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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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DIS Parley Committee selection disingenuous 

25th November 2020

Intelligence and Security Service Act, which is a law that establishes the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS), provides for establishment of a Parliamentary Committee. Recently, the President announced nine names of Members of Parliament he had appointed to the Committee.

This announcement was preceded by a meeting the President held with the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition. Following the announcement of Committee MPs by the President, the opposition, through its leader, made it clear that it will not participate in the Committee unless certain conditions that would ensure effective oversight are met. The opposition acted on the non-participation threat through resignation of its three MPs from the Committee.

The Act at Section 38 provides for the establishment of the Committee to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Directorate. The law provides that the Parliamentary Committee shall have the same powers and privileges set out under the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.

On composition, the Committee shall consist of nine members who shall not be members of Cabinet and its quorum shall be five members.  The MPs in the Committee elect a chairperson from among their number at their first meeting.

The Members of the Committee are appointed by the President after consultation with the Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. It is the provision of the law that the Committee, relative to its size, reflect the numerical strengths of the political parties represented in the National Assembly.

The Act provides that that a member of the Committee holds office for the duration of the Parliament in which he or she is appointed.  The Committee is mandated to make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the President and may at any time report to him or her on any matter relating to the discharge of those functions.

The Minister responsible for intelligence and security is obliged to lay before the National Assembly a copy of each annual report made by the Committee together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from that copy in pursuance of the provision of the Act.

If it appears to the Minister, after consultation with the Parliamentary Committee, that the publication of any matter in a report would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Directorate, the Minister may exclude that matter from the copy of the report as laid before the National Assembly.

So, what are the specific demands of the Opposition and why are they not participating in the Committee? What should happen as a way forward? The Opposition demanded that there be a forensic audit of the Directorate. The DIS has never been audited since it was set up in 2008, more than a decade ago.

The institution has been a law unto itself for a longtime, feared by all oversight bodies. The Auditor General, who had no security of tenure, could not audit the DIS. The Directorate’s personnel, especially at a high level, have been implicated in corruption.  Some of its operatives are in courts of law defending corruption charges preferred against them. Some of the corruption cases which appeared in the media have not made it to the courts.

The DIS has been accused of non-accountability and unethical practices as well as of being a burden on the fiscus.  So, the Opposition demanded, from the President, a forensic audit for the purpose of cleaning up the DIS.  They demand a start from a clean slate.

The second demand by the Opposition is that the law be reviewed to ensure greater accountability of the DIS to Parliament. What are some of the issues that the opposition think should be reviewed? The contention is that the executive cannot appoint a Committee of Parliament to scrutinize an executive institution.

Already, it is argued, Parliament is less independent and it is dominated by the executive. It is contended that the Committee should be established by the Standing Orders and be appointed by a Select Committee of Parliament. There is also an argument that the Committee should report to Parliament and not to the President and that the Minister should not have any role in the Committee.

Democratic and Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence is relatively a new phenomenon across the World. Even developed democracies are still grappling with some of these issues. However, there are acceptable standards or what might be called international best practices which have evolved over the past two or so decades.

In the UK for instance, MPs of the Intelligence and Security Committee are appointed by the Houses of Parliament, having been nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. This is a good balancing exercise of involvement of both the executive and the legislature. Consultation is taken for granted in Botswana context in the sense that it has been reduced to just informing the Leader of Opposition without much regard to his or her ideas; they are never taken seriously.

Furthermore, the current Committee in the UK has four Members of the ruling party and five MPs from the opposition. It is a fairly balanced Committee in terms of Parliamentary representation. However, as said above, the President of Botswana appointed six ruling party MPs and three from the opposition.

The imbalance is preposterous and more pronounced with clear intentions of getting the executive way through the ruling party representatives in the Committee. The intention to avoid scrutiny is clear from the numbers of the ruling party MPs in the Committee.

There is also an international standard of removing sensitive parts which may harm national security from the report before it is tabled in the legislature. The previous and current reluctance of the executive arms to open up on Defence and Security matters emanate from this very reason of preserving and protecting national security.

But national security should be balanced with public interest and other democratic principles. The decision to expunge certain information which may be prejudicial to national security should not be an arbitrary and exclusive decision of the executive but a collective decision of a well fairly balanced Committee in consultation with the Speaker and the minister responsible.

There is no doubt that the DIS has been a rogue institution. The reluctance by the President to commit to democratic-parliamentary oversight reforms presupposes a lack of commitment to democratization. The President has no interest in seeing a reformed DIS with effective oversight of the agency.

He is insincere. This is because the President loathes the idea losing an iota of power and sharing it with any other democratic institution. He sees the agency as his power lever to sustain his stay in the high office. He thought he could sanitize himself with an ineffective DIS Committee that would dance to his tune.

The non-participation of the opposition MPs renders the Committee dysfunctional; it cannot function as this would be unlawful. Participation of the opposition is a legal requirement. Even if it can meet, it would lack legitimacy; it cannot be taken seriously. The President should therefore act on the oversight demands and reform the DIS if he is to be taken seriously.

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The Maccabean Uprising

25th November 2020
Jewish freedom fighters

 Jews drive away occupying power under the command of guerrilla leader Judas Maccabees but only just

Although it was the Desolation Sacrilege act, General Atiku, that officially sparked the Maccabean revolt, it in truth simply stoked the fires of an already simmering revolution. How so General?

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Atomic (CON)Fusion

25th November 2020

For years I have trained people about paradigm shifts – those light-bulb-switch-on moments – where there is a seismic change from the usual way of thinking about something to a newer, better way. 

I like to refer to them as ‘aha’ moments because of the sudden understanding of something which was previously incomprehensible. However,  the topic of today’s article is the complete antithesis of ‘aha’.  Though I’d love to tell you I’d had a ‘eureka ‘, ‘problem solved’ moment, I am faced with the complete opposite – an ‘oh-no’ moment or Lost Leader Syndrome.

No matter how well prepared or capable a leader is. they often find themselves facing perplexing events, confounding information, or puzzling situations. Confused by developments of which they can’t make sense and by challenges that they don’t know how to solve they become confused, sometimes lost and completely clueless about what to do.

I am told by Jentz and Murphy (JM) in ‘What leaders do when they don’t know what to do’ that this is normal, and that rapid change is making confusion a defining feature of management in the 21st century.  Now doesn’t that sound like the story of 2020 summed up in a single sentence?

The basic premise of their writing is that “confusion is not a weakness to be ashamed of but a regular and inevitable condition of leadership. By learning to embrace their confusion, managers are able to set in motion a constructive process for addressing baffling issues.

In fact, confusion turns out to be a fruitful environment in which the best managers thrive by using the instability around them to open up better lines of communication, test their old assumptions and values against changing realities, and develop more creative approaches to problem solving.”

The problem with this ideology however is that it doesn’t help my overwhelming feelings of fear and panic which is exacerbated by a tape playing on a loop in my head saying  ‘you’re supposed to know what to do, do something’. My angst is compounded by annoying motivational phrases also unhelpfully playing in my head like.

  • Nothing happens until something moves
  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started

and

  • Act or be acted upon

All these platitudes are urging me to pull something out of the bag, but I know that this is a trap. This need to forge ahead is nothing but a coping mechanism and disguise. Instead of owning the fact that I haven’t got a foggy about what to do, part of me worries that I’ll lose authority if I acknowledge that I can’t provide direction – I’m supposed to know the answers, I’m the MD!  This feeling of not being in control is common for managers in ‘oh no’ situations and as a result they often start reflexively and unilaterally attempting to impose quick fixes to restore equilibrium because, lets be honest, sometimes we find it hard to resist hiding our confusion.

To admit that I am lost in an “Oh, No!” moment opens the door not only to the fear of losing authority but also to a plethora of other troubling emotions and thoughts:  *Shame and loss of face: “You’ll look like a fool!” * Panic and loss of control: “You’ve let this get out of hand!” * Incompetence and incapacitation: “You don’t know what you’re doing!”

As if by saying “I’m at a loss here” is tantamount to declaring “I am not fit to lead.” Of course the real problem for me and any other leader is if they don’t admit when they are disoriented, it sends a signal to others in the organisation stating it’s not cool to be lost and that, by its very nature encourages them to hide.  What’s the saying about ‘a real man never asks for direction. ..so they end up driving around in circles’.

As managers we need to embrace the confusion, show vulnerability (remember that’s not a bad word) and accept that leadership is not about pretending to have all the answers but about having the courage to search with others to discover a solution.

JM point out that “being confused, however, does not mean being incapacitated.  Indeed, one of the most liberating truths of leadership is that confusion is not quicksand from which to escape but rather the potter’s clay of leadership – the very stuff with which managers can work.”

2020 has certainly been a year to remember and all indications are that the confusion which has characterised this year will still follow us into the New Year, thereby making confusion a defining characteristic of the new normal and how managers need to manage. Our competence as leaders will then surely be measured not only by ‘what I know’ but increasingly by ‘how I behave when I accept, I don’t know, lose my sense of direction and become confused.

.I guess the message for all organizational cultures going forward is that sticking with the belief that we need all-knowing, omni-competent executives will cost them dearly and send a message to managers that it is better to hide their confusion than to address it openly and constructively.

Take comfort in these wise words ‘Confusion is a word we have invented for an order not yet understood’!

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