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!
Parliament was this week once again seized with matters that concern them and borders on conflict of interest and abuse of privilege.
The two matters are; review of MPs benefits as well as President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s participation in the bidding for Banyana Farms. For the latter, it should not come as a surprise that President Masisi succeeded in bid.
The President’s business interests have also been in the forefront. While President Masisi is entitled as a citizen to participate in a various businesses in the country or abroad, it is morally deficient for him to participate in a bidding process that is handled by the government he leads. By the virtue of his presidency, Masisi is the head of government and head of State.
Not long ago, former President Festus Mogae suggested that elected officials should consider using blind trust to manage their business interests once they are elected to public office. Though blind trusts are expensive, they are the best way of ensuring confidence in those that serve in public office.
A blind trust is a trust established by the owner (or trustor) giving another party (the trustee) full control of the trust. Blind trusts are often established in situations where individuals want to avoid conflicts of interest between their employment and investments.
The trustee has full discretion over the assets and investments while being charged with managing the assets and any income generated in the trust.
The trustor can terminate the trust, but otherwise exercises no control over the actions taken within the trust and receives no reports from the trustees while the blind trust is in force.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General, Mpho Balopi, has defended President Masisi’s participation in business and in the Banyana Farms bidding. His contention is that, the practise even obtained during the administration of previous presidents.
The President is the most influential figure in the country. His role is representative and he enjoys a plethora of privileges. He is not an ordinary citizen. The President should therefore be mindful of this fact.
We should as a nation continue to thrive for improvement of our laws with the viewing of enhancing good governance. We should accept perpetuation of certain practices on the bases that they are a norm. MPs are custodians of good governance and they should measure up to the demands of their responsibility.
Parliament should not be spared for its role in countenancing these developments. Parliament is charged with the mandate of making laws and providing oversight, but for them to make laws that are meant solely for their benefits as MPs is unethical and from a governance point of view, wrong.
There have been debates in parliament, some dating from past years, about the benefits of MPs including pension benefits. It is of course self-serving for MPs to be deliberating on their compensation and other benefits.
In the past, we have also contended that MPs are not the right people to discuss their own compensation and there has to be Special Committee set for the purpose. This is a practice in advanced democracies.
By suggesting this, we are not suggesting that MP benefits are in anyway lucrative, but we are saying, an independent body may figure out the best way of handling such issues, and even offer MPs better benefits.
In the United Kingdom for example; since 2009 following a scandal relating to abuse of office, set-up Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA)
IPSA is responsible for: setting the level of and paying MPs’ annual salaries; paying the salaries of MPs’ staff; drawing up, reviewing, and administering an MP’s allowance scheme; providing MPs with publicly available and information relating to taxation issues; and determining the procedures for investigations and complaints relating to MPs.
Owing to what has happened in the Parliament of Botswana recently, we now need to have a way of limiting what MPs can do especially when it comes to laws that concern them. We cannot be too trusting as a nation.
MPs can abuse office for their own agendas. There is need to act swiftly to deal with the inherent conflict of interest that arise as a result of our legislative setup. A voice of reason should emerge from Parliament to address this unpleasant situation. This cannot be business as usual.
The 490-hectare campus researches the world’s deadliest pathogens, including Anthrax (in 1944, the Roosevelt administration ordered 1 million anthrax bombs from Fort Detrick), Ebola, smallpox, and … you guessed right: coronaviruses. The facility, which carries out paid research projects for government agencies (including the CIA), universities and drug companies most of whom owned by the highly sinister military-industrial complex, employs 900 people.
Between 1945 and 1969, the sprawling complex (which has since become the US’s ”bio-defence centre” to put it mildly) was the hub of the US biological weapons programme. It was at Fort Detrick that Project MK Ultra, a top-secret CIA quest to subject the human mind to routine robotic manipulation, a monstrosity the CIA openly owned up to in a congressional inquisition in 1975, was carried out. In the consequent experiments, the guinea pigs comprised not only of people of the forgotten corner of America – inmates, prostitutes and the homeless but also prisoners of war and even regular US servicemen.
These unwitting participants underwent up to a 20-year-long ordeal of barbarous experiments involving psychoactive drugs (such as LSD), forced electroshocks, physical and sexual abuses, as well as a myriad of other torments. The experiments not only violated international law, but also the CIA’s own charter which forbids domestic activities. Over 180 doctors and researchers took part in these horrendous experiments and this in a country which touts itself as the most civilised on the globe!
Was the coronavirus actually manufactured at Fort Detrick (like HIV as I shall demonstrate at the appropriate time) and simply tactfully patented to other equally cacodemonic places such as the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China?
THE FORT DETRICK SCIENTISTS’ PROPHECY WAS WELL-INFORMED
About two years before the term novel coronavirus became a familiar feature in day-to-day banter, two scientist cryptically served advance warning of its imminence. They were Allison Totura and Sina Bavari, both researchers at Fort Detrick.
The two scientists talked of “novel highly pathogenic coronaviruses that may emerge from animal reservoir hosts”, adding, “These coronaviruses may have the potential to cause devastating pandemics due to unique features in virus biology including rapid viral replication, broad host range, cross-species transmission, person-to-person transmission, and lack of herd immunity in human populations … Associated with novel respiratory syndromes, they move from person-to-person via close contact and can result in high morbidity and mortality caused by the progression to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).”
All the above constitute some of the documented attributes and characteristics of the virus presently on the loose – the propagator of Covid-19. A recent clinical review of Covid-19 in The Economist seemed to bear out this prognostication when it said, “It is ARDS that sees people rushed to intensive-care units and put on ventilators”. As if sounding forth a veritable prophecy, the two scientists besought governments to start working on counter-measures there and then that could be “effective against such a virus”.
Well, it was not by sheer happenstance that Tortura and Bavari turned out to have been so incredibly and ominously prescient. They had it on good authority, having witnessed at ringside what the virus was capable of in the context of their own laboratory. The gory scenario they painted for us came not from secondary sources but from the proverbial horse’s mouth folks.
CDC’S RECKLESS ADMISSION
In March this year, Robert Redfield, the US Director for the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told the House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee that it had transpired that some members of the American populace who were certified as having died of influenza turned out to have harboured the novel coronavirus per posthumous analysis of their tissue.
Redfield was not pressed to elaborate but the message was loud and clear – Covid-19 had been doing the rounds in the US much earlier than it was generally supposed and that the extent to which it was mistaken for flu was by far much more commonplace than was openly admitted. An outspoken Chinese diplomat, Zhao Lijian, seized on this rather casual revelation and insisted that the US disclose further information, exercise transparency on coronavirus cases and provide an explanation to the public.
But that was not all the beef Zhao had with the US. He further charged that the coronavirus was possibly transplanted to China by the US: whether inadvertently or by deliberate design he did not say. Zhao pointed to the Military World Games of October 2019, in which US army representatives took part, as the context in which the coronavirus irrupted into China. Did the allegation ring hollow or there was a ring of truth to it?
THE BENASSIE FACTOR
The Military World Games, an Olympic-style spectrum of competitive action, are held every four years. The 2019 episode took place in Wuhan, China. The 7th such, the games ran from October 18 to October 27. The US contingent comprised of 17 teams of over 280 athletes, plus an innumerable other staff members. Altogether, over 9000 athletes from 110 countries were on hand to showcase their athletic mettle in more than 27 sports. All NATO countries were present, with Africa on its part represented by 30 countries who included Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Besides the singular number of participants, the event notched up a whole array of firsts. One report spelt them out thus: “The first time the games were staged outside of military bases, the first time the games were all held in the same city, the first time an Athletes’ Village was constructed, the first time TV and VR systems were powered by 5G telecom technology, and the first use of all-round volunteer services for each delegation.”
Now, here is the clincher: the location of the guest house for the US team was located in the immediate neighbourhood of the Wuhan Seafood Market, the place the Chinese authorities to this day contend was the diffusion point of the coronavirus. But there is more: according to some reports, the person who allegedly but unwittingly transmitted the virus to the people milling about the market – Patient Zero of Covid-19 – was one Maatie Benassie.
Benassie, 52, is a security officer of Sergeant First Class rank at the Fort Belvoir military base in Virginia and took part in the 50-mile cycling road race in the same competitions. In the final lap, she was accidentally knocked down by a fellow contestant and sustained a fractured rib and a concussion though she soldiered on and completed the race with the agonising adversity. Inevitably, she saw a bit of time in a local health facility. According to information dug up by George Webb, an investigative journalist based in Washington DC, Benassie would later test positive for Covid-19 at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.
Incidentally, Benassie apparently passed on the virus to other US soldiers at the games, who were hospitalised right there in China before they were airlifted back to the US. The US government straightaway prohibited the publicising of details on the matter under the time-honoured excuse of “national security interests”, which raised eyebrows as a matter-of-course. As if that was not fishy enough, the US out of the blue tightened Chinese visas to the US at the conclusion of the games.
The rest, as they say, is history: two months later, Covid-19 had taken hold on China territory. “From that date onwards,” said one report, “one to five new cases were reported each day. By December 15, the total number of infections stood at 27 — the first double-digit daily rise was reported on December 17 — and by December 20, the total number of confirmed cases had reached 60.”
TWO CURIOUS RESEARCH HALTINGS
Is it a coincidence that all the US soldiers who fell ill at the Wuhan games did their preparatory training at the Fort Belvoir military base, only a 15-minutes’ drive from Fort Detrick?
That Fort Detrick is a plain-sight perpetrator of pathogenic evils is evidenced by a number of highly suspicious happenings concerning it. Remember the 2001 anthrax mailing attacks on government and media houses which killed five people right on US territory? The two principal suspects who puzzlingly were never charged, worked as microbiologists at Fort Detrick. Of the two, Bruce Ivins, who was the more culpable, died in 2008 of “suicide”. For “suicide”, read “elimination”, probably because he was in the process of spilling the beans and therefore cast the US government in a stigmatically diabolical light. Indeed, the following year, all research projects at Fort Detrick were suspended on grounds that the institute was “storing pathogens not listed in its database”. The real truth was likely much more reprehensible.
In 2014, there was a mini local pandemic in the US which killed thousands of people and which the mainstream media were not gutsy enough to report. It arose following the weaponisation at Fort Detrick of the H7N9 virus, prompting the Obama administration to at once declare a moratorium on the research and withdraw funding.
The Trump administration, however, which has a pathological fixation on undoing practically all the good Obama did, reinstated the research under new rigorous guidelines in 2017. But since old habits die hard, the new guidelines were flouted at will, leading to another shutdown of the whole research gamut at the institute in August 2019. This, nonetheless, was not wholesale as other areas of research, such as experiments to make bird flu more transmissible and which had begun in 2012, proceeded apace. As one commentator pointedly wondered aloud, was it really necessary to study how to make H5N1, which causes a type of bird flu with an eye-popping mortality rate, more transmissible?
Consistent with its character, the CDC was not prepared to furnish particulars upon issuing the cease and desist order, citing “national security reasons”. Could the real reason have been the manufacture of the novel coronavirus courtesy of a tip-off by the more scrupulous scientists?
President Mokgweetsi Masisi may have breathed a huge sigh of relief when he emerged victorious in last year’s 2019 general elections, but the ultimate test of his presidency has only just begun.
From COVID-19 pandemic effects; disenchanted unemployed youth, deteriorating diplomatic relations with neighbouring South Africa as well as emerging instability within the ruling party — Masisi has a lot to resolve in the next few years.
Last week we started an unwanted cold war with Botswana’s main trade partner, South Africa, in what we consider an ill-conceived move. Never, in the history of this country has Botswana shown South Africa a cold shoulder – particularly since the fall of the apartheid regime.
It is without a doubt that our country’s survival depends on having good relations with South Africa. As the Chairperson of African National Congress (ANC), Gwede Mantashe once said, a good relationship between Botswana and South Africa is not optional but necessary.
No matter how aggrieved we feel, we should never engage in a diplomatic war — with due respect to other neighbours— with South Africa. We will never gain anything from starting a diplomatic war with South Africa.
In fact, doing so will imperil our economy, given that majority of businesses in the retail sector and services sector are South African companies.
Former cabinet minister and Phakalane Estates proprietor, David Magang once opined that Botswana’s poor manufacturing sector and importation of more than 80 percent of the foodstuffs from South Africa, effectively renders Botswana a neo-colony of the former.
Magang’s statement may look demeaning, but that is the truth, and all sorts of examples can be produced to support that. Perhaps it is time to realise that as a nation, we are not independent enough to behave the way we do. And for God’s sake, we are a landlocked country!
Recently, the effects of COVID-19 have exposed the fragility of our economy; the devastating pleas of the unemployed and the uncertainty of the future. Botswana’s two mainstay source of income; diamonds and tourism have been hit hard. Going forward, there is a need to chart a new pathway, and surely it is not an easy task.
The ground is becoming fertile for uprisings that are not desirable in any country. That the government has not responded positively to the rising unemployment challenge is the truth, and very soon as a nation we will wake up to this reality.
The magnitude of the problem is so serious that citizens are running out of patience. The government on the other hand has not done much to instil confidence by assuring the populace that there is a plan.
The general feeling is that, not much will change, hence some sections of the society, will try to use other means to ensure that their demands are taken into consideration. Botswana might have enjoyed peace and stability in the past, but there is guarantee that, under the current circumstances, the status quo will be maintained.
It is evident that, increasingly, indigenous citizens are becoming resentful of naturalised and other foreign nationals. Many believe naturalised citizens, especially those of Indian origin, are the major beneficiaries in the economy, while the rest of the society is side-lined.
The resentfulness is likely to intensify going forward. We needed not to be heading in this direction. We needed not to be racist in our approach but when the pleas of the large section of the society are ignored, this is bound to happen.
It is should be the intention of every government that seeks to strive on non-racialism to ensure that there is shared prosperity. Share prosperity is the only way to make people of different races in one society to embrace each other, however, we have failed in this respect.
Masisi’s task goes beyond just delivering jobs and building a nation that we all desire, but he also has an immediate task of achieving stability within his own party. The matter is so serious that, there are threats of defection by a number of MPs, and if he does not arrest this, his government may collapse before completing the five year mandate.
The problems extend to the party itself, where Masisi found himself at war with his Secretary General, Mpho Balopi. The war is not just the fight for Central Committee position, but forms part of the succession plan.