Botswana Telecommunication Corporation Limited (BTC) kicked off a program to mark its 40th Anniversary as Botswana’s leading and pioneering technology and telecommunications company enabling the socio-economic development of Botswana.
BTC was established in 1980 by an Act of Parliament to operate and manage Botswana’s national and international telecommunications services. Before then, telecommunications services were provided by the Department of Post and Telecommunications. BTC has made great strides from offering analogue microwave links to fixed telephony to become a converged telecommunications operator offering fixed (voice and data), mobile (voice and data) and broadband services.
Nteletsa Project In 1999 BTC in partnership with the Government embarked on the Nteletsa project to bring telecommunications services to previously underserved areas. Phase two of the project which commenced in 2008 established Kitsong Centres (Internet Cafes) in 148 villages, as part of a rural telecommunications programme to bridge the digital divide.
Establishment of mobile service
In 2008, BTC launched its mobile service following the liberalisation of the industry awarding network operators service neutral licences. The network grew and expanded to cover almost 90% of the population.
In 2016, the listing of BTC on the Botswana Stock Exchange, was a watershed moment in economic inclusion, bringing more than 50,000 Batswana into BTC ownership, the broadest shareholding of any company in Botswana.
Leader in digital and communication services
From providing rotary dial phones and operating manual telephone exchanges in 1980, BTC has now completed a digitalisation journey that started almost two decades ago. The company has evolved to partner with Government as the Nation transitions to a knowledge- based economy.
BTC Managing Director Anthony Masunga said: “We state in our purpose that ‘we exist to provide superior digital solutions to our people to enable them to live connected’. Our team of over 1000 people are exceedingly proud of our track record spanning 40 years. We are looking forward to celebrating a unique milestone of four decades with our customers and communities across the length and breadth of this country.
“We have transformed the business beyond telecommunications and broadband solutions, into all forms of digital and ICT solutions. In 2019, we commissioned the Sentlhaga Data Centre, the only local Uptime Tier Two Certified Data Centre in Botswana housing local and international content such as Facebook, YouTube Google and Classmate. We take the bold view that speeding up digital transformation is critical to helping the local economy bounce back from the debilitating effects of COVID-19,” he added.
Enhanced customer experience
To kickstart the transformation journey, BTC has launched a programme to reinvigorate BTC’s internal culture and customer experience to drive a positive trajectory into the future. “We are putting in place measures to offer excellent quality service to all our stakeholders; offering exciting products and services while giving back millions in prizes through various promotions such as our Hawkers Challenge, Recharge & Win and many more,” said the BTC Managing Director.
BTC Foundation Over the years, BTC has also supported a number of key local projects in the form of donations and sponsorships ranging from sport to the arts and skills development. Through the remainder of 2020 and beyond, the Foundation will continue to be the vehicle through which BTC delivers its CSI agenda with a focus on impact and sustainability to help the Nation, emerge stronger and more resilient in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Mr. Masunga.
GABORONE – In their continued efforts to further drive the Youth Employability and Entrepreneurship agenda, Stanbic Bank Botswana AcceleR8 and Statistics Botswana have today, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
The partnership is in line with the Bank’s strategic outlook to provide support and thought leadership that contributes towards increased usage of statistics for planning and decision making. Furthermore, it will allow both entities to enhance the effectiveness of their National development efforts in areas of common interest, particularly with regard to changing the Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship narrative.
Speaking at the event, which was held at the Bank’s Acceler8, Stanbic Bank Botswana’s Chief Executive, Mr. Samuel Minta said, “We are excited to partner with Statistics Botswana on this new and exciting initiative. As a Bank, we firmly believe in the formation of Private Public Partnerships as a means to drive Botswana’s socio-economic growth. This is how we are able to create sustainable solutions that have a real impact in our communities, turning dreams into reality and creating legacies. The Bank has the strategic platform to provide support and thought leadership expertise to contribute towards increased usage of statistics for planning and decision making. Furthermore, through the AcceleR8, we are able to foster an environment which provides solutions in terms of employability and entrepreneurship”.
For his part, the Statistician General, Dr Burton Mguni said that as part of its mandate to strengthen the engagement of the private sector in the leveraging of information technology platforms to be used to inform strategic decisions, Statistics Botswana is proud to partner with Stanbic Bank Botswana. He highlighted that with a key focus on data exchange platforms to facilitate sharing of data for purposes of generating official statistics, the partnership will go a long way in bringing this mandate to fruition.
As such, we intend to cooperate by:
Promoting knowledge and information dissemination by unpacking the; Quarterly Multi-Topic Survey (QMTS) & International Merchandise Trade Statistics (IMTS) and other related statistical information;
Strengthening the capacity of end users of statistics
Promoting and influencing employment creation through the use of statistical data such as international merchandise trade statistics; and
Hold at minimum quarterly or as may be opportune, thought leadership sessions through which to inform and disseminate useful information that can be used for opportunity creation including; venture creation, public policy guidance and ultimately, employment creation.He further said, “As Statistics Botswana, we recognise the important role which Stanbic Bank Botswana plays as a private financial institution duly incorporated under the laws of Botswana and committed to serving the interests of organisations and individuals. Recalling that Statistics Botswana undertakes periodic Business Surveys, private sector partnerships are highly attractive. Business surveys produce statistics which are critical for national policy formulation, planning and decision making across all sectors of the economy, there is heightened need for strategic collaborations with the business community to significantly improve the quality of the data produced through these surveys. Just to mention but a few, Statistics Botswana conducts monthly and quarterly business surveys to produce Statistics on Formal Employment, National Accounts (Gross Domestic Product), Prices (Consumer Price Index) Industrial production and ICT usage.”
Statistics Botswana is a body corporate established by and under the Statistics Act of 2009. It is the pre-eminent National agency responsible for the development and management of official statistics; and the official source and custodian of official statistics and, the primary agency of the National Statistical System (NSS).
“We are confident that this partnership will continue to grow from strength to strength as we partner to drive Botswana’s growth. I cannot overemphasise how excited we are for this new partnership. As a bank we are truly dedicated to improving lives and this is yet another step in the right direction,” concluded Minta.
As the economy deals with the effects of the disruptions caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, decisive strategies are required to gear up businesses for the future and make them agile enough to survive the challenging times.
Companies have suffered from retrenchments, revenue losses and cash flow declines which have forced them to revisit their strategies and prioritise business resilience more than ever. Both the local and global uncertain economic conditions will still persist long after the pandemic is over; however, it’s the businesses and sectors that respond swiftly and in a sustainable manner that will come out strong on the other side.
The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we do things. The little things we took for granted, such as chats in the common areas and the last-minute brainstorms to solve a crisis had to be limited and to some extent were completely absent. As the world continues to deal with the spread of the virus, stringent regulations will remain for the short-term, resulting in restricted movement even within the workplace. Given where we find ourselves at the moment, industries have been initiating conversations on what the future of the workplace will look like in the short to medium-term.
Changing the way we do business as a sector is, therefore, not only an opportunity but an inevitable necessity. Companies are recognising the increasing importance of workplace innovation as the shape and form of the prescribed workplace are starting to change. The Pandemic has demonstrated that work can occur anywhere, as long as employees are capacitated with the appropriate equipment, infrastructure and support. Business leaders who do not adapt to this change will find themselves out of the loop as workplace culture rapidly changes course. But this change will require a paradigm shift in terms of workplace dynamics while prioritising the wellbeing of employees.
As businesses figure out what the new workplace will be, it is vital for them to strive for a balance of seeking optimal outcomes from their employees as they work from home while remaining human in a technologically driven work environment. During the last few months, businesses discovered that technological advancements are not the enemy but rather the biggest barrier is the difficulty of integrating employees with these technologies. As such, human capital departments will find themselves evaluating how people adapt, behave and work within these newly formed ecosystems while ensuring meaningful, connected interactions still occur in the workplace.
In order to successfully and efficiently implement remote workplace strategies, all businesses from the smallest to the largest corporates would have to consider several challenges:
As working remotely has not been a normal concept for many people, structural changes may have to take place. Setting up a home workstation and ensuring stable connection is now paramount.
Organisations need to assess if all employees are able to create a conducive environment, especially where employees are living with extended family and may encounter various distractions.
Leaders will need to adjust to a new way of managing employees that does not require monitoring. This is an opportunity for growth of employees as businesses foster more independence.
With independence comes great responsibility. Employees will have to discipline themselves to avoid temptations inherent to working remotely, such as waking up and getting ready to ensure productivity rather than lounging in pyjamas all day.
Communication is now more important than ever. Employees and managers need to adjust their expectations and communicate them efficiently. Providing clear, frequent communication and is also crucial to keep up morale.
Clear Human Capital guidelines have to be put in place, adapting to remote working practices. It is important for employees to understand that working remotely is still working and should be treated as such.
Working during a global pandemic is a new experience for everyone, and it has added an extra layer of stress for most people. As industries continue to invest money, time and efforts to ensure the equipment and infrastructure are efficient, what remains critical is how they show up to for their people; therefore, one cannot overlook the need for empathy, especially during the tough times. While employees continue to play their part in ensuring the success of the business, management needs to extend themselves and create an environment where employees are able to communicate any challenges they may be facing and know that they will be afforded the necessary opportunity to deal with off-duty obligations, as well as get sufficient rest and recovery. Businesses need to be clear and deliberate in their approach to promoting employee well-being, as the health and well-being of their people are and will always be crucial to the success of the business.
The Coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact and shape how we see the workplace in the future, be it working remotely, flexible working hours or integrating more virtual engagements instead of face-face. Due to the current market condition, it’s imperative for business leaders to evaluate their organisation’s operations and strategic goals in order to determine how they adapt to the changes that have been brought about by the pandemic but also, how they continue to thrive and achieve long-term sustainability.
Many economists have published detailed models about how steep a curve the movement from middle income status to high status is.
The middle-income trap has left many cabinets and high-powered delegations of experts drawing economic formulas that have left nothing beyond growing bodies of theory and a few actions that have delivered the much sought-after value. Emerging markets still remain emerging markets – a status quo long predicted to remain as such for many lifetimes. A few countries have broken away from the middle-income barriers since the establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Our republic has been having the same debate for more than a generation whilst our economic diversification debate is still on full steam.
As we confront a changing world and new realities we have to answer difficult questions about where we are and where we are going. As a predominantly import economy, how much value do we derive from this economic model versus in-country capacity building in manufacturing? How is the balance of trade between our exports and our imports? Which value frontiers remain untapped? What can give a genuine jump into a high-income economy? How do we get over the – ‘we are better than most adage and complacency?’ How can our natural endowments be the spring board of international competitiveness? What happens when basic goods run dry because exporters cannot even meet their own home demand?
As a construction industry player, I dream of a belt of vast factories – strong primary industries that mushroom from our cities and towns from Ramokgwebana to Charles Hill and beyond – giving beam and life to our people. Skills are harnessed, transferred and shared with our people as we forge a winning coalition of elevating our country beyond what we are and where we are now. I remember the pride of our fathers when they came back from mines back in the yester years, the mere pride of using their own hands and skills in productivity. They understood their contribution in the value chain. In Selibe Phikwe the ‘unending smoke’ from the BCL Mine represented life for the town and its people. A strong sense of nostalgia and a blend of emotions drew tears for many when for the first time in two generations the smoke failed to rise to the skies. The clear skies were symbolic of the new era a new time and a new reality – all minerals are finite. They are abundant today and they are depleted tomorrow.
Nkosi Mwaba, the former Botswana Export and Manufacturers Association Chairman (BEMA) and the current Chairman of Association Entrepreneurs Botswana (AEB) in a recent documentary commented on the pride of strong, local, vibrant manufacturing sector within our shores. “The global value chain can still be fully optimised for a strong manufacturing backbone in our country. We can support existing local manufactures to compete, increase their quality models and have sufficient capacity to cater for our economy and export. I worked for Bolux, they mastered their raw materials, where they source them at competitive rates, created a strong human capital base and today they do not only supply Botswana they supply the region,” says Mwaba.
Many global case studies support this. Germany was resilient in the 2008 global recession because of small enterprises that are a major contributor to the economy. The recession which changed the economic perking order in Europe acknowledged Germany is a supreme economy which was almost insulated when the global economy weaned in horror.
The rise of nationalism is a wave that is sweeping across different nation-states globally. Exacerbated by the new reality of Covid-19 our regional trade is slowly creating a ‘one man for himself’ atmosphere. One of the senior Executive Managers Teedzani Majaula at Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC) asked a question. “What happens when South Africa closes its borders to us? What happen when they switch off their power, fuel and food produce? We have to reach a burning platform which will drive and trigger action,”
His assertions go beyond the normal free market economics argued by the ‘old school’ of markets and economics. The argument of raw materials, cost of production and natural endowments may be a to an extent hindrance towards stabilising critical tenets of our economy and day to day livelihoods for the long term. Israel is one of the largest exporters of produce with a climate similar to ours because of the huge numbers of scientists per capital in the country. What may have been dismissed as bear lands and desert terrains is at the centre of harvesting and exporting thousands of tonnes of produce per year.
The new economic model should look into how much of the import bill should be diverted towards the growth of local manufacturers across different industries. Where there is capacity there is no need for imports where there is a shortage there can be a balanced trade-off which includes imports to mitigate shortages. Moatlholdi Sebabole argues that there has to be a balance between increasing local capacity and disturbing FDIs for the broader health of our GDP. “Any form of protectionism may trigger unwanted circumstances in attracting FDIs. There has to be a well-managed narrative in terms of how this is structured,” he argues.
“Establishment of industries is built on assumptions, the access to raw materials at reasonable costs, labour markets that can deliver value, creation the entire value chain considers the profitability and the profitability growth. Going against this grain in hope of support may trigger unwanted circumstances. However, when the quality of products is good the Government can protect those good,” notes Majaule.
For PPC Botswana, the burning platform has always been how the local manufacturer which used local fly ash from Morupule B for years before the arrangement changed can continue employing Batswana.
The quarries in Kgale, Francistown and Mokolodi are part of a value chain which has strong downstream industry beneficiation. The plant at Gaborone West Industrial are a chemical process of cement production which has emboldened and empowered local applied chemistry experts, chemical engineering gurus amongst others. That entire value is lost when the emphasis is on imports at the expense of establishing a full operation. Materials used in blasting rocks, the people behind the science, the expertise and the blending process of cement drives the conversation about having globally competitive assets that can compete in any part of the globe as outlined by the vision of the National Human Resource Development Strategy. With over BWP120 million paid in taxes, imagine how big an impact the cement industry can be if all players had set up shop in-country.
A lot of good quality players have not seen enough of sunlight in many manufacturing industries, not because they cannot compete but because the products and services which were tailored for the market were overlooked for goods and services from far away. When FDIs come into Botswana they should have different strategic options of setting up not just green field where they start from scratch, they should have options of licensing, joint ventures and buying out local players. This will give a huge return to local players and their shareholders. Indonesia has introduced industry protection for the same reasons. The Motor industry in South Africa is protected against grey imports. In Zimbabwe the cost of importing attracts 100% duty for specific goods which are available in-country.
Our philosophy of supporting local enterprise development, community building and CSI projects for SMMEs is our step of demonstrating that true value should include how players impact and influence SMMEs. We have been part of the community growth and development with our signature rising buildings across the country, a testament to our quality management process. For close to half a century our buildings still stand. Matsiloje, PPC and other local manufacturers have good products, the only thing left is for us to answer the question -what do we want to be. An import economy or a vibrant force of nature that is self-sustaining no matter what?
We are at a crossroads, if sings of Covid-19 are anything to go buy, the future of our manufacturing sector is buying local and enhancing capacity of our home-brewed brands. The avenues for new value frontiers are available. The question is -are we bold enough to take the vital steps to make it happen?
*Dumisani Ncube is Digital Executive at PR Practice