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Creating Botswana’s Next Value Frontiers

Tuelo Botlhole

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

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Letshego launches the LetsGo digital mastery programme

21st June 2022

Letshego Holding Limited (Letshego Group) has officially launched the LetsGo Digital Mastery Programme at an event held at Masa Protea Hotel in Gaborone. This follows their recent recruitment campaign for 10 candidates across Botswana, where over 1,000 applicants applied for the programme.

The Letshego Group is a truly African multinational organisation committed to achieving social impact through its retail financial services strategy across 11 sub Saharan markets. Letshego first opened its doors in Botswana 23 years ago and today has over 3,000 employees including Direct Sales Agents, or “Digital Eagles”.

Letshego customers include individuals, as well as micro and small entrepreneurs (MSEs). Letshego Holdings Limited (holding company) is listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, with subsidiary listing on the Namibian stock exchange. Presence markets include Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Eswatini, Lesotho, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria and Ghana

Following the rigorous selection process of the candidates. 15 brilliant minds were announced for the enrolment in the programme, compromising 10 members of the public and 5 Letshego employees from across its 11 country footprint. This is part of Letshego’s people-first strategy that aims to build future-fit communities where digital or tech is used as a strategic enabler for growth and economic development.

“Today we confirm the successful candidates for Letshego’s inaugural LetsGo Digital Mastery Programme, as you are our first COHORT of Digital Associates to our Digital mastery Programme in the region, you will be trail blazing a path and setting the standards for our future cohorts in Botswana, as well as our next Mastery cohorts set to launch in other Markets,” said Letshego’s Group Chairman Enos Banda.

Qualifying applicants demonstrated foundational digital expertise, and a passion to expand their aptitude into digital financial skills and hands on regional experience within the swiftly evolving financial sector.

“By 2100 one in a three people will be African- this means that by the end of this century, our region, Sub Saharan Africa, will be home to almost half of the young people on the globe. Finding innovative ways to empower fellow Africans with digital and entrepreneurial skills will not only build future leaders but also support future economic growth”, said Banda.

Recruitment was managed by Letshego’s education and leadership training partner, ‘Fast Forward innovation’ compromising a world class approach with a series of exercises, tests and interviews. Psychometric assessment were used to measurable, objective data and comprehensive view of suitability, enabling scientific credibility and objectivity in the selection process.

In congratulating the candidates Banda said that they are excited to welcome the 15 bright young individuals to LetsGo and they look forward to seeing them flourish and grow in to tomorrow’s bright young leaders. Banda further added that these Digital Associates have managed to navigate and process through a thorough and intense selection and today they are awarded their tickets to a journey that is destined and designed to open doors and dynamic opportunities for personal growth to ultimately brighten their future

This was followed by practical projects where candidates were introduced to Agile Methodology and tested on their digital ideas, personal planning and ability to deliver. Finally, the candidates were taken through a series of interviews with Letshego Executives to discuss potential, verify experience, qualifications, drive and organisational fit.

Letshego’s Intern Group Chief Executive Aupa Monyatsi added that The LetsGo Digital Mastery Programme is a unique way they are extending the benefits of digital transformation outside of their organisation. “Though this programme we are supporting the Botswana Government’s objective to build a knowledge-based economy, as well as empowering individuals with entrepreneurial mindsets and skills to spur sustainable and innovative development to grow future leaders and benefit our nation,” Monyatsi concluded.

The 18-months LetsGo Digital Mastery includes a practical learning sponsorship worth over P500, 000 per candidate to develop a digital business idea through training and practical learning. The candidate will gain expertise and become confident digital leaders with international exposure. At the end of the programme, the candidates will be enabled to grow innovative digital ideas from the sand box and ideation phase to a minimum viable product and to grow and scale existing business ideas by harnessing digital technologies.

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Bofinet engages stakeholders on data protection and cyber security

21st June 2022

On Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st June 2022, Botswana Fibre Networks (BoFiNet) will hold breakfast seminars with the banking and financial services sectors to engage on data protection and cyber security issues.

The aim of the seminars is to create awareness about the impending Data Protection Act (2018) and how BoFiNet can partner with the industry to assist them to comply with the Act. During the engagement sessions, the Data Protection Commissioner, Ms. Kepaletswe Somolekae will address the industry on the Data Protection Act, which came into effect in October 2021; and a grace period of 12 months was given to persons and organisations that have custodianship of personal data, to ready themselves to comply with the Act.

This grace period comes to an end in October this year. Another speaker at the event, Mr. Chris Johnson of African Cyber Security, will share with the attendees, the latest trends and insights on cyber security in Africa.

BoFiNet will also share with the stakeholders an update on the data centre project currently being undertaken by BoFiNet at Botswana Innovation Park in Block 8. Known as Digital Delta, the data centre is a 1,000sqm, 400-rack vendor-neutral facility that BoFiNet will complete later this year, that will provide colocation and Internet Exchange Point (IXP) solutions for the local market.

BoFiNet is a wholesale provider of telecommunications and ICT services to licensed Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Value Added Network Service Providers, Public Telecommunications Operators in Botswana and internationally. The company owns and operates the largest fibre network infrastructure in Botswana.

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Hilton Garden Inn Gaborone Launches New “Travel with Purpose” Initiatives

31st March 2022
Hilton Garden Inn
  • The new sustainability initiatives aim to contribute towards greater best practice efforts and supporting the local community
  • Introduction of the New Executive Chef who aligns to the sustainable food and dining experience

Gaborone, Botswana – March 29th, 2022 – Hilton Garden Inn Gaborone has officially launched its new and innovative sustainability initiatives as part of Travel with Purpose, Hilton’s Environment, Social and Governance strategy meant to redefine and advance sustainable travel globally.

The initiatives extend into the dining and culinary experience, with new Executive Chef, Shaneil Dinna, championing a new approach to food at the hotel. Hilton Garden Inn Gaborone has made deliberate efforts to incorporate local “touches” thus presenting local signature dishes on the new menu.

Beyond the new sustainable culinary approach, Hilton Garden Inn Gaborone will be implementing other initiatives such as:

  • Meet with Purpose – Meeting Impact Calculator – Hilton is launching Meeting Impact Calculators which uses data gathered from our Light Stay platforms in partnership with South Pole, one of the leading developers of emissions reduction projects worldwide. This is in effort to track and measure our carbon footprint, with the end goal of reducing emissions. The report produced from the calculator details the predicted carbon, energy, water, and waste generated by meetings and events.
  • Hilton Africa Big 5 – Through our drive to prioritise sustainable travel and tourism in Africa, Hilton has launched a campaign to focus on five key areas, namely: Wildlife Protection, Local Sourcing, Youth Opportunity, Water Stewardship and Anti-Human Trafficking. This is in line with the buy local #PushaBW campaign, which also prioritises local sourcing and youth empowerment. This initiative will be highlighted at the upcoming #PushaBW Brunch in May.

Ms. Thabani Ndlovu, General Manager at the hotel, said, “At Hilton Garden Inn Gaborone, we pride ourselves in being an establishment that exemplifies sustainable tourism, development, and leadership. The hotel is moving towards aligning itself with the Botswana national eco-tourism strategy.

We are purpose-driven and constantly strive to represent the brand’s commitment to building a sustainable environment, all the while contributing towards protecting the planet for generations to come. We have also welcomed a new team member, Executive Chef Shaneil Dinna, whose menu incorporates traditional and home-grown ingredients. He will no doubt also contribute towards recognising and preserving cultural heritage.”

Chef Shaneil brings more than 18 years of experience in an array of contrasting and complex environments within the hotelier industry. His previous roles include working at The David Livingstone Safari Lodge and Spa (in Zambia) and The Hyatt Regency in Johannesburg. Shaneil’s focus will include working to define the menu for more local food appreciation, as well as incorporating more local brands and produce into his kitchen.

With the world becoming even more aware and concerned with the impact travelling has on the environment, the hospitality industry is working towards creating a lasting positive impact on the planet. The continuation of environmental sustainability is essential for businesses such as hotels to grow and evolve – an outlook synonymous with the Hilton Garden Inn Gaborone brand.

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