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Khama Addresses Local Business

Jeff Ramsay

With the appointment of the new Cabinet, and notwithstanding the legal drama at the High Court, the Executive branch hit the ground running this week with a series of organisational and consultative meetings.

Prominent among the latter was Thursday's convening of the 37th Meeting of the High Level Consultative Council (HLCC). The event notably provided a public platform for President Khama reaffirm his own confidence as well as commitment in moving Botswana's economy forward on the basis of emerging progress towards the realisation of what has may be described as this country's often seemingly elusive '6th D' of diversification.

As many readers will already be aware, the HLCC, which normally meets twice a year, consists of the entire Cabinet, along with Permanent Secretaries and other senior officials, and parallel representatives from the private sector and civil society. The latter predominately consists of representatives drawn from the different industrial sub-sectors falling under the Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM), which acts as the Council's non-government coordinator.
Since its inception, the HLCC has been mandated to consider the submissions of its various industry sub-sectors, e.g. agriculture, mining, retail etc., which meet on a quarterly basis within the appropriate line Ministries. It is within these sub-sectors that the primary work of the Council is actually carried out. Chaired by the Ministers responsible, they serve as effective frameworks for addressing sector specific industry concerns. It is only when an issue cannot be resolved at sub-sector level that it is referred for further consideration to the full Council.

In his tone setting remarks at Thursday's gathering, President Khama pointed to the fact that some two thirds of his current Ministers and Assistant Ministers bring to Cabinet and their portfolios their own extensive and varied experience in the private sector. This, he suggested would give them additional insight into the needs of the business community and other non-state actors, as well as their potential role as partners in moving the country's economy forward through greater diversification.
Departing from his prepared text, Khama expressed his own optimism that, despite the continued fragility in international markets, Botswana's economy had turned the corner. He went on express his faith in the nation's capacity to achieve sustained economic growth in the coming years through already ongoing trends towards diversification.

To underscore his point the President summarising emerging prospects with specific reference to progress in the mining and beneficiation of a range of minerals, the expansion and progressive localisation of domestic tourism, emerging opportunities in transport and the growth of small businesses through the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) and associated interventions.

He went on to warn that in the coming years Government's development priorities would continue to include heavy investments in energy and water security, along with the maintenance of infrastructure, youth empowerment, and poverty eradication. Underlying each of these is his administration's overarching goal of employment creation.

With respect to water, the President candidly observed that while medium and long-term solutions were in the pipeline, the cost of further expansion of the North-South Carrier and associated infrastructure would not be cheap.    

On the topic of Ebola, the President was unapologetic in affirming that Botswana would continue to take a firm line in seeking to strictly limit movement to and from countries at the epicentre of the epidemic.

Khama confirmed that our country along with our neighbours had already experienced a modest decline in overseas visitors due unfounded fears about the spread of Ebola across Africa, despite the fact that Southern African region along with most of the rest of the continent has heretofore remained entirely free of the virus. Given the economic as well as public health threat potentially posed by the Ebola, Government, along with other stakeholders can thus not afford to be less than vigilant in its response.

Through the HLCC, Government and BOCCIM have in recent years also joined hands in common recognition that integrity and transparency in business is a key element towards improving citizens' and investors' perception of the Botswana business climate. This has been expressed in the creation of the Botswana Business Action Against Corruption (BAAC) initiative, which was founded on the view that corruption can only be adequately addressed if cooperative alliances are built involving Business, Government and Civil Society.

One of the critical BAAC outcomes has been the development of the Code of Conduct for the Private Sector, which was launched some three years ago. In this context common disappointment was expressed this week over what has heretofore been the slow uptake by local businesses in subscribing to the Code.

For his part, President Khama concluded his remarks by affirming that he had no intention of allowing either himself or other members of Cabinet to relax between now and 2018, rather declaring that: "During the remaining time in my term of office I will work just as hard as I worked on the first day to serve Batswana."

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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