For a country that is seen as an economic success on the continent, Botswana is still far off in terms of bridging the income gap, ensuring food security, economic participation by the larger populace.
After many years of being an exemplar of good governance, political stability and steady economic growth, some of the novelty has worn off as other countries catch up. Peace and stability can no longer be used as trump cards to woe investors and those who can drive innovation; this is because the continent has largely ceased to be a war zone. Other countries such as Rwanda, Mauritius and Gabon have caught up on the economic front. Some have embraced innovation much faster than Botswana.
Despite its middle-income status, Botswana continues to grapple with significant social challenges including unequal distribution of wealth, high levels of poverty, unemployment and HIV/AIDS prevalence. The latest Human Development Index released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in July 2014, Botswana with an index of 0.683, comes 6th in Africa (109th in the world), after Lybia, Tunisia, Liberia and Mauritius and Seychelles.
This rating gives Botswana the top position among the Medium Development classification as for countries like South Africa, Ghana, Namibia and others. The Lower Development Index rated countries include the bulk of African countries, among them; Kenya, Lesotho, Swaziland and Cameroon Mauritania and Zimbabwe.
The country is yet to reap the fruits of a privatisation drive that has taken longer than anticipated; the Private
At a gala dinner held hosted by the Botswana Confederation of Commerce and Manpower (BOCCIM) in Francistown recently, the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) Managing Director, Bashi Gaetsaloe, shared a vision for this country that can only be described as an economic revolution. Gaetsaloe shared a presentation titled Private Sector Led Economic Growth – Lessons and Suggestions.
But can the Corporation, with Gaetsaloe at the helm, achieve such a feat, totally independent of political power? That is as question that an observer would ask given that political decision makers often have precedence over technocrats and their expertise. But that question will, for now remain food for thought.
Gaetsaloe sees the Botswana Development Corporation as a panacea for the socio-economic problems that Botswana faces; the Corporation will be more relevant under the control of the brilliant young with a colourful curriculum vitae.
“We need a private sector that can say “Why Not?” and then deliver on that challenge. We need a private sector that can create businesses that have operations in New York, London, Singapore, Australia. Why Not?”
Gaetsaloe’s position is that the country has groomed its people for administrative roles, somewhat at the expense of innovation and diversification. The resource blessing, often referred to as a curse, caught up with Botswana whereby the country latches onto the revenues gained from one main stream; diamonds. Efforts to diversify away from diamonds have been slow but evident.
What is different now?
“We have higher unemployment and are challenged to get it down; Mining revenues are not only in decline – but are also contributing a smaller share to GDP; Botswana is more dependent on services than on mining for fiscal income; Botswana is not exporting enough and we have enough administrators – but not enough creators.”
“We need businesses that can patent innovations and sell them to global giants such as Microsoft and Dell. Why Not?
“We need businesses that can reduce our dependencies on exports for oil, sugar, light bulbs? Why Not? We need a private sector that can conquer not just Africa but the world. Why not? We need businesses that can ensure that – not 100 or 200 – but 10, 000 Batswana can participate in the diamond industry in Botswana and beyond. Why not? We need business that don’t just dream. They do it? Why Not?”
One has to critically look at the reasons why Botswana is not industrialized
The diamonds are sorted, polished and to some extent sold from Botswana after the landmark relocation of De Beers Global Sales to Botswana in late 2013. Experts put the possible economic potential at
Gaetsaloe seems to be galvanized by some of the success of the BDC in the past; some of these include partnerships on projects of various sectors, funded by the Bank namely, Gaborone Sun Hotel and Conference Centre, Metropolitan, Sechaba Holdings, Cresta Marakanelo Hotels and Mashatu. “These businesses may have changed owners and changed names but all of them were started in partnership with BDC,” says Gaetsaloe.
Formed in 1970, BDC has helped to form and to grow over 300 businesses in the last 45 years. Every year, through its assistance of equity, direct loans, preference shares, and indirect support, the Corporation disburses between P50 million and P100 million directly to the business community.
But Gaetsaloe wants to see more being done; he wants the Corporation to give answers to the socio-economic questions that arise in the country.
Gaetsaloe asks very pertinent questions: “Why can’t we feed 2 million people with cabbage and spinach? We will answer this question? Why can’t we serve a glass of milk for 2 million people. We will answer this question? Why can’t we invest more in the region? We will answer this question?”
ECONOMIC REVOLUTION? Research done by the Ministry of Trade and Industry has revealed that there are niches and gaps in various sectors which could be exploited, provided all backward and forward linkages are mobilized to monetize them effectively.
Agro-processing (dairy, horticulture, meat); Coal, Diamond and Other Minerals Beneficiation; Recycled Material Products –Paper, Plastic and others; Arts and Crafts; Construction/Building Materials; Textiles and Clothing; Leather and Leather Products; Renewable Energy; Banking, Finance and Insurance; Services/Support Sectors and Primary Production (grains, livestock, etc)
An economic revolution is a rapid change in the economic system of a society. For example in Cuba, when Castro took over the government he nationalised all the industry in the country. Cuba went from a mostly free market economic system to a government operated economy.
The Industrial Revolution which took place in Great Britain and spread to Western Europe and the United States, in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, improved efficiency of water power, the increasing use of steam power, and the development of machine tools. This was probably a classic example early example of public private partnerships, whereby the governments were pushing for industrialisation.
Despite its middle-income status, Botswana has to contend with challenges emanating from its narrow economic structure and the attendant over-dependence on the mining sector, in particular diamonds.
While the government has a reputation for the prudent management of mining revenues and also boasts a good governance record and stable democracy, the need for diversification remains critical.
On the social front, the distribution of resources and level of development remain major concerns. With a Gini coefficient of 0.61, Botswana portrays a relatively unequal distribution of wealth.
The incidence of poverty is also high, with 18.4 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Other challenges include a high unemployment rate of 17.8 percent, and relatively low Human Development Index (HDI) ranking and score mainly due to the high HIV/AIDS prevalence of 23.4 percent that drags down life expectancy.
Yet opportunities for economic activity and job creation lie in many different sectors among them;
Can Botswana see her coming out of the closet and become an innovative economic powerhouse in the region and beyond? Bashi Gaetsaloe says it can and should be done.
SOME CURRENT EFFORTS There are many interventions that have been set up, mostly by government. Government’s business development body, Local Enterprise Authority (LEA), has teamed up with Indian firm, National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC) to set up a Rapid Incubation Center to impart technical and business skills.
The Incubation centre will be constructed at a plot in the Old Industrial Site that was rendered to LEA by the former International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) at its dissolution. The training will be conducted for graduate and non graduate incubates.
Based on an assessment of both NSIC and LEA teams, based on the raw materials as well as skills available in Botswana.
The Indian firm has NCIS is said to have a wealth of expertise and experience from around the world and in the. Government has set P20 million to set up the Rapid Incubation Center. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has also at some point played with the idea of promoting cooperatives and growing them.
The cooperative format of ownership for means of production strongly associated with communism. However, as governments embrace hybrid systems that are not strictly capitalist or socialist, it is conceivable that cooperatives can work in any country; cooperatives could solve economic gap and indeed the social gap. Industry experts have alluded to the infinite possibilities of cooperatives in nearly every sector imaginable.
POLITICAL WILL In a paper titled Public Enterprises’ Performance Is A Significant Function Of Government’s Behaviour, University of Botswana academic, Prof. Brothers Malema makes a case for better governance structures at parastatals and posits that political will is very integral in the success of a public institution in achieving their mandate. “Parastatal sector’s performance is largely influenced by Government,” concludes Malema.
“The delisting of Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) from the European Union market and the outbreak of foot and mouth disease have played a part in the losses incurred by the enterprise. However, BMC has also been embroiled in possible cases of sabotage. It is not surprising that they incurred losses. The Minister responsible according to some media reports failed to act in the best interests of commendable corporate standards as he seems to have failed to reign over his board. The Minister is said to have exercised some form of favouritism in the affairs of BMC. This is further aggravated by the President’s remarks that he cannot fire the Minister over the underperformance of the board,” said Malema, in buttressing his argument.
“The levels of possible corruption within Government and the lack of political will to stamp out such practice is a threat to the success of SOEs (Statutory Owned Enterprises) and the subsequent improvement of welfare gains to a country whose poverty levels rank amongst some of the poorest countries in the world. Therefore, instead of privatising public enterprises, the Government needs to strengthen governance structures.”
“I wish to conclude by pointing out that the parastatal sector’s performance is largely influenced by Government. Furthermore, the mixed performance of the public enterprises was mainly a governance issue; those that adhered to good governance practices performed well while others didn’t.
The cases of BMC, BPC and to some degree BDC points to a lapse on the side of the Government to ensure adherence to International standards of corporate governance by these organizations.
These questionable sub-standards have also been pointed out by one of the Legislators who is (or was) the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies. There is therefore a need for political will at the highest level to reign on these possible corrupt tendencies,” writes Malema in closing his argument.
Bashi Gaetsaloe’s vision could therefore go a long way in helping to industrialise Botswana and tap into solutions for the economy. However, political will can galvanise him or pour cold water on his ambitions.
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.