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In Support of the Presidents call for a Knowledge Economy

Publishing Date : 10 April, 2018

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On the 1st of April amidst pomp and fanfare, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Botswana Mr Mokgweetsi E. K. Masisi laid out his visionary blue print and noted as follows: “In line with Vision 2036, investment in research, science and technology and innovation will be prioritised to enable our transformation into a knowledge based economy. To this end, I will ensure that the transformation of education and training, through the Human Resource Development Strategy of 2009, receives all necessary support that is required in order to ensure that education meets the needs of industry”. This progressive and reformist agenda could not have come at a better time.

The pronouncement calls for “radical economic transformation” which entails  “severing old growth path, largely dependent on exporting raw materials and instead government creating the conditions for the economy to industrialise through manufacturing and beneficiation, or processing, of raw materials, by providing incentives for manufacturers, to promote a more diverse economy and generate mass employment”. This notwithstanding there is also need for “radical mind-set change” if we are to be a knowledge economy. 

According to the World Bank, ‘knowledge economies’ are defined by four pillars being: institutional structures that provide incentives for entrepreneurship and the use of knowledge; skilled labour availability and good education systems; ICT infrastructure and access; and finally, a vibrant innovation landscape that includes academia, the private sector and civil society.

It has to be understood that Multinational Companies (MNCs) driven more by globalistion, are at the center of evolving cross-border patterns of trade, foreign investment, and technology and knowledge transfers hence are at the core of knowledge economy. Such firms undertake a large and growing share of world trade and accordingly, an estimated 30 to 40 percent of international commerce is conducted within the said Multinational Companies.

To ensure that Botswana transforms to a knowledge economy, the country must open up to Multinational Companies, and aggressively move towards attracting Foreign Direct Investment, as per the Country’s policy pronouncement from way back. The most of radical mind-set change should be with regards to opening our borders for these Multinational Companies.

In some developing countries they have opened borders to the extent the local population is far surpassed by investors population wise, who nonetheless are powering the economy. FDI plays the role of plugging gaps in funding where there is a mismatch between domestic savings and investment needs, and it will plug our gaps in funding. 

According to studies, export levels from Botswana and FDI inflows to the country between 1990 and 2013 reveal that the economy is still very export-oriented and reliant on a single commodity, which contributes a significant portion to the local GDP. There is therefore a need for concerted effort to harnessing FDI inflows.  To lure investors the Country must be competitive. Botswana’s rankings have however been improving from 80 to 74 (out of 144 economies) between the 2011/ 2012 and 2014/ 2015 periods according to the World Economic Forum 2014 Report.

However despite improvements in the Competitive Index, most FDI in Botswana is concentrated in the capital-intensive mining sector, closely followed by the financial services and retail sectors. There is need to aggressively support and market other sectors of tourism, agriculture, manufacturing and telecommunications, as well as secure international markets and investors alike, in order to diversify the current export-oriented, diamond mining economy.

In an endeavour to attract FDI, ease of doing business is critical since Investors are about effectiveness and efficiency. Amongst the critical indicators of ease of doing business is with regards starting a business. According to Doing Business 2016 Report, Botswana stands at 143 in the ranking of 189 economies on the ease of starting a business. This does not augur well for a country that aspires to be a knowledge economy.  There is therefore an urgent need for a range of reforms involving critical stakeholders in order to achieve the Vision as laid down by His Excellency the President.  

In its contribution to the reform agenda, HRDC is in the process of developing the National Human Resource Development Plan (NHRDP). The NHRDP will serve as a strategic document that will facilitate the development of human capital for the country. Implementation of this Plan will require a series of high level and structural reforms including an integrated reform process for the entire education sector, with a key focus on relevance, access and quality.

Furthermore, HRDC is revitalising the Labour Market Observatory (LMO). In its drive to become a knowledge economy, Botswana’s development crucially depends upon its labour force. A better match between skills produced in the education sector and skills demanded in labour market by industry is an important means to raise youth employment, economic growth and well-being.

The LMO will furthermore monitor labour market patterns and trends thus guiding students towards skills in demand, occupations and vibrant economic sectors as aligned to the NHRDP which will in effect avail the future job opportunities in different sectors of the economy, aligned to the National Development Plan, Vision 2036, the SADC Industrialisation Policy etc.

Revitalising the LMO would require establishment of the Labour Market Information System and establishment of the Education Management Information System. The latter entails identification of education and training institutions, programs and courses, information on access to and the quality of these training sources, and information on financial assistance etc.


The knowledge economy holds great promise for the Country. Our systems and processes need to be seamless in promoting and aiding ease of doing business and supporting multinational companies to setup in the country thus promoting and attracting FDI. ICT remains the rock layer and foundation for improved service delivery, if we are to improve our ease of doing business, and as well improving on our competitive edge, hence the need to quadruple our efforts in promoting digitisation and our offering of e-services.

There is need to re-emphasise “radical mind-set change” across the divide if we are to achieve the noble aspirations of His Excellency the President Mr Mokgweetsi E. K. Masisi of “a knowledge economy”.

Dr Raphael Dingalo is Chief Executive Officer at HRDC 
The Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) is responsible Co-ordinating and promoting implementation of the national human resource development strategy.



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