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The Dangotes Ought To Be Feted

David Magang
VIEW FROM MANA HOUSE

Reading of our reported snub of the stratospheric African tycoon Aliko Dangote, I thought the gesture  constituted one of the most asinine by Government latterly. I gather, however, that  the big shot wasn’t actually denied a visa to enter Botswana: he just didn’t bother to venture down here because the last time he wanted to, in 2014, Honourable Edwin Batshu’s people told him point blank that he was not welcome!

To the parochial-minded people with a door-bouncer mentality who screen visitors to our country, every Nigerian, if not every West African, is the very embodiment of a drug contrabandist or money launderer. Botswana is “sacred” territory, the very “Holy of Holies” and therefore allowing a Dangote to set foot in it would amount to a sacrillege. It would profane Africa’s sanctum sanctorum.   

It seems hurling a voetsek at our brothers from ECOWAS is becoming something of a fetish. Clergymen from there who have been invited to propagate the gospel at Christian rallies have been stopped in their tracks.

Not too long ago, a high-powered business delegation that set off from Ghana to investigate prospects for investment had a rude awakening: only a “small fraction” of the ten of them were given the green light. In 2014, a local newspaper reported that 300 Nigerians had been deported in one fell swoop. To the best of my recollection, Government made no effort to gainsay such a claim.    

But it is not only West Africans who have been so rebuffed. Again in 2014, a well-heeled Hollywood film actor was told he was not welcome to our beloved country, his only offence being that he was headed our direction under the auspices of an opposition party.

Clearly, Government’s mindset is to tar everybody with the same stereotypical brush irrespective of their otherwise unimpeachable credentials. They may be a prominent businessman but if they hail from a certain part of the continent, we’re supposed to steer clear of them. By the same token, if they are moneyed all right but they are seen to be hobnobbing with people from certain disagreeable quarters, their greenbacks can be. The door must hastily close in their face with a bang.  

In the more level-headed and far-sighted countries right in our neck of the woods, government does not see a friend of the opposition: it sees a potential investor. It does not prima facie see a possible money launderer: it sees a person who could spend sizeable sums on tourist resorts. It does not see a West African with a thick native accent; it sees a cross-border venture capitalist who could help diversify its economy, boost employment creation, and help earn the country those crucial dollars, euros, or pounds. That’s an Aliko Dangote I’m talking about.  

HE’S THE DUDE WITH THE DEEPEST POCKETS FOLKS

“Africa’s Richest Man Denied Visa To Enter Botswana”.  That mind-boggling banner headline blared out of the front page of the Sunday Standard edition of October 6 2014.  Just what it is Government has against Aliko Dangote only the DIS could be relied upon to unpack for us, a remote possibility anyway since secrecy and confidentiality are its watchwords.   

I’m given to understand that the Immigration Director takes pride of place on the committee that assesses visa applications. My question then is, does this high-placed government official know who Aliko Dangote is?  If not, let me help drum home a few titbits in this regard.

For starters, Aliko Dangote is not Julius Malema, a budding Mzansi politician still rough at the edges who also was denied an entry visa to Botswana in 2014.  He’s the wealthiest man in Africa and the 67th richest man on earth according to the authoritative Forbes magazine. As of 2015, he was worth upwards of $17 billion, more than Zimbabwe’s annual GDP, which presently stands at just over $13 billion, and five times the critically ailing economy’s $4 billion annual budget.   

Dangote clearly is leading the charge to grow the continent from within. His flagship company, the Dangote Group, is present in 15 African countries, including Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and employs 26,000 across the continent. One of Africa’s largest conglomerates, the Dangote group portfolio encompasses investments in cement, food and beverages, steel, oil & gas, packaging materials, logistics, real estate, and telecommunications. In 2015, the company  generated over $3 billion in revenues.

Dangote is held in such high regard by governments who recognise the value and criticality of FDI to their economies he carries 8 passports.  

That is the economic colossus our blasé and closeted compatriots in the ranks of the immigration are fiddling with bagaetsho.  

TREATED LIKE A KING IN ZAMBIA, ZIMBABWE

Whilst our neighbours are tripping over each other to ensconce the Nigerian billionaire as a plank in their economic  platforms, we’re busy doing our best to fend him off as though he’s  leprous – a pariah of sorts!

In Zambia, Dangote has invested $450 million in a cement plant, with medium-term plans to up overall investment in the country twice over to $900 million. The plant has the capacity to deliver 1.5 million tonnes of cement annually. Altogether, Dangote is said to have created 7000 direct and spin-off jobs. His 400 haulage trucks alone are responsible for up to 1000 jobs.

To ensure production is not disrupted by the sporadic load-shedding that has dogged the country in recent years, Dangote has built his own 30 megawatt coal plant to generate electricity for the cement plant, with 10 megawatts available to the host community – the kind of investment we’re desperate for in Botswana.

In Masaiti, about 500 km north of the capital Lusaka, where his cement plant is located, Dangote has made available $500,000 to support burgeoning small-scale farmers. In addition, he’s building a school, a hospital, and other social amenities in the area. Furthermore, he has set up a scholarship for the Masaiti district to make it  possible for bright pupils from indigent families to pursue tertiary studies at accredited local universities.   

In July last year, Dangote commissioned a $610 million cement plant in Ethiopia, an investment he has since escalated to $1.3 billion. When a private citizen invited Dangote over to Zimbabwe, President Mugabe was so euphoric he rolled out the red carpet and just stopped short of showing him off in a ticker tape parade. The nonagenarian head of state granted Dangote licences for three projects worth $1.2 billion without the usual bureaucratic  hiccups.

Hearing that Botswana has effectively  cocked a snook at the filthy-rich West African, Mugabe must have laughed fitfully.        

A LEONTIFF PARADOX

It perturbs and even irks me why it does not seem to register in the government enclave that we need investors more than they need us. Show them the slightest sign that you have given them the brush-off and they will set their sights on jurisdictions  that fete and pamper them.

Let us take the example of   leading African social entrepreneur Fred Swaniker, who has lived and worked in more than 10 African countries. Swaniker is the co-founder of the Johannesburg-based African Leadership Academy. When he wanted to establish the African Leadership University in Mzansi, he was so encumbered by redtape that he threw in the towel and headed for Mauritius. It is there, in Port Louis, that he set about  building a $20 million campus.

Whereas the immigration office in South Africa had been dragging its feet to issue work permits to cosmopolitan personnel he needed for his higher education model for Africa, in Mauritius 40 permits were processed within the space of only two months. “If that is not efficiency, tell me what is,”   he gushed at the launch of his institution before an audience that included Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim.

South Africa is one of 8 of Africa’s upper middle income countries (a bracket in which Botswana falls too) who are notorious for their penchant  for needlessly austere work and residence permit demands. Of their ilk, only Mauritius is the odd one out. For example,  Mauritius requires a visa from only six of Africa’s 54 countries. I hope our relevant authorities will take cue when they read this.

Make no mistake about this Honourable Batshu: when we fiddle with potential investors of  Dangote’s stripes, we do so not to his detriment but our own. I have had occasion to interact with even investors already resident in Botswana who have had to undergo quite an ordeal to secure permits both for themselves and their staff  and they all are unanimous that they are doing only a fraction of their potential in terms of committing themselves resourcewise to this country.

They say  they cannot devote resources proportional to the scale of investment they envisage in a country where their future is so glaringly uncertain, where they feel resented rather than embraced.  Indeed, the last thing they are prepared to do is to reinvest their profits or engage in further project expansion when a cloud hangs over their continued stay in the country they otherwise love and when the chances of importing the requisite manpower are well-nigh impossible.  

When we established the Botswana International Trade Centre (BITC), and BEDIA before that, it was with a view, primarily, to court foreign investors and to accord them hassle-free access to our country. Sadly, it appears the very institutions that are supposed to provide investors a smooth landing have turned into the investor’s worst nightmare.   

In the last three years, BITC has wolfed down an average of P100 million annually of taxpayers’ money to enable its officers to criss-cross the globe and proposition investors. Yet these same investors are turned away in the curtest way imaginable the moment they show up at our doorstep. The paradox is of Leontiff proportions.

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Appendicitis: Recognising the Signs

29th March 2022

Many a times I get clients casually walking into my room and requesting to be checked for “appendix”.  Few questions down the line, it is clear they are unaware of where the appendix is or what to expect when one does have it (appendicitis). Jokingly (or maybe not) I would tell them they would possibly not be having appendicitis and laughing as hard as they are doing. On the other hand, I would be impressed that at least they know and acknowledge that appendicitis is a serious thing that they should be worried about.

So, what is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix; a thin, finger-like pouch attached to the large intestine on the lower right side of the abdomen. Often the inflammation can be as a result of blockage either by the faecal matter, a foreign body, infection, trauma or a tumour. Appendicitis is generally acute, with symptoms coming on over the course of a day and becoming severe rapidly. Chronic appendicitis can also occur, though rarely. In chronic cases, symptoms are less severe and can last for days, weeks, or even months. 

Acute appendicitis is a medical emergency that almost always ends up in the operating theatre. Though the appendix is locally referred to as “lela la sukiri”, no one knows its exact role and it definitely does not have anything to do with sugar metabolism. Appendicitis can strike at any age, but it is mostly common from the teen years to the 30s.

Signs to look out for

If you have any of the following symptoms, go and see a Doctor immediately! Timely diagnosis and treatment are vital in acute appendicitis;

Sudden pain that starts around the navel and shifts to the lower right abdomen within hours

The pain becomes constant and increases in severity (or comes back despite painkillers)

The pain worsens on coughing, sneezing, laughing, walking or deep breaths

Loss of appetite

Nausea and vomiting

Fever

Constipation or diarrhoea

Abdominal bloating/fullness

Diagnosis

The doctor often asks questions regarding the symptoms and the patient’s medical history. This will be followed up by a physical examination in which the Doctor presses on the abdomen to check for any tenderness, and the location of the pain. With acute appendicitis, pressing on and letting go of the right lower abdomen usually elicits an excruciatingly unbearable pain. Several tests may be ordered to determine especially the severity of the illness and to rule out other causes of abdominal pain. The tests may conditions include: blood tests, a pregnancy test, urinalysis, abdominal  “How do ultrasound scans work?” ultrasound (scan), CT scan or MRI Scan.

Treatment

The gold standard treatment of acute appendicitis is surgical removal of the appendix known as appendectomy. Luckily, a person can live just fine without an appendix! Surgical options include laparoscopy or open surgery and the type will be decided on by the Surgeon after assessing the patient’s condition. Painkillers and antibiotics are also given intravenously usually before, during and after the surgery.

Complications

Appendicitis can cause serious complications such as;

Appendicular mass/abscessIf the appendix is inflamed or bursts, one may develop a pocket of pus around it known as an abscess. In most cases, the abscess will be treated with antibiotics and drained first by placing a tube through one’s abdominal wall into the abscess. The tube may be left in place for a few hours or days while the infection is clearing up but ultimately one would still have surgery to remove the appendix.

Peritonitis – without treatment, the appendix can rupture/burst. The risk of this rises 48–72 hours after symptoms start. A ruptured appendix spreads the infection throughout the abdomen (peritonitis). This is life threatening and requires immediate surgery to remove the appendix and clean the abdominal cavity.

Death – The complications of appendicitis (and appendectomy) can be life threatening, only if the diagnosis has been missed and no proper treatment has been given on time. This is rare though with the evolved medical care.

If you need further advice or treatment please call 4924730, email  HYPERLINK “mailto:info@themedicscentre.co.bw” info@themedicscentre.co.bw or visit www.themedisccentre.co.bw

Antoinette Boima, MBBS, BMedSci, PgDip HIV/AIDS, Cert Aesth Med is the Managing Director of The Medics Centre in Palapye.

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A degree of common sense

7th February 2022

Here’s a news item from last month you may have missed. In December 2021 the University of Staffordshire announced it would be offered a degree course in pantomime! Yes, that’s right, a degree in popular festive entertainment, the Christmas panto.

We used to have one here, put on by the Capitol Players, though it seems to have fallen away in recent times, but the spectacle is still alive and well in the UK, both in local ad-dram (amateur dramatic ) societies and on the London stage and most of the major cities, these latter productions usually featuring at least one big-draw name from the world of show business with ticket prices commensurate with the star’s salary.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the pantomime format, it consists of a raucous mixture of songs and comedy all based around a well-known fairy or folk tale. Aladdin and His Magic Lamp, Cinderella, Jack & The Beanstalk & Dick Whittington are perennial favourites but any well-known tall tale goes. There is no set script, unlike a play, and storyline is just a peg to hang a coat of contemporary, often bawdy, gags on, in what should be a rollicking production of cross dressing – there has to be at least one pantomime dame, played by a man and always a figure of fun, and a Principal Boy, ostensibly the male lead, yet played by an attractive young woman.

As an art form it can trace its roots back to 16th century Italy and the Commedia Del’Arte which used a mélange of music, dance, acrobatics along with a cast of comic stock characters so it has a long and proud theatrical tradition but you have to wonder, does that really qualify it as a suitable subject for a university? Further, what use might any degree be that can be acquired in a single year? And last but not least, how much standing does any degree have which comes from a jumped-up polytechnic, granted university status along with many of its ilk back in 1992, for reasons best known to the government of the time? Even more worrying are the stated aims of the course.

Staffordshire University claims it is a world first and the masters course is aimed at people working inside as well as outside the industry. Students on the course, due to start in September 2022, will get practical training in the art form as well as research the discipline.

“We want to see how far we can take this,” Associate Professor of Acting and Directing Robert Marsden said. The role of pantomime in the 21st Century was also going to be examined, he said, “particularly post Me Too and Black Lives Matter”. Questions including “how do we address the gender issues, how do we tell the story of Aladdin in 2021, how do we get that balance of male/female roles?” will be asked, Prof Marsden added.

Eek! Sounds like Prof. Marsden wants to rob it of both its history and its comedic aspects – well, good luck with that! Of course that isn’t the only bizarre, obscure and frankly time and money-wasting degree course available. Staying with the performing arts there’s Contemporary Circus and Physical Performance at Bath Spa University. Sounds like fun but why on earth would a circus performer need a university degree?

Or how about a Surf Science and Technology degree at Cornwall College (part of the University of Plymouth). Where the one thing you don’t learn is….how to surf!

Then there is a  degree in Floral Design at University Centre Myerscough. No, I hadn’t heard of it either – turns out it’s a college of further education in Preston, a town that in my experience fits the old joke of ‘I went there once…..It was closed’ to a ‘T’!

Another handy (pun intended) art is that of Hand Embroidery BA (Hons), offered at the University for the Creative Arts. Or you could waste away sorry, while away, your time on a course in Animal Behaviour and Psychology. This degree at the University of Chester teaches you about the way animals think and feel. Cockroaches have personalities according to the subject specs– you couldn’t make it up.

Happily all these educational institutes may have to look to their laurels and try to justify their very existence in the near future. In plans announced this week, universities could face fines of up to £500,000 (P750m), be stripped of their right to take student loans or effectively shut down if they cannot get 60 per cent of students into a professional job under a crackdown on ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses. Further, at least 80 per cent of students should not drop out after the first year, and 75 per cent should graduate.

The rules, published by the Office for Students (OfS), aim to eliminate ‘low-quality’ courses by setting new standards & requiring courses to improve their rating in the TEF, the official universities ratings system. Universities not meeting the new standards will not be able to charge full annual fees of £9,250. Unconventional courses that could fall victim to the new rules could include the University of Sunderland’s BA in Fashion Journalism, where students learn essential’ skills such as catwalk reporting and the history of Chanel.  They have only a 40 per cent chance of entering highly skilled work 15 months after leaving.

At University College Birmingham, BSC Bakery and Patisserie Technology students – who learn how to ‘make artisan bread’ – have a 15 per cent chance of a professional job within 15 months. Universities minister Michelle Donelan welcomed the move, saying ‘When students go to university, they do so in the pursuit of a life-changing education, one which helps pave their path towards a highly skilled career. Any university that fails to match this ambition must be held to account.’

OfS found that at 25 universities, fewer than half of students find professional work within 15 months.  Business and management courses at the University of Bedfordshire (14.8 per cent) were among the least likely to lead to graduate-level jobs.  Asked to comment, the University of Sunderland said it always looked ‘to find ways to improve outcomes’; University College Birmingham said data on graduates and definition of ‘professional work’ was limited. I’ll bet it is! As the saying goes, ’what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over’. What a pantomime!

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Why regular health checks are important!

7th February 2022

With the world still reeling from the negative impact of the Coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), and the latest Omicron variant (which is responsible for the ongoing global forth wave) on everyone’s lips, we should not forget and neglect other aspects of our health.

While anyone can get infected with corona virus and become seriously ill or die at any age, studies continue to show that people aged 60 years and above, and those with underlying medical conditions like hypertension, heart and lung problems, diabetes, obesity, cancers, or mental illness are at a higher risk of developing serious illness or dying from covid-19.

It is a good habit to visit a doctor regularly, even if you feel healthy. Regular health checks can help identify any early signs of health issues or assess your risk of future illness hence prompting one to take charge and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and other non-communicable diseases (even communicable) can often be picked up in their early stages, when chances for effective treatment are high.

During a health check, your doctor will take a thorough history from you regarding your medical history, your family’s history of disease, your social life and habits, including your diet, physical activity, alcohol use, smoking and drug intake. S/he will examine you including measuring your weight, blood pressure, feeling your body organs and listening to your heart and lungs amongst the rest. Depending on the assessment, your doctor will notify you how often you need to have a health check. If you have a high risk of a particular health condition, your doctor may recommend more frequent health checks from an early age.

Diet – a healthy diet improves one’s general health and wellbeing. It is recommended that we have at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables daily. Physical activity – regular physical activity has significant health benefits on one’s body, mind & soul. It contributes to preventing and managing non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, enhances thinking, learning, and judgment skills and improves overall well-being. According to the world health organisation (WHO), people who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active. Aim for 30 minutes to an hour of moderate physical activity at least four days in a week. Examples of moderate physical activity include brisk walking, gentle swimming and social tennis.

Weight – maintaining a healthy weight range helps in preventing long-term complications like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and arthritis. It is also vital for one’s mental wellbeing and keeping up with normal activities of daily living. Ask your doctor to check your body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference annually. If you are at a higher risk, you should have your weight checked more frequently and a stern management plan in place.

Alcohol – as per WHO reports, alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally as well as to the disabilities and poor health of millions of people. Healthy drinking entails taking no more than two standard drinks per drinking day with at least two alcohol-free days in a week.

Smoking –Nicotine contained in tobacco is highly addictive and tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, many different types of cancer, and many other debilitating health conditions. Every year, at least a whopping 8 million people succumb from tobacco use worldwide. Tobacco can also be deadly for non-smokers through second-hand smoke exposure. It is not ‘fashionable’ if it is going to cost you and your loved ones lives! If you are currently smoking, talk to your doctor and get help in quitting as soon as possible to reduce the harm.

Blood pressure: Hypertension is a serious medical condition and can increase the risk of heart, brain, kidney and other diseases. It is a major cause of premature death worldwide, with upwards of 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women – over a billion people – having the condition. Have your blood pressure checked annually if it is normal, you are aged under 40 and there is no family history of hypertension. You might need to have it checked more frequently if you are over 40, your blood pressure is on the high side, or you have a personal or family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack. Your doctor will be there to guide you.

Dental care – eating a low-sugar diet and cleaning and flossing the teeth regularly can reduce one’s risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss. Visit a dentist every six months for a dental examination and professional cleaning, or more frequently as per your dentist’s advice.
Blood tests – annual to five-yearly blood tests may be done to further assess or confirm risk of disease. These may include blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, kidney function, liver function, tumour markers, among other things. They may be done frequently if there is already an existing medical condition.

Cancer screening – various screening techniques can be done to detect different cancers in their early or pre-cancer stages. These include; skin inspections for any suspicious moles/spots, two-yearly mammograms for those at risk of developing breast cancer, Pap smear or the new Cervical Screening Test (CST) every five years, stool tests and colonoscopy (every five years) for those at most risk of bowel cancer, prostate cancer screening for those at risk (over 45 years of age, family history of cancers etc.). Discuss appropriate tests with your doctor.

Vaccinations – You should discuss with your doctor about the necessary routine immunisation, in particular; the Covid-19 vaccines, an annual flu shot, a five-yearly pneumococcal vaccine if you have never had one or you are immunocompromised and any other boosters that you might need.

If you need further advice or treatment please call 4924730, email HYPERLINK “mailto:info@themedicscentre.co.bw” info@themedicscentre.co.bw or visit www.themedisccentre.co.bw

Antoinette Boima, MBBS, BMedSci, PgDip HIV/AIDS, Cert Aesth Med is the Managing Director of The Medics Centre in Palapye.

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