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Is Masisi delivering on his inaugural speech? (Part 5)



This week, we are continuing with this series whose purpose is to consider whether or not His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, is delivering on his inaugural speech promises, commitments and undertakings.  

Last week we dealt with his promise to build a modern Botswana that is not only open but is also able to openly compete with the rest of the world while maintaining Botswana’s founding principles of Democracy, Self-Reliance, Development, Unity and Botho. We also dealt with his commitment to address the problem of unemployment, especially amongst the youth who constitute about 60% of the population, something which he rightly said will address such ills as poverty, crime, HIV and AIDS and alcohol and drug abuse. 

We also dealt with his commitment to prioritise stimulation of accelerated economic growth through scaling up access to technical and vocational education and training opportunities; promoting digitisation across both the public and private sectors and devising smarter ways of tackling our poor education attainment at every level to make it more competitive. We also dealt with his undertaking to stimulate accelerated economic growth by ensuring that Development Financing Institutions become more proactive and responsive so as to better serve the requirements of their current and prospective clientele as well as helping government to achieve the goals of citizen economic empowerment initiatives.

This week we deal with H.E Dr. Masisi’s his commitment to stimulate accelerated economic growth by continuing with measures to ensure the Ease of Doing Business for foreign and domestic investors. We also deal with his commitment to promote the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD), an important strategy which he said is aimed at giving Batswana an opportunity to set up industries to empower themselves and, in turn, to create the much-needed employment.

We also deal with his undertaking to give potency to Botswana’s economic diversification aspirations by prioritizing the implementation of Cluster Development across various sectors, particularly the prioritized sectors of diamond beneficiation, tourism, beef, mining and financial services.  We also deal with his undertaking that government will also expedite the implementation of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) which, he said, will contribute immensely to the socio-economic development of this country. Finally, we deal with his solemn commitment that his government will particularly intensify its efforts to revitalise the economy of the SPEDU region to effectively respond to the closure and liquidation of the BCL mine.

Firstly, his commitment to stimulate accelerated economic growth by continuing with measures to ensure the Ease of Doing Business for foreign and domestic investors. According to the latest World Bank annual ratings Botswana is ranked 86 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business. Botswana’s ranking deteriorated to 86 in 2018 from 81 in 2017. Ease of Doing Business in Botswana averaged 62.82 from 2008 until 2018, reaching an all-time high of 86 in 2018 and a record low of 39 in 2008, at the peak of the world economic recession.

It is, therefore, not surprising that during a recent two- day investment symposium dubbed ‘Doing Business in Botswana’, the Director of Investor Facilitation and Relations at Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA), Neo Mahube, challenged Botswana to improve the ease of doing business for the country to remain competitive amongst its peers. According to the latest World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, currently, Botswana lags behind Mauritius, Zambia, Kenya and South Africa on the ease of doing business. According to Mahube, the bottlenecks that investors and local start-ups face to register a business should be resolved, adding that the country needs to be as efficient as possible to start a business, apart from improving credit efficiency. 

She, however, applauded government for the legislative amendments that have already been put in place ahead of the transformation journey, stating that through transforming the ease of doing business the country has potential to create employment. H.E Dr. Masisi’s government has to be commended for easing VISA restrictions for prospective investors, rationalization of company formation processes, improving bilateral relations and going on a global tour of investor attraction. 

Secondly, H.E Dr. Masisi’s commitment to promote the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD). The EDD initiative aims to diversify the economy by developing sectors other than the primary sectors, i.e. mining and agriculture, so that they contribute meaningfully to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), a state-owned enterprise, has an instrumental role to play in Botswana’s EDD, an initiative launched in 2010, and was initially planned to run up to 2016. 

The question is: has the BDC effectively championed the country’s EDD drive? In the Industry Division BDC owns or has significant stakes in several companies engaged in manufacturing. They include Lobatse Clay works, Matsiloje Cement, Sechaba Holdings and Prima Foods.  In the Agribusiness Division BDC offers a full range of products, including long term loans and equity available to investors looking to invest in agricultural projects and to exploit the opportunities available in the areas of dairy farming, poultry, irrigation, crop production, stock feed and livestock production.

BDC has also collaborated with the Ministry of Agriculture & Food Security through the Botswana Horticultural Council (BHC) to create the Botswana Horticulture Market (BHM) whose main objective is to provide a platform or place for local horticultural farmers to sell their produce. In the Property Division, BDC, as a development financier, has been active in the sustained growth of the property market, through its 100% owned properties, and partnerships. The Property Division is charged with developing and managing residential, commercial, hotel and industrial properties for BDC.

In 2011, BDC transferred some of its property investments into a new Company called Letlole La Rona Limited (LLRL). The company was subsequently listed on the local bourse in pursuant to the Corporation’s desire to transfer some of its investments into the hands of citizens who would not normally afford to acquire large properties owing to the large capital outlay required for such investments. Through the property division, BDC continues to promote economic diversification by facilitating activities in tourism; industry, agriculture as well as infrastructure and property development.

In the Services Division, BDC has considerable presence in the services sector where it has invested in tourism infrastructure, financial services and others. Among its services portfolio, BDC owns Botswana Export Credit Insurance Company (BECI), and has stakes in Investec, Healthcare Holding and Fairgrounds Holdings. The aforegoing notwithstanding, our economy remains undiversified. According to the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) 2017 report, Botswana registered a mere 0.6%, ranking position 53 out of 54 countries in as far as diversification of exports is concerned.

This is probably because most of the companies established by BDC or in which BDC has a stake are not profitable and BDC has had to divest from them at marginal or no gain. We all know of the over P500 million which BDC lost through the failed Palapye Glass Project. Thirdly, H.E Dr. Masisi’s undertaking to give potency to Botswana’s economic diversification aspirations. While he has promised to attain this by prioritizing the implementation of Cluster Development across various sectors, particularly the prioritized sectors of diamond beneficiation, tourism, beef, mining and financial services, very little has been done in this regard. 

Fourth, H.E Dr. Masisi’s undertaking that government will expedite the implementation of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Objectively speaking, nothing much has been done beyond the establishment of the Botswana Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA). This parastatal, which, like SPEDU, costs Government millions of Pula in administrative and personnel expenses, has, as its mandate, the development, management and regulation of the eight SEZs, namely Gaborone (with two zones), Lobatse, Palapye area, Selebi Phikwe, Tuli Block, Francistown and Pandamatenga.

These zones are intended to target such sectors as energy, cargo, freight & logistics, aerospace and aviation, mineral beneficiation, financial services, applied Information Communication Technology (ICT), water management, health services, Agro-business and manufacturing. Fifth, H.E Dr. Masisi’s solemn commitment that his government will particularly intensify its efforts to revitalise the economy of the SPEDU region to effectively respond to the closure and liquidation of the BCL mine.

However, one year since he assumed office, SPEDU, in which government has spent millions of Pula, mainly in administrative and personnel costs, is continuing in its failure to diversity the economy of Selibe Phikwe and the surrounding areas of Bobirwa, Tswapong North and Mmadinare-Sefhophe. Despite the launch, in March 2017, of investment incentives for the SPEDU region, no head way has been made in stimulating economic growth and the diversification portfolio of the region through private sector investment, technology development, market access and job creation as envisaged. These incentives include Fiscal Incentives, Government Off-take, Provision of Land, Input Costs, SPEDU Region labour Laws and One Stop Service Centre. 

The Fiscal Incentives include a 5% corporate tax for the first five years and a 10 % corporate tax thereafter. A sub category of Fiscal Incentives is provided in line with SACU provisions and it provides for zero customs duty on imported raw materials. There is also a direct government off-take on procurement of at least 30 % of quality goods produced locally. There is also an incentive for provision of land for a minimum of 50 years for land leases. As regards Input Costs, the region provides internet connectivity with bandwidth that are intended to promote business competitiveness as well as preferential ICT rates.

In terms of the SPEDU Region Labour Laws, it is envisaged that the SPEDU region employer and employee relations will be so cordial that they will provide a work environment which promotes productivity and harmonious employer/employee relations. Regrettably, despite these incentives, no single viable manufacturing company has been established in the SPEDU region since 2017 and there is no indication that one will be established in the near future. Consequently, none of the over 5,000 people who were retrenched when the BCL mine was closed has been absorbed by the SPEDU project. Meanwhile, BCL the liquidation process has cost government millions of Pula. 

Of course, having been in office for only a year, it would be unfair to wholly blame H.E Dr. Masisi for the aforesaid failures. It is, however, concerning that he has not yet set a clear economic diversification drive road map through which he can achieve the targets he set for himself in his inaugural speech. He talks of job creation, but job creation can only be achieved through an accelerated economic growth and diversification plan. 

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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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