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It’s Time We Walked the Talk and not Vice-Versa 

BOTSWANA MUST FOLLOW SUIT: Egypt’s Benban project is the largest solar park in the world and consists of 30 plants with a combined capacity of around 1.5 GW.

The digital revolution will not foist itself on a society: it has to be courted, adopted, and mainstreamed.  It is not so much an end as a means to an end.

If the payoff has to accrue and speedily mature, the digital economy has to be eagerly, keenly, and enthusiastically embraced. Just as one is certain to flunk examinations if they do not swot hard or often enough, a nation cannot expect to reap the rewards of the Information Age if it chooses to be a spectator at worst or a laggard at best. It has to be a spontaneous and active participant.

ICT use and application (a category that includes hardware, software, networks, and media collection, storage, processing, transmission, and presentation of information [voice, data, text, images, etc.]) must of necessity be a way of life. It has to become second nature if you like.

I need not underscore the obvious and foregone conclusion fact that ICT adoption has a direct correlation with sizeable boosts to GDP.  A 2018 study listed the world’s 15 most technologically advanced countries as Japan, the US, South Korea, Germany, China, India, England, Canada, Sweden, Australia, Finland, Russia, Israel, France, and Singapore  in that order.

It goes without saying that these are some of the world’s most buoyant economies who are what they are owing, fundamentally, to their compulsive deployment of cutting edge technology in practically every walk of life.

In yet another 2018 paper, a team of researchers had this to say about the economic prop and catalyst that is ICT: “ICT has become very important in modern economies, and its effects on economic growth derive from two channels: the output of ICT-producing industries, and the output of the ICT-using industries.”

The team trained its lens on EU countries over an 18-year period (from 2000 to 2017) and found that  an increase in the digitisation of a country by only 10 percent led to a 0.75 percent increase in GDP per capita as well as a 1.02 percent drop in the unemployment rate.

One hopes Botswana, or to be specific, the Masisi administration, is listening.

South Korea’s “Pali-Pali”

If I have to harp back to South Korea time and again, it is because it was, in a manner of speaking, forged in the same penurious crucible as Botswana.

Like Botswana, the country alternatively referred to as the Land of the Han River was a dirt-poor, nonentity economy in the 50s. It has since turned a corner and today it bears all the hallmarks of a Tiger economy, riding on the crest of a prosperity wave thanks in large measure to decades of government interventions and investments in modern technology.

At the last count, South Korea’s GDP per capita was some $31,000 whilst sitting atop a foreign exchange reserves pile of over $400 billion, the bountiest after China, Japan, Switzerland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, India, and Honk Kong. The country’s unemployment rate is only 4.8 percent in a mammoth population of just under 52 million people.

South Korea leads the world in Internet penetration rates, with virtually every household capable of going, and affording to go, online anytime anywhere. In the last five to seven years, South Korea has featured in the top three on the International Telecommunications Union’s ICT Development Index and presently tops the Bloomberg Index of Most Innovative Economies. More often than not, it has been highlighted as the world’s most efficient economy on Fareed Zakaria’s remarkably accurate and highly insightful GPS programme on CNN.

South Korea finds itself on pole as a digital economy on the back of three principal factors – an advanced education system, a culturally resilient mindset, and a technologically-inclined   government.

The watchword in South Korea right across the board is Pali-Pali, meaning “quicker and quicker”. One Korean executive was quoted as saying thus in this regard:  “The goal is to strengthen the 21st-Century learner’s capacity. In particular, we focus on 4Cs: Critical thinking and problem-solving; Collaboration; Character; and Communication. Nowadays, software education is in full swing, so we try to improve computational thinking.”

Covid-19 A Wake-Up Call

As much as the advent of Covid-19 is an apocalypse of sorts, it has also ushered in a new epoch whereby things just will never be done with the languor and lethargic tendencies of yesteryears.

We now all have to be on the double: if in the past we simply reacted, now we have to be proactive.  If hitherto we simply sat on projects long after they were instituted, now we have to put in place a revolutionary programme of action that should kickstart them, that will see things move at the speed of a gazelle, complete with checks and balances brought to bear round-the-clock.

The era of deadwood is over; where such is detected, all shoddy and slothful types must be weeded out and immediately replaced with proven or promising performers.

Every career, every occupational undertaking, formally begins in the classroom. It is here we must embed an ICT proclivity from the elementary or rudimentary stages of the educational continuum. It is here we must implant an abiding productive and workaholic mindset.

The hogwash that “there’s no hurry Botswana” must be jettisoned altogether and consigned to a landfill: as in South Korea, everything should now be Pali-Pali.  Accountability must be of the essence: bureaucrats should not get away scot-free for a bumbling or faltering performance which set the country back for years but  instead, authorities should not hesitate to wield the axe.

Our former presidents, Quett Masire and Festus Mogae in particular, are on record as lamenting that as a people, we do not “grind” as much as others, such as Zimbabweans, for instance, do. We should not make President Masisi voice the same disillusionment. To the contrary, we should chug at such a lightning-quick pace as to prompt him to cheerily laud our capacity for hard work.

A seismic cultural shift is in order. It’s either the 4IR way or the highway: there should be no two ways about it. As someone underlined in respect of South Korea, “Societal changes were expedited by cultural characteristics and especially Koreans’ desire to move quickly as a driving force behind their rapid adoption of ICTs.”

Note that as a transformative President, H.E. Masisi needs every hand to be on deck. We need him to steer us to uncharted prosperity territory just as he needs us to provide the vital anchorage. If we do not exert ourselves in doing our part in executing the tasks of nationhood, we will be sabotaging him and booby-trapping our own selves.

Australia and Egypt Worthy of Emulating

It is heartening to learn that BUIST has embarked on a project to produce soap and sanitisers in a bid to help ward off the onset of Covid-19. The initiative is projected to entail savings of up to P520 million of the import bill.

The University of Botswana has also designed and developed a face shield for the plucky people at the forefront of the battle – the medics who tend to Covid-19 patients.

Imagine if these reputed institutions of higher learning made a habit of coming up with such innovations practically in real time every time a challenge of the sort arose or simply loomed large!

Whereas these initiatives are commendable, there’s scope to do more in view of precious other imperatives which as a nation we are not that galvanised to act upon. Examples of the areas in which we have failed dismally short in this connection are legion but I will restrict myself to only one.

In a country with some of the most abundant sunlight on earth, we’re still well behind in the harnessing of solar energy to generate electric power.

Last year, Australia added 2.2 GW to rooftop solar energy. In Egypt, the Benban swath of photovoltaic solar panels project boosts the off-grid national output by 1.5 GW. The project has “brought down the price of solar energy, drawn in dozens of companies, and given Egypt’s south an economic boost”.

Even “little” Rwanda, with its relatively mild sunlight compared to Botswana, in 2018 embarked on a project to develop a 30 MW solar power plant. In Germany, there has been a systematic phasing-out of nuclear and coal power plants in favour of the solar option, which is expected to create 50,000 jobs by the year 2030.

Groundbreaking Project in LA

This year, effective from April 1, BPC hiked tariffs by 22 percent as Government substantially curtailed its vast yearly subsidy to the loss-prone corporation, without which it would have long ceased to be a viable going-concern.

The bottom line implications for business entities, particularly those who form the core of the hospitality and other industries, are profound, if not dire.  An operation I know of has seen its monthly power outlay rocket from P200,000 to approximately P244,000 a month (annual increase P528 000) and this is just one expenditure item amongst a clutch of overheads routinely incurred in the business . In the perennially depressed economic climate of our day, to just breakeven would be some herculean feat heavily taxing of the mental faculties of the operation’s executive team.

True, coal-powered energy, the kind that presently sustains Botswana, does not come cheap. It is by far dearer compared to hydro-electric power though it is less-susceptible to the vagaries of weather. But we’re in an age where countries are moving away from ecologically harmful energy-generation processes to a stop-gap blending of energy sources and finally to absolutely clean capacity.

A case in point is the situation now obtaining in Los Angeles, California, where a utility company known as 8-Minute Solar Energy last year laid on a solar-battery power-generation project with an energy mix of 200 MW of solar capacity and at least 100 MW of battery capacity, thus offering a preview of what the medium term future of energy will look like. The project was touted as “the lowest solar photovoltaic price in the US, and the largest and lowest-cost combined solar and high-capacity battery energy storage in the US.”

Need to Harness Those Plentiful Resources

What is happening in California Botswana too can replicate as we have the resources to rise to the occasion too. In 2014, the Department of Geological Survey informed us that there was 30 to 40 trillion cubic feet (TF3) of coal-bed methane gas at a depth of about 200 meters in our crust.

In such a geological setting, the rocks are characterised by low permeability, which renders the extraction process more complex   and therefore pricey, with one estimate putting the drilling costs at a whopping $2 million per shaft.

But the steep tab can easily be recouped given a readily available export market of 11 members of the Southern African Power Pool.  Time-adjusted pricing of the combined solar-gas powered electricity in the course of the day would make consumers use it as much avidly as prudently.

And at those times of the day when there is a substantial diminution in solar energy, such as in the early mornings and at the onset of dusk, the big-storage batteries would be counted upon to bring on-stream the solar power they hoarded during the day.

As a spokesperson of 8-Minute Solar Energy put it, the solar batteries would  “absorb excess solar generated during the day, and discharge it through the late afternoon and evening to bolster the drop-off in solar  generation, combined with the steep rise in customer demand for electricity as people come home from work.

“As the sun goes down, for the other 1,000 megawatts of solar we have without batteries, the gas-fired generation and hydro have to compensate for that.”

 We Must Be a Do-Do Nation

In view of the forgoing, it follows, therefore, that in Botswana, we should not be talking of producing only 200 MW of solar energy, which is a pittance compared to the practically seamless solar energy potential with which we’re naturally endowed, and virtually resign ourselves to importing 52 percent of the locally distributed power. Our projection horizons should be of the order of about 1000 MW, with 650 MW for our own consumption (to enable us grow our economy, a prospect only tenable with sufficient and reasonably priced power supply) and the remainder for exporting.

It is said the early bird catches the worm, and that one should make hay while the sun shines. If we walked much more than we talked, the rollout of solar power would have been in third or fourth gear as we speak

The future offers very tantalising prospects for producing power much more cheaply and sustainably than fossil fuels. As such, we have to be more driven and ambitious than we presently are in relation to coming aboard the bandwagon.

The plausibility of what is known as Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), which uses a special kind of solar-powered mirrors to melt salt and use the power that emanates forth to generate electricity is yet another exciting prospect for us in that we have substantial salt deposits at Sowa Town and Makgadikgadi.

South Africa and Mozambique have long indicated that they sit on reserves of 400 TF3 of shale gas and 120 TF3 of natural gas respectively. If we persist in foot-dragging, we could find ourselves saddled with excess capacity with no extra takers outside Botswana at the time we get into the full swing of production. It’s time we graduated from a jaw-jaw nation to a do-do nation.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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