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

NDULAMO ANTHONY MORIMA

EAGLE WATCH

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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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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