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Economy: BIG ideas ZERO action…

Publishing Date : 14 November, 2017

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Following the delivery of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) by His Excellency the President, Lt Gen Ian Khama, we reflect a bit on conversations that have in the past generated great ideas that could power Botswana’s economic diversification and job creation agenda. We mirror this with this week’s SONA and we conclude that we remain a talkative nation with little action on what we say!

From come to realise that a number of interesting insights on the Botswana economy, especially on how it can grow going forward and how we can diversify away from diamonds and or mining always emerge from the BIG speeches but the results are slow to come by.

In 2014 seasoned businessman people, economists, policy makers, politicians and other relevant stakeholders converged in Maun at the then Botswana Confederation of Commerce Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) National Business Conference. We just hope that the deliberations from that gathering have not gone to waste; we just hope they are infused into the broader strategy of mapping Botswana’s economy going forward. It evident from President Khama’s State of the Nation Address that we are a country in need of solutions especially when it comes to creating jobs and attracting investors.

In the same year 2014 we note that the Vice President, His Honour Mokgweetsi Masisi had alluded to the fact that government is alive to the fact that diamonds are not forever and indeed there is serious behind the scenes action on where to take the economy after diamonds. The BOCCIM Seminar followed a Botswana Institute of Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) workshop held in Gaborone a fortnight ago which also addressed the topic of Botswana After Diamonds.

We need to see more action and less words, the latest SONA is still wordy and there is little action on the ground! We expect a strong punctuation from President Khama as he leaves office next, he should make sure a signature project with long term jobs is implemented before he leaves, especially in the SPEDU region.

There has been a number of platforms such as the Business Botswana event and the BIDPA engagement we alluded to above and indeed Parliament where our leaders have talked and talked and talked… it is time for action now. We believe such engagements – ie SONA - should not just be calendar events that decorate the profiles of speakers. The actual substance of the conversations should be seen to be implemented.

At the BOCCIM event, mong those who spoke at the National Business Conference at the time were De Beers group Chairman, Mark Cutifani. His remarks focused on answering the question of how Botswana should best leverage its enviable strengths to continue the growth trajectory established in the half century since independence.  

The De Beers Chairman had said he understands that Botswana has long had the desire to diversify its economy away from diamonds. He explained that despite the growth achieved, the country arguably remains vulnerable to shifts in the global diamond market. Our conclusion at the time was that it is clear that those in the high echelons of power are aware of this, but the critical point is whether they are pushing hard enough to come up with ideas that could cushion the country against potential knocks?

How many times have we heard this statement: “diversification beyond extractives in general and diamonds in particular is crucial as proven resources will eventually deplete. There is indeed urgent need to make more progress towards having a more vibrant manufacturing, services and export economy.” What are we doing about it? If there is action, it is very slow or none at all – our verdict!

Botswana’s development strategy should be based on clear objectives that foster long term infrastructure development, the generation of intellectual capital, enhanced access to markets, inbound investments competition and improved relationships for all stakeholders.

Botswana is interested in an export-oriented economy which it believes will result in rapid and unparalleled reduction in poverty and a rapid rise in living standards. This is a near ideal that we all want. But it remains a dream if ideas cannot be executed beyond words. The private sector and the government are willing to work together, but is this happening? If our emphasis remains on the Economic Stimulus Programme and Ipelegeng, what exports are talking about?

The private sector also needs to go beyond spoken word and bring in action. Demonstrating ability and will should also posture government in a favourable position for the private sector. In 2008, the Private Sector Development Strategy (PSDS) was launched, anchored on three major interventions of creating an enabling business climate; generating business opportunities; and catalyzing private investment through foreign direct investment, credit enhancement and risk management instruments. Where are all these ideas going, we see very little on the ground!



Do you think the closure of BCL will compel SPEDU to double their efforts in creating job opportunities in the Selibe Phikwe?