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Lobatse Leather Park Project: What will make it successful?


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

Sustainability


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:

Selebe Phikwe textile factories (you remember those!)!!!

Gaborone and Francistown airports!!

Many schools and police stations!

Palapye glass factory!!!!

Gaborone, Lobatse, Francistown and Serowe stadia!!

Morupule B!!!!!

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!

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

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Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.  This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022
piracy

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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Opinions

Our Strength is our Unity

18th March 2022
Craig-Cloud

Putin Chose War.  We Remain United with Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador Craig L. Cloud

This is a dangerous moment for Europe and for freedom-loving people around the world.  By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy.  But the people of Ukraine are resilient.

They’ve had a democracy for decades, and their bravery is inspiring the world.  The United States, together with our Allies and partners across the globe, will continue to support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country.  By choosing to pay for a war instead of investing in the needs of Russians, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be a strategic failure for the Kremlin and ravage the future of the Russian people.

When the history of this era is written, it will show that Putin’s choice to launch an unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated attack left the West more unified and Russia exponentially weaker.

United in Our Response

This will not end well for Vladimir Putin.  Together, the United States and our Allies and partners are taking action to hold Russia accountable.  As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank.

President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that will damage Russia’s economy, financial system, and access to cutting-edge technology.  After Putin began his invasion, the ruble hit its weakest point in history, and the Russian stock market plunged.

Along with the United Kingdom and European Union, the United States imposed sanctions on the architects of this war, including Putin himself.

By moving in close coordination with a powerful coalition of Allies and partners representing more than half of the global economy, we have magnified the impact of our actions to impose maximum costs on Putin and his regime.  In response to Putin’s war of choice, we will limit Russia’s ability to do business in U.S. dollars.

We will stunt Russia’s ability to finance and grow its military.  We will impair Russia’s ability to compete in the global economy.  And we are prepared to do more.

In addition to economic penalties, this week President Biden authorized an additional $1 billion over the $350 million of security assistance he recently approved, and a $650 million in 2021, to immediately help Ukraine defend itself, bringing America’s total security assistance to Ukraine over the past year to $2 billion.

We also stand ready to defend our NATO Allies.  President Biden has coordinated with Allied governments to position thousands of additional forces in Germany and Poland as part of our commitment to NATO’s collective defense.

He authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks:  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.  Our Allies have also added their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense.  There should be no doubt about the readiness of the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world:  NATO is more united than ever.

The United States has also coordinated with major oil-producing and consuming countries to underscore our common interest in securing global energy supplies.  We are working with energy companies to surge their capacity to supply energy to the market, particularly as prices increase.

Putin’s Unprovoked and Premeditated War

This was an attack that Vladimir Putin has planned for a long time.  He methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border.  He moved blood supplies into position and built field hospitals, demonstrating his intentions all along.

He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering by engaging in diplomacy and dialogue.

Putin executed his playbook exactly as we had warned he would do.  We saw Russia’s proxies increase their shelling in the Donbas.  We saw the Russian government launch cyber-operations against Ukraine.  We saw staged political theater in Moscow and heard outlandish and baseless claims made about Ukraine in an attempt to justify Russia’s aggression.

Russia continues to justify its military aggression by falsely claiming the need to stop “genocide” in Ukraine – despite there being no evidence that genocide was occurring there.  We saw Russia use these tactics before when they invaded Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.

And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his invasion in violation of international law.  Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine.  Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all riding a renewed wave of disinformation and outright lies.

We have been transparent with the world.  We declassified our intelligence about Russia’s plans so there could be no confusion and no cover up.  Putin is the aggressor.  Putin chose this war.  And now his people will bear the consequences of his decision to invest in war rather than in them.

Transatlantic Unity and Resolve Stronger Than Ever

Putin’s goal of dividing the West has failed.  In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity.  We have united, coordinating intensively to engage as one with Russia and Ukraine, provided assistance to Ukraine, developed a broad response, and reaffirmed our commitment to NATO.

Putin has failed to divide us.  Putin has failed to undermine our shared belief in the fundamental right of sovereign nations to choose their destiny and their allies.  And Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine.

The next few days, weeks, and months will be incredibly difficult for the people of Ukraine.  Putin has unleashed great suffering on them.  But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence, and they have repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.

The world is watching this conflict closely, and if Russian forces commit atrocities, we will explore all international mechanisms that could be used to bring those responsible – whether members of the military or their civilian leadership – to account.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will cost Russia profoundly, both economically and strategically.  The Russian people deserve better from their government than the immense cost to their future that this invasion has precipitated.

Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression.  In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake:  Freedom will prevail.

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