined by the project owners (the share holders).
I choose to talk about the Lobatse leather park project because it has been in the news during the past few weeks. The Minister of Trade describes this project as one of the flagship projects the government is undertaking. He also enthusiastically stated that the project will create over 5 000 jobs.
The president has also been in the news about a number of planned mega government projects that will create significant employment. The president also said that they will be creating Special Implementation Teams to make these projects successful.
We should all be excited about these developments. The intentions are good and if these projects are successful they will indeed move Botswana forward. We want these projects to succeed, but have we planted the right seeds for success? Have we carried out any comprehensive risks identification and mitigation programme?
Have a project manager and his planning team been appointed to carry out detailed planning for each project? How about the critical success factors I have mentioned above? Have they been identified and comprehensibly quantified. If all these have not been done we have identified a number of seemingly very good ploughing fields, with lots of potential, but we have not identified the right fertilisers and right seeds. We have not assessed the field to identify and remove stumps and see that there are no underlying rocks in the field. We do not know whether the water for the field is available, is it rain fed or is it irrigated farming?
We have tractors and world class farmers to plough the fields and plough they will, but because the stumps and rocks are many, they will have lots of breakdowns and delays so the world class farmers will not finish ploughing on time and on budget. The harvesters will toil and sweat in the fields but the harvest will not be enough to fill the barns built at huge cost in anticipation of a bumper harvest. Hunger will persist, despite the good intentions and lots of money having been spent on the fields and accessories.
The special implementation teams, the president talks about come right at the end to implement and hand over to the production team. If the planning has not been done accordingly, the implementation team will implement but will the project succeed and achieve its objectives? Will this poorly planned project with the best implementation team in the world be completed on time and on cost and will the projects meet the intended business objectives? I do not think so. In all cases the implementation and production teams are blamed for the failures that unfortunately originated from poor planning and poor risk management by the project owners.
Let me briefly show and clarify why the five success factors I have mentioned are key to the success of any project. I want to emphasise that these factors will come from the planning and risk management done during the initial phase of any project. They cannot be done during implementation or any other phase of the project.
The market is obviously very important. Where is the market? How big is the market? Is this a growing market? Who are your competitors? What are their competitive advantages? What are your own competitive advantages? How do you get your product to the market?
The production costs are not only important in terms of profitability but also in terms of competition. It is important that all costs are included, including hidden costs (contingencies). Sometimes because of external pressure to get the project approved some costs are left out, only to harm the project during execution and in operations, in some cases making the project a total failure.
The project must be able to achieve a healthy profit margin and there must be clear growth potential for sustainability. So a realistic assessment of this is important to determine viability of the project.
The technology to be employed must be understood including its availability. This is however, the easy part. The more challenging part is the ability to operate and maintain the technology…technology support. Do you have skills to operate and maintain this technology? Do you have skills to assess and adopt alternative technology when the need arises? This is where most projects fail. Here you have to identify your own people and give them the requisite training and skills for them to own the maintenance and operation of the plant or business.
The sustainability element is linked to identification of skills and training a critical mass to operate and maintain as well as to grow the business. Technology is driven by people who have ownership of that technology. The ownership comes from thorough training by the technology owners.
What has failed most government projects is lack of the realisation that the project is not completed at the end of the implementation phase. The implementation is the means to an end. The end is the productive life after implementation. This is why training of locals is very important.
Bringing in expatriates without a critical mass of local expertise is not the solution as it is not sustainable and in many cases it is counter productive as it is seen by locals as disadvantaging them, making some bitter and unproductive as well as creating an unhealthy labour relations environment.
I now want to turn to the Lobatse leather park project to buttress my submission. According to government sources, government will develop a leather park industry in Lobatse by 2015/6 that will churn out over 5000 jobs. LEA did a study to justify this project, but the objectives of the study were only internally focused.
The study was to determine the volumes and values of leather products in Botswana from 2007 to 2009 and challenges faced by the local leather industry during this period. They noted that the leather industries in Botswana have all collapsed and sited reason for failure as the omission to include an effluent treatment plant in the designs because of costs. They also did a benchmarking visit to Namibia and have engaged the Central Leather Research Institute of India as their technical partner.
Just a cursory look at the LEA study which seems to have been used to justify the Lobatse Leather Park project, I honestly believe we have only identified the field and we just want to plant without having adequately assessed this field. This is a recipe for failure. I would not base such a project on the LEA report. A more comprehensive study should have been done and should have at least looked and quantified all the five factors stated at the beginning of this submission. The leather industry is a multi billion dollar business.
According to the Council for Leather Export of India, where LEA’s international technical partner comes from, the world’s leather import stood at US$22.2 billion in 2011 and was growing at a cumulative annual rate of 7.9 percent. At this rate it should now be standing at US$27.8 billion. India, contributed about 5 percent of the world’s import. The Indian leather industry employed 2.5 million people in 2008/9 and planned to invest to increase export and increase employment by another million by 2014. Look at these numbers!
India is poised to make itself a global destination for sourcing leather products and accessories. State of the art production units and design studios are in place to produce high quality leather products. I wonder why LEA chose to benchmark with Namibia instead of India where they sourced their technical partner. I also wonder why LEA chose a research institution as its technical partner, not an operating industry.
An industry player would know all the ins and outs of the business from a practical not a theoretical point of view. It is this partner than we can benchmark with, who can provide the requisite training for our people from both technical and business perspectives. This industry will require engineers, chemists, technicians, artisans, designers, accountants, HR practitioners, ICT specialists, managers etc. It is this partner that we can have exchange programmes to train our people inn these fields.
With the number of cattle, goats, sheep, wildlife, Botswana should be aiming for a world class leather industry that will employ a lot more than 5 000 people and bring much needed foreign investment and government revenues. But it will not just happen because we say so, it will happen because we have invested in a good plan and we have invested in our human capital.
The difference between government and Debswana project success stories is mainly in the planning and execution management. Also political expediency and interference is a disabling factor in government projects. The government must ensure that they employ experts, not their friends, experts who will advise without fear or favour, experts who will execute professionally without fear or favour. Without such government will continue to spend money on unsuccessful projects.
For the past 10 years or more government has spent inordinate amount of taxpayer’s money on failed projects. The question is what has government done differently (not special implementation teams) this time that will result in the planned projects being delivered successfully and meeting all the intended objectives? The definition of insanity according to Einstein is when you do the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
I hope and pray that we can as a nation use, all our limited human capital and finances to identify the real challenges that contributed to the failure of our projects in the past and do something even if it means delaying the planned projects until we fully understand all the success requirements that will take our country forward. God bless Botswana and merry Christmas to all our beloved people!
This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.
The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.
The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.
Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.
We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.
More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.
The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the market.
Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.
We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?
Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?
Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?
They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?
What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?
They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?
We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?
To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?
Batswana must be made aware that the end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.
For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with the arduous imperative of analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.
Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.
Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute in Botswana is overdue.
If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.
Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.
Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.
Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication
Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.
Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.
Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.
Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.
The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.
So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.
The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.
We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.
They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.
As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.
Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme. WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org
The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.
As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.
I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.
I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?
Counting the cost of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.
It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.
Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.
The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.
Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.
By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.
Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org