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Reaching Consensus For National Transformation?

Jeff Ramsay

This week the opening session of the 11th Parliament adjourned, after having devoted much of its time to debating this year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). As the first such address by the re-elected Executive to the newly elected Parliament, SONA 2014 served as an opportunity for the President to reaffirm his administration’s roadmap for taking Botswana forward over the next five years.
In the context of Government’s primary mandate to uphold the rule of law, the President’s Address had thus outlined his administration’s priorities beginning with the need for continued job creation, followed by agricultural renewal, expanded access to land and housing ownership, the provision of quality education, citizen, including youth, economic empowerment, the eradication of abject poverty and elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, along with further Government reform that leverages on the application of new technologies.
Judging from the content, rather than tone, of this year’s SONA debate it would appear that the Executive’s priorities were in fact broadly embraced by the membership of the House. This is perhaps to be expected as they are clearly aligned with the challenges and aspirations expressed by Batswana at all levels of society.
As Vice President Masisi observed in his own statement on Tuesday, when he closed the debate in his capacity as the Leader of the House, what has been more surprising has been the general support from MPs on both sides of the House for key measures that are already being undertaken by Government to address these priorities. As the Vice President put it:
“I am further encouraged by the fact that through their statements of support for key measures already being undertaken by Government, as well as their silence on many, dare I say the majority of the areas covered by His Excellency’s report to the nation, there appears to be a clear cross party consensus for endorsing the substance of the address.”
Masisi went on to identify over a dozen areas where there now appears to be shared political support for ongoing national initiatives. These included Government efforts to promote diversification and beneficiation in the mineral sector through the migration of diamond trading and establishment of the state owned Okavango Diamond and Mineral Investment Companies.
The successful migration ahead of schedule by De Beers in partnership with Botswana Government of their diamond aggregation and sales from London to Gaborone was without doubt an outstanding achievement. As Masisi noted “such massive translocation from developed to developing world, from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere remains unparalleled.”
Government’s facilitation of the associated expansion of downstream industries and services has also undoubtedly opened a new chapter in our efforts to diversify the economy through our capital city’s emergence as the leading global ‘mines to market’ diamond hub.
Further parliamentary consensus could be discerned in favour of Government’s continued stimulation of economic and social development in the rural areas through the nurturing of small medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) through such measures as the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) local procurement preference, as well as financial and training support in partnership with the private sector, which has contributed to the employment of more than 28,000 Batswana.In this respect, the Vice President reminded MPs of the fact thatthe value of such EDD purchases amounted to P590.5 million for 2010/2011, P1.8 billion for 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 and P2.3 billion for 2013/2014 financial years.
Additional areas of seeming consensus include encouraging additional domestic and foreign investment through citizen empowerment funding, external marketing and enhanced efforts to promote greater productivity in both the public and private sectors with the introduction of new technologies as well as improved work ethics, as well as the continued expansion and localisation of labour intensive economic sectors such as tourism, ICT and commercialised agriculture.
Common support was further reflected in a shared recognition of the continued need for the:
· Transformation of the educational system at all levels;

· Sustainable use of the nation’s natural resources based on the continued recognition of their common ownership;

· Revival of social values at family and community level;

· Improvement of land management through the rollout of the Land administration Processes, Capacity Building and Systems or “LAPCAS” Project;

· Renewal of agriculture through ISPAAD and LIMID; · Upgrading of transport infrastructure through such mega projects as railways expansion and the Kazungula bridge;

· Enhancement of social protection with social safety nets;

· Development of Local sports and cultural groups; and

· Realisation of greater equity and inclusiveness through affirmative action for vulnerable groups such as remote area dwellers and people living with disabilities as well as gender and youth empowerment.
Progress towards achieving the later was evident in this week’s launch of solar powered street lights in an RADP settlement of Diphuduhudu, which through the same initiative will in the coming months also be provided with public access internet connectivity. It is expected that such infrastructure will soon be rolled out to other remote area communities.

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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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