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Friday, 01 December 2023

Bogadi: A call for national debate



One of the main features of social advancement, from hunter gatherer to tribal chiefdoms and eventually to nation states, is that the family has evolved into the foundation of society, its main social unit. As human social organization became sophisticated, the institution of marriage came into operation to ensure family stability and provide a conducive atmosphere in which the young could be nurtured into responsible members of society. A major advance in strengthening the family, pioneered mainly but not entirely by early Christianity, brought about monogamy. Most societies prior to Christianity were polygamous.

Our own society in Botswana has gone through all these stages. By the time most of us who are contemporary in the country were born, monogamy was getting entrenched. I would posit that this was brought about by a combination of the establishment of Christianity in the country as well as the transition of our society from a rural agricultural base to a cash based one.

The tradition of Bogadi is one aspect of marital practice in Botswana that has persisted, although with time it has developed rather negative features. Different forms of this practice exist in many societies in Africa and other parts of the world, especially in traditional societies. In Southern Africa it is commonly known as Lobola and is widely practiced in various forms, and in other parts of Africa and the developing world it has been referred to as Dowry or Bride price. It generally consists of the family of the groom paying something to the family of the bride. In a few societies, and one hears this mainly about India, the dowry is paid by the family of the bride. I haven’t heard of this in Africa, definitely not in Southern Africa.

In the Botswana context, idealists and traditionalists have described bogadi as a form of “thank you” to the family of the bride for bringing her up properly and I presume thus making her into a potentially good wife. Detractors of the system have however described it as exploitation of the family of the groom, and even worse, as a form of selling the daughter for a price. Historically we know that Christian Missionaries (European) in their early contact with Batswana discouraged the practice as they maintained it amounted to selling a daughter. This led to at least one of the Kings/Chiefs, Khama III, banning it in his territory on being converted to Christianity.

The practice has however demonstrated strong elements of survival and staying power. Bogadi is still virtually universal in Botswana, and has even made a come-back in Serowe, Khama III’s capital base, where it had disappeared for a long time, or was practised covertly by charging for other things such as leobo or demanding a lot of clothes.

Botswana belongs to a number of pastoral societies in East and Southern Africa that are strongly pastoral, where cattle ownership has historically been a sign of not only wealth but prestige and power. In such societies, bogadi or lobola, is highly valued, and is traditionally paid in cattle, usually a large number of them.

Unfortunately the system gives the groom and his family very high powers over the wife and the children, virtually taking the wife away from her family and absorbing her into the husband’s family, and making her and the children virtual properties of the husband’s family.

This has been known to encourage abuse, especially of the wife, on the premise that she has been paid for; “re go ntsheditse bogadi, dira se kgotsa dira sele”.  Stories of abuse of wives by their in-laws, especially mothers in law and sisters in law, abound. This is what prompted the early missionaries to regard bogadi as tantamount to buying the wife.

After being involved in a number of marriages of relatives, I have become quite disturbed at the direction the practice of bogadi is taking in our society. Whether it was ever as good as its advocates claim I don’t know- it is a universal tendency of human nature to glorify the past.  But it has now certainly developed very negative features, and it is having quite a negative impact on family formation in our society. It has become so commercialized that it has consequently become a major impediment to couples getting married.

As a background, let us look at changes that have taken place in our society. Firstly, the proportion of families that own cattle has declined severely over the latter half of the 20th century. Few families now own cattle. I will not go into the reasons for that. However, what it means is that a young man who wants to get married has to raise cash to pay bogadi.

Secondly, the percentage of adults married has also declined progressively over over the last couple of decades. On the corollary, this has resulted in the majority of children in our society being born out of wedlock. I would posit that these phenomena are all connected; few people can now afford bogadi as few families own cattle, and many are not earning enough to pay the demanded bogadi in cash. Most are just not earning enough to pay the going price.

Therefore couples tend to just maintain a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship and start having children hoping that at some point the man might just accumulate enough money to pay bogadi. With the low incomes that are earned by most of the working population this day never comes.

The graph below illustrates what has been happening to marriage in the country. The graph analyses males and females in two age groups (25-29 and 45-49) in three censuses (1971, 1981, 1991) and shows a progressive decline in percentages of persons ever married. (This is from a paper I presented in 2006, and unfortunately I have no figures for the 2001 and 2011 censuses, but I would be surprised if the declining trend has been arrested. This is a serious problem, as it aggravates the problem of single parent households. I reiterate my statement that bogadi is a major if not the major contributor to this decline in percentages of adults ever married.

In the last few months I have been involved in the organization of the traditional part of marriages (patlo, go ntsha bogadi etc.), including the demands made by the girl’s side. The following is the typical demand I have encountered: Bogadi 8 head of cattle, Kgomo ya metsi(called different things in different parts of Botswana such as kgomo ya motlhakanelwa, serufo etc.), kgomo ya tlhagela (if you already have a child ), making ten cattle in all. It would then be specified that if you pay in money, each beast translates to P3,500 or P3,000. This translates to more than P30,000 in all.

In addition, most tribes would demand a whole host of clothes, including a suit for the father of the bride and a costume for the mother with shoes etc., as well as a tsale, tukwi, and other things for other relatives. The bride herself has to be outfitted in clothes. In my experience this is another P20,000 or so. So, before the marriage itself takes place, about P50,000 is needed from the groom. The marriage feast itself will be several tens of thousands.

Now, how many men can afford this? Most of our men are in middle or low income categories of income. This kind of money is just beyond them, even most young men who have graduated from University in the last five or more years cannot afford this.

Their families are usually not in a position to help. So, the young couple is likely to postpone marriage indefinitely and cohabit, or just to have one or two children and go their separate ways.

In view of the discussion above, I would suggest that the leadership in this country, the Royal Establishments especially, seriously engage their people and relook at bogadi. While completely abolishing it may not be a practical way to go, at least modify it drastically to enable young people to afford it- make it affordable for the low income men and potential middle income men who have just entered the market. The long-term goal should be to encourage and facilitate young people to marry, and thus reduce the proportion of children born outside the secure atmosphere of married parents.

I believe, and I have stated this before, that as a nation we have not developed the culture of debating social issues deeply. This kind of topic needs to be debated by our society, facilitated by appropriate bodies, including the traditional and political leaderships, and the academic world.

There are other issues relating to family life that need similar discussions, e.g., what is the impact of new policies like the role of biological fathers where at marriage the man said he is taking kgomo le namane? How do families share responsibility where the girl who bears a child out of marriage and her parents dump the child at the father’s parents place and then suddenly demand the child back when it is grown up?

These are issues needing in-depth discussions, and I hope our society will give them due attention.

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IEC Disrespects Batswana: A Critical Analysis

10th November 2023

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has recently faced significant criticism for its handling of the voter registration exercise. In this prose I aim to shed light on the various instances where the IEC has demonstrated a lack of respect towards the citizens of Botswana, leading to a loss of credibility. By examining the postponements of the registration exercise and the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively, it becomes evident that the institution has disregarded its core mandate and the importance of its role in ensuring fair and transparent elections.

Incompetence or Disrespect?

One possible explanation for the IEC’s behavior is sheer incompetence. It is alarming to consider that the leadership of such a critical institution may lack the understanding of the importance of their mandate. The failure to communicate the reasons for the postponements in a timely manner raises questions about their ability to handle their responsibilities effectively. Furthermore, if the issue lies with government processes, it calls into question whether the IEC has the courage to stand up to the country’s leadership.

Another possibility is that the IEC lacks respect for its core clients, the voters of Botswana. Respect for stakeholders is crucial in building trust, and clear communication is a key component of this. The IEC’s failure to communicate accurate and complete information, despite having access to it, has fueled speculation and mistrust. Additionally, the IEC’s disregard for engaging with political parties, such as the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), further highlights this disrespect. By ignoring the UDC’s request to observe the registration process, the IEC demonstrates a lack of regard for its partners in the electoral exercise.

Rebuilding Trust and Credibility:

While allegations of political interference and security services involvement cannot be ignored, the IEC has a greater responsibility to ensure its own credibility. The institution did manage to refute claims by the DISS Director that the IEC database had been compromised, which is a positive step towards rebuilding trust. However, this remains a small glimmer of hope in the midst of the IEC’s overall disregard for the citizens of Botswana.

To regain the trust of Batswana, the IEC must prioritize respect for its stakeholders. Clear and timely communication is essential in this process. By engaging with political parties and addressing their concerns, the IEC can demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. It is crucial for the IEC to recognize that its credibility is directly linked to the trust it garners from the voters.


The IEC’s recent actions have raised serious concerns about its credibility and respect for the citizens of Botswana. Whether due to incompetence or a lack of respect for stakeholders, the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively and handle its responsibilities has damaged its reputation. To regain trust and maintain relevance, the IEC must prioritize clear and timely communication, engage with political parties, and demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. Only by respecting the voters of Botswana can the IEC fulfill its crucial role in ensuring free and fair elections.


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Fuelling Change: The Evolving Dynamics of the Oil and Gas Industry

4th April 2023

The Oil and Gas industry has undergone several significant developments and changes over the last few years. Understanding these developments and trends is crucial towards better appreciating how to navigate the engagement in this space, whether directly in the energy space or in associated value chain roles such as financing.

Here, we explore some of the most notable global events and trends and the potential impact or bearing they have on the local and global market.

Governments and companies around the world have been increasingly focused on transitioning towards renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. This shift is motivated by concerns about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Africa, including Botswana, is part of these discussions, as we work to collectively ensure a greener and more sustainable future. Indeed, this is now a greater priority the world over. It aligns closely with the increase in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing being observed. ESG investing has become increasingly popular, and many investors are now looking for companies that are focused on sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint. This trend could have significant implications for the oil and fuel industry, which is often viewed as environmentally unsustainable. Relatedly and equally key are the evolving government policies. Government policies and regulations related to the Oil and Gas industry are likely to continue evolving with discussions including incentives for renewable energy and potentially imposing stricter regulations on emissions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a strong role. Over the last two years, the pandemic had a profound impact on the Oil and Gas industry (and fuel generally), leading to a significant drop in demand as travel and economic activity slowed down. As a result, oil prices plummeted, with crude oil prices briefly turning negative in April 2020. Most economies have now vaccinated their populations and are in recovery mode, and with the recovery of the economies, there has been recovery of oil prices; however, the pace and sustainability of recovery continues to be dependent on factors such as emergence of new variants of the virus.

This period, which saw increased digital transformation on the whole, also saw accelerated and increased investment in technology. The Oil and Gas industry is expected to continue investing in new digital technologies to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This also means a necessary understanding and subsequent action to address the impacts from the rise of electric vehicles. The growing popularity of electric vehicles is expected to reduce demand for traditional gasoline-powered cars. This has, in turn, had an impact on the demand for oil.

Last but not least, geopolitical tensions have played a tremendous role. Geopolitical tensions between major oil-producing countries can and has impacted the supply of oil and fuel. Ongoing tensions in the Middle East and between the US and Russia could have an impact on global oil prices further, and we must be mindful of this.

On the home front in Botswana, all these discussions are relevant and the subject of discussion in many corporate and even public sector boardrooms. Stanbic Bank Botswana continues to take a lead in supporting the Oil and Gas industry in its current state and as it evolves and navigates these dynamics. This is through providing financing to support Oil and Gas companies’ operations, including investments in new technologies. The Bank offers risk management services to help oil and gas companies to manage risks associated with price fluctuations, supply chain disruptions and regulatory changes. This includes offering hedging products and providing advice on risk management strategies.

Advisory and support for sustainability initiatives that the industry undertakes is also key to ensuring that, as companies navigate complex market conditions, they are more empowered to make informed business decisions. It is important to work with Oil and Gas companies to develop and implement sustainability strategies, such as reducing emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy. This is key to how partners such as Stanbic Bank work to support the sector.

Last but not least, Stanbic Bank stands firmly in support of Botswana’s drive in the development of the sector with the view to attain better fuel security and reduce dependence risk on imported fuel. This is crucial towards ensuring a stronger, stabler market, and a core aspect to how we can play a role in helping drive Botswana’s growth.  Continued understanding, learning, and sustainable action are what will help ensure the Oil and Gas sector is supported towards positive, sustainable and impactful growth in a manner that brings social, environmental and economic benefit.

Loago Tshomane is Manager, Client Coverage, Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB), Stanbic Bank Botswana

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Brands are important

27th March 2023

So, the conclusion is brands are important. I start by concluding because one hopes this is a foregone conclusion given the furore that erupts over a botched brand. If a fast food chef bungles a food order, there’d be possibly some isolated complaint thrown. However, if the same company’s marketing expert or agency cooks up a tasteless brand there is a country-wide outcry. Why?  Perhaps this is because brands affect us more deeply than we care to understand or admit. The fact that the uproar might be equal parts of schadenfreude, black twitter-esque criticism and, disappointment does not take away from the decibel of concern raised.

A good place to start our understanding of a brand is naturally by defining what a brand is. Marty Neumier, the genius who authored The Brand Gap, offers this instructive definition – “A brand is a person’s gut feel about a product or service”. In other words, a brand is not what the company says it is. It is what the people feel it is. It is the sum total of what it means to them. Brands are perceptions. So, brands are defined by individuals not companies. But brands are owned by companies not individuals. Brands are crafted in privacy but consumed publicly. Brands are communal. Granted, you say. But that doesn’t still explain why everybody and their pet dog feel entitled to jump in feet first into a brand slug-fest armed with a hot opinion. True. But consider the following truism.


Brands are living. They act as milestones in our past. They are signposts of our identity. Beacons of our triumphs. Indexes of our consumption. Most importantly, they have invaded our very words and world view. Try going for just 24 hours without mentioning a single brand name. Quite difficult, right? Because they live among us they have become one of us. And we have therefore built ‘brand bonds’ with them. For example, iPhone owners gather here. You love your iPhone. It goes everywhere. You turn to it in moments of joy and when we need a quick mood boost. Notice how that ‘relationship’ started with desire as you longingly gazed upon it in a glossy brochure. That quickly progressed to asking other people what they thought about it. Followed by the zero moment of truth were you committed and voted your approval through a purchase. Does that sound like a romantic relationship timeline. You bet it does. Because it is. When we conduct brand workshops we run the Brand Loyalty ™ exercise wherein we test people’s loyalty to their favourite brand(s). The results are always quite intriguing. Most people are willing to pay a 40% premium over the standard price for ‘their’ brand. They simply won’t easily ‘breakup’ with it. Doing so can cause brand ‘heart ache’. There is strong brand elasticity for loved brands.


Now that we know brands are communal and endeared, then companies armed with this knowledge, must exercise caution and practise reverence when approaching the subject of rebranding. It’s fragile. The question marketers ought to ask themselves before gleefully jumping into the hot rebranding cauldron is – Do we go for an Evolution (partial rebrand) or a Revolution(full rebrand)? An evolution is incremental. It introduces small but significant changes or additions to the existing visual brand. Here, think of the subtle changes you’ve seen in financial or FMCG brands over the decades. Evolution allows you to redirect the brand without alienating its horde of faithful followers. As humans we love the familiar and certain. Change scares us. Especially if we’ve not been privy to the important but probably blinkered ‘strategy sessions’ ongoing behind the scenes. Revolutions are often messy. They are often hard reset about-turns aiming for a total new look and ‘feel’.



Hard rebranding is risky business. History is littered with the agony of brands large and small who felt the heat of public disfavour. In January 2009, PepsiCo rebranded the Tropicana. When the newly designed package hit the shelves, consumers were not having it. The New York Times reports that ‘some of the commenting described the new packaging as ‘ugly’ ‘stupid’. They wanted their old one back that showed a ripe orange with a straw in it. Sales dipped 20%. PepsiCo reverted to the old logo and packaging within a month. In 2006 Mastercard had to backtrack away from it’s new logo after public criticism, as did Leeds United, and the clothing brand Gap. AdAge magazine reports that critics most common sentiment about the Gap logo was that it looked like something a child had created using a clip-art gallery. Botswana is no different. University of Botswana had to retreat into the comfort of the known and accepted heritage strong brand.  Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital was badgered with complaints till it ‘adjusted’ its logo.



So if the landscape of rebranding is so treacherous then whey take the risk? Companies need to soberly assess they need for a rebrand. According to the fellows at Ignyte Branding a rebrand is ignited by the following admissions :

Our brand name no longer reflects our company’s vision.
We’re embarrassed to hand out our business cards.

Our competitive advantage is vague or poorly articulated.
Our brand has lost focus and become too complex to understand. Our business model or strategy has changed.
Our business has outgrown its current brand.
We’re undergoing or recently underwent a merger or acquisition. Our business has moved or expanded its geographic reach.
We need to disassociate our brand from a negative image.
We’re struggling to raise our prices and increase our profit margins. We want to expand our influence and connect to new audiences. We’re not attracting top talent for the positions we need to fill. All the above are good reasons to rebrand.

The downside to this debacle is that companies genuinely needing to rebrand might be hesitant or delay it altogether. The silver lining I guess is that marketing often mocked for its charlatans, is briefly transformed from being the Archilles heel into Thanos’ glove in an instant.

So what does a company need to do to safely navigate the rebranding terrain? Companies need to interrogate their brand purpose thoroughly. Not what they think they stand for but what they authentically represent when seen through the lens of their team members. In our Brand Workshop we use a number of tools to tease out the compelling brand truth. This section always draws amusing insights. Unfailingly, the top management (CEO & CFO)always has a vastly different picture of their brand to the rest of their ExCo and middle management, as do they to the customer-facing officer. We have only come across one company that had good internal alignment. Needless to say that brand is doing superbly well.

There is need a for brand strategies to guide the brand. One observes that most brands ‘make a plan’ as they go along. Little or no deliberate position on Brand audit, Customer research, Brand positioning and purpose, Architecture, Messaging, Naming, Tagline, Brand Training and may more. A brand strategy distils why your business exists beyond making money – its ‘why’. It defines what makes your brand what it is, what differentiates it from the competition and how you want your customers to perceive it. Lacking a brand strategy disadvantages the company in that it appears soul-less and lacking in personality. Naturally, people do not like to hang around humans with nothing to say. A brand strategy understands the value proposition. People don’t buy nails for the nails sake. They buy nails to hammer into the wall to hang pictures of their loved ones. People don’t buy make up because of its several hues and shades. Make up is self-expression. Understanding this arms a brand with an iron clad clad strategy on the brand battlefield.

But perhaps you’ve done the important research and strategy work. It’s still possible to bungle the final look and feel.  A few years ago one large brand had an extensive strategy done. Hopes were high for a top tier brand reveal. The eventual proposed brand was lack-lustre. I distinctly remember, being tasked as local agency to ‘land’ the brand and we outright refused. We could see this was a disaster of epic proportions begging to happen. The brand consultants were summoned to revise the logo. After a several tweaks and compromises the brand landed. It currently exists as one of the country’s largest brands. Getting the logo and visual look right is important. But how does one know if they are on the right path? Using the simile of a brand being a person – The answer is how do you know your outfit is right? It must serve a function, be the right fit and cut, it must be coordinated and lastly it must say something about you. So it is possible to bath in a luxurious bath gel, apply exotic lotion, be facebeat and still somehow wear a faux pas outfit. Avoid that.

Another suggestion is to do the obvious. Pre-test the logo and its look and feel on a cross section of your existing and prospective audience. There are tools to do this. Their feedback can save you money, time and pain. Additionally one must do another obvious check – use Google Image to verify the visual outcome and plain Google search to verify the name. These are so obvious they are hopefully for gone conclusions. But for the brands that have gone ahead without them, I hope you have not concluded your brand journeys as there is a world of opportunity waiting to be unlocked with the right brand strategy key.

Cliff Mada is Head of ArmourGetOn Brand Consultancy, based in Gaborone and Cape Town.

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