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Is Masisi delivering on his inaugural speech? (Part 6)


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 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 dealt 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 dealt 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 dealt 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.

We also dealt 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. This week we deal with H.E Dr. Masisi’s commitment to strengthen, consolidate and intensify the partnership between government and the private sector which, he rightly said, would propel this country to greater heights in terms of economic stimulation, job creation and sustainable economic growth. 

We also deal with his commitment that Botswana will intensify her efforts to unlock market and business opportunities for our industries presented in global trade through such agreements as the SADC Free Trade Area, Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area, AGOA, SADC/EU Economic Partnership Agreement, the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement, and the bilateral agreements Botswana has with other countries and development partners.

We also deal with his undertaking that Botswana will step up through a combined use of her bilateral and multilateral relations, immigration, investment policies and technocratic applications. We also deal with his pledge that government will also continue to invest in infrastructural development projects across various sectors, including Information and Communications Technology (ICT), water, energy, transport and road networks, to create an enabling environment for commerce and industry, as well as to stimulate the economy.

First, his commitment to strengthen, consolidate and intensify the partnership between government and the private sector. Since ascending to the presidency, H.E Dr. Masisi has emphasised consultation. He has, in pursuit of this noble value, consulted with trade unions, the media, opposition political parties, etc. I may have missed it, but I have not heard of H.E Dr. Masisi’s meaningful engagement with Business Botswana as the body responsible for the private sector. If partnership between government and the private sector is to be enhanced that should be the starting point.

I may have also missed it, but I have not heard of H.E Dr. Masisi’s meaningful engagement with any of the major private sector companies in Botswana. It is hoped that his recent symposium with Steve Masiyiwa under the theme ‘Unlocking youth entrepreneurship through the knowledge-based economy is a start in that direction. No doubt, Masiyiwa, the founder of Mascom Wireless and the owner of a pan-African telecommunications, media and technology company with operations and investments in 29 countries, can help Botswana in job creation, especially among the youth.     

Second, H.E Dr. Masisi’s commitment that Botswana will intensify her efforts to unlock market and business opportunities for our industries presented in global trade. H.E Dr. Masisi’s predecessor, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s aloofness from the international community has, no doubt, adversely affected Botswana both diplomatically and economically. If there is one thing that H.E Dr. Masisi has done well in the one year that he has been in office, it is repairing the damage that Dr. Khama had caused to our international relations and diplomacy.

His reprioritisation of our relations with Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states means we can better leverage from the SADC Free Trade Area Agreement and the SADC/EU Economic Partnership Agreement. The cordial relations he has reestablished with the African Union (AU) means we can better leverage from Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. H.E Dr. Masisi has relaunched Botswana into the world stage, potentially taking us back to the glory days of Dr. Khama’s predecessor, Festus Mogae and the late Sir Ketumile Masire in as far as international relations is concerned.

Consequently, our chances of making maximum benefit from such international agreements as the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement and the United States sponsored African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) have become enhanced. Since assuming office, H.E Dr. Masisi has worked tirelessly to mend bilateral relations which had soured during the Khama regime, for instance with the Peoples’ Republic of China, a relationship which, if properly nurtured, may create thousands of jobs for our people.

Not only that. H.E Dr. Masisi has travelled the globe, nurturing already existing bilateral relations and creating new ones. His recent visit to Qatar is likely to bring dividends to such sectors as agriculture, beef imports, hotels, and ICT, which Ambassador Manyepedza P Lesetedi says the Qataris are interested in. Some are accusing H.E Dr. Masisi of being a globe trotter whose globetrotting is costing the country millions of Pula. I disagree. Considering the damage that Dr. Khama caused over a period of ten years, and less than rosy economic situation we are in, we need more of what H.E Dr. Masisi is doing.

Obviously, we cannot reap the fruits now, but seeds are being sown the world over. It is now up to the Ministry of Investment Trade & Industry, Botswana Investment & Trade Centre, Business Botswana and the private sector to water the seeds so that they grow and bear fruits in the form of investment, job creation and economic growth.  Third, H.E Dr. Masisi’s undertaking that Botswana will step up through a combined use of her bilateral and multilateral relations, immigration, investment policies and technocratic applications.

We have already discussed H.E Dr. Masisi’s laudable efforts in as far as nurturing bilateral and multilateral relations is concerned. One of the first things that H.E Dr. Masisi did after assuming office was the relaxation of VISA restrictions as well as making it easier for one to apply for a residence and work permit. It would be recalled that during the Khama era, the Ambassador of the Peoples’ Republic of China in Botswana complained of the stringent VISA and residence and work permit requirements, lamenting that they deterred possible investors from his country from coming to Botswana.

Aware that Botswana is rated poorly in the Ease of Doing Business index, H.E Dr. Masisi has lived up to his promise to remedy this not only by improving the immigration regime, but also by simplifying the company registration process and making the tax regime more attractive to investors. Fourth, H.E Dr. Masisi’s pledge that government will also continue to invest in infrastructural development projects across various sectors.

While our electricity supply is stable and there are limited power outages, especially in strategic economic zones, the same cannot be said about water supply, especially in rural areas including such villages as Molepolole which are, strictly speaking, part of greater Gaborone.
Commendable work is going on in terms of improving our roads, something which can only improve our transport and road networks. There is an ongoing project led by Botswana Fibre Networks Ltd (BoFiNet) in terms of which businesses are provided, free of charge, with infrastructure for fibre optic internet connectivity.  

We all know that good infrastructure is an enabler of economic growth since it creates an enabling environment for commerce and industry to thrive. Not only that. Infrastructure development creates employment, thereby creating the purchasing power needed to boost economic growth. No doubt, in as far as the promises discussed in this article are concerned, H.E Dr. Masisi has laid a solid ground towards their realization. But ahead lies difficulty, for it is in implementation that his leadership will be tested.

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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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