Former cabinet minister and unionist, and seasoned businessman, David Magang has urged the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) to share its wealth with its members.
The business savvy Union, which comprises mostly of white collar employees from Government and parastatals, has been noted for making investments in properties and business arrangements that give it worthwhile returns.
“It goes without saying that monies for that Union monies are monies of the people for the people by the people; the monies have to benefit them direct proportion with the assets they accumulate,” also warning that, “otherwise we could witness someday an uprising of the workers against fat cats among the Union’s top brass!”
“Let us guard against an Animal Farm like revolt in the BOPEU realm,” Magang said, referring to George Orwell’s allegory about revolt against power.
Magang made the remarks at the official opening of the Union’s P20 million headquarters at the Gaborone Central Business District, last week Friday. David Magang has served as secretary general within BOPEU’s predecessor, Botswana Civil Service Association (BCSA), rising from the position of recording clerk.
Magang challenged to come up with structures ti share the wealth with the workers. “Since BOPEU boasts a portfolio of income generating structures, which were built from a kitty arising from members contributions, one hopes that that it will at some stage articulate to us to us how exactly monetary benefits accrue to members directly.”
“Do they get dividends on a yearly basis or special bonuses? Has it set up a special purpose investment vehicle along the lines of Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund that its members can tap into in old age?” asked Magang.
Babereki is said to be earmarking more investment in various sectors around the country such in Agricultural and commercial lands in Palapye, residential land in Morwa, a training scools plot in Gaborone and offices.
Magang warned the Union against overreaching itself politically, but must use their political power to influence outcomes for better working conditions, job security and rewards, even striking to secure unmet conditions. He said that over pricing the labour has forced in western countries resulted in jobs being created elsewhere in the world, such as Asia, “where unionism is not as bellicose and disruptive.”
However he said the Union must avoid being docile, but cautioned against excesses on both ends, keeping in mind investor perceptions.
Magang also warned against Unions antagonising the business environment with unrealistic demands with regard s to worker’s issues, citing the acrimonious work relations in neighbouring South Africa, where relations have gone sour, causing some investors in mining to flee the country.
Magang urged the Unions to fight equally hard for workers to adopt good work ethics as currently, the local workforce is shunned for its low work ethics, something that Magang, as a businessman can attest to.
“When we show a predilection to hiring foreigners, it is not because they come cheap or we simply hate our own people; it is because our own people give the impression that that they are not destined to work-BOPEU should give its members an ultimatum-that we will fight for our betterment but we have to do our part by working industriously and productively.”
BOPEU president Andrew Motsamai, revealed in a previous interview with WeekendPost that the Union has recorded success in business and investment due to acquiring the best talent to head its business operations, even competing with the most astute corporations such as banks.
The Union is the first ever in the Southern African region to acquire insurance brokerage and microlender licenses, under its business wing, Babereki investment with a staff complement of 26, which is separate from Union business, since 2010, and has acquired fixed properties to the value of P40 million.
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The recent study on youth entrepreneurship in Botswana has identified difficult access to funding, land, machinery, lack of entrepreneurial mindset and proper training as serious challenges that continue to hamper youth entrepreneurship development in this country.
The study conducted by Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) in collaboration with University of Botswana has confirmed that despite the government and private sector multi-billion pula entrepreneurship development initiatives, many young people in Botswana continue to fail to grow their businesses into sustainable and successful companies that can help reduce unemployment.
University of Botswana researchers Gaofetege Ganamotse and Rudolph Boy who compiled findings in the 2022 study report for Botswana stated that as part of the study interviews were conducted with successful youth entrepreneurs to understand their critical success factors.
According to the researchers other participants were community leaders, business mentors, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture, financial institutions, higher education institutions, non-governmental institutions, policymakers, private organizations, and support structures such as legal and technical experts and accountants who were interviewed to understand how they facilitate successful youth entrepreneurship.
The researchers said they found that although Botswana government is perceived as the most supportive to businesses when compared to other governments in sub-Saharan Africa, youth entrepreneurs still face challenges when accessing government funding. “Several finance-related challenges were identified by youth entrepreneurs. Some respondents lamented the lack of access to start-up finance, whereas others mentioned lack of access to infrastructure.”
The researchers stated that in Botswana entrepreneurship is not yet perceived as a field or career of choice by many youth “Participants in the study emphasized that the many youth are more of necessity entrepreneurs, seeing business venturing as a “fall back. Other facilitators mentioned that some youth do not display creativity, mind-blowing innovative solutions, and business management skills. Some youth entrepreneurs like to take shortcuts like selling sweets or muffins.”
According to the researchers, some of the youth do not display perseverance when they are faced with adversity in business. “Young people lack of an entrepreneurial mindset is a common challenge among youth in business. Some have a mindset focused on free services, handouts, and rapid gains. They want overnight success. As such, they give up easily when faced with challenges. On the other hand, some participants argue that they may opt for quick wins because they do not have access to any land, machinery, offices, and vehicles.”
The researchers stated that most youth involved in business ventures do not have the necessary training or skills to maintain a business. “Poor financial management has also been cited as one of the challenges for youth entrepreneurs, such as using profit for personal reasons rather than investing in the business. Also some are not being able to separate their livelihood from their businesses.
Lastly, youth entrepreneurs reported a lack of experience as one of the challenges. For example, the experience of running a business with projections, sticking to the projections, having an accounting system, maintaining a clean and clear billing system, and sound administration system.”
According to the researchers, the participants in the study emphasized that there is fragmentation within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, whereby there is replication of business activities without any differentiation. “There is no integration of the ecosystem players. As such, they end up with duplicate programs targeting the same objectives. The financial sector recommended that there is a need for an intermediary body that will bring all the ecosystem actors together and serve as a “one-stop shop” for entrepreneurs and build mentorship programs that accommodate the business lifecycle from inception to growth.”
Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) is said to have recorded an operating surplus of P61 Million, an improvement compared to the previous year. The housing, office and other building needs giant met with stakeholders recently to share how the business has been.
The P61 million is a significant increase against the P6 million operating loss realized in the prior year. Profit before income tax also increased significantly from P2 million in the prior year to P72 million which resulted in an overall increase in surplus after tax from P1 million prior year to P64 million for the year under review.
Chief of Finance Officer, Diratsagae Kgamanyane disclosed; “This growth in surplus was driven mainly by rental revenue that increased by 15% from P209 million to P240 million and reduction in expenditure from P272 million to P214 million on the back of cost containment.” He further stated that sales of high margin investment properties also contributed significantly to the growth in surplus as well as impairment reversals on receivables amounting to P25 million.
It is said that the Corporation recorded a total revenue of P702 million, an 8% decrease when compared to the P760 million recorded in the prior year. “Sales revenue which is one of the major revenue streams returned impressive margins, contributing to the overall growth in the gross margin,” added Kgamanyane.
He further stated professional fees revenue line declined significantly by 64% to P5 million from P14 million in the prior year which attributed to suspension of planned projects by their clients due to Covid-19 pandemic. “Facilities Management revenue decreased by P 24 million from P69 million recorded in prior year to P45 million due to reduction in projects,” Kgamanyane said.
The Corporation’s strength is on its investment properties portfolio that stood at P1.4 billion at the end of the reporting period. “The Corporation continues its strategy to diversify revenue streams despite both facilities management income and professional fees being challenged by the prevailing economic conditions that have seen its major clients curtailing spending,” added the CEO.
On the one hand, the Corporation’s Strategic Performance which intended to build 12 300 houses by 2023 has so far managed to build 4 830 houses under their SHHA funding scheme, 1 240 houses for commercial or external use which includes use by government and 1 970 houses to rent to individuals.
BHC Acting CEO Pascaline Sefawe noted that; BHC’s planned projects are said to include building 336 flat units in Gaborone Block 7 at approximately P224 million, 100 units in Maun at approximately P78 million, 13 units in Phakalane at approximately P26 million, 212 units in Kazungula at approximately P160 million, 96 units at approximately P42 million in Francistown and 84 units at approximately P61 million in Letlhakane. Emphasing; “People tend to accuse us of only building houses in Gaborone, so here we are, including other areas in our planned projects.”