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Smart immigration policies key to economic transformation

Publishing Date : 05 June, 2018

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Minister of Immigration, Gender and Nationality Dorcas Makgato has been given a clear specific mandate by President Mokgweetsi Masisi of ensuring that the immigration system becomes a catalyst for economic transformation in Botswana.

It is not rocket science what smart immigration cannot do in any economy through acquisition of skilled labour or attracting investors. We need investors more than ever. Although some may still be in denial, part of our economic woes, resulting from sluggish economy is caused by our poor immigration economic policy. As previously stated by officials at Immigration and also by Botswana Investment Trade Centre (BITC), it is obvious that the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS) has been sabotaging Botswana’s economic aspirations.

Inexplicable decisions have been made in the past, to frustrate people who wanted to do business here, others who wanted to work here and who would have contributed significantly to the economy of this country. That is why we support the decision to remove Colonel Isaac Kgosi as the Head of DIS and we are hoping Brigadier Peter Magosi does not replicate his behaviour when dealing with investors. We do not have time to waste. We need to be agile in what we do.

Now Minister Makgato should know that she has to work closely with minister of Investment, Trade and Industry to bring investors here.  As part of easing doing business in Botswana, it is also important to ensure that processing of VISA is a swift as possible, to ensure that people enjoy coming to Botswana. Work permits should not be an issue to deserving individuals. They should get it as soon as possible, or within a reasonable time. If their applications are rejected, should be informed of the decision for doing so, and it should always be in the interest of this country’s economy.

All countries which are successful, including among others the United States, Australia and Canada among others have succeeded mainly because of their smart immigration policy. Investors have been cagey on doing business in Botswana. Those who are already doing business in Botswana have been sceptical about expanding their business because their future in Botswana is uncertain. It is true that investors need certainty and some level of predictability for them to do more in any country. They do not want to be told to leave the next day without explanation as it has been in case in recent years.

We have heard stories of directors of companies that do business in Botswana, being denied VISAs when they intended to visit the country for business purpose. Really, what kind of government does that? Makgato should assure investors that we value them. That should not only be in rhetoric but in our actions as well. There have been complaints that Botswana portrays itself as a friendly and welcoming country, but once investors are here, they are treated in a manner at variance with that we say we are.

Not only have investors been denied VISAs, work permits and other necessary documentation, tourists too have had their fair share of trouble in Botswana. Some have been rejected simply based of suspicion without any real justification. The number of people visiting Botswana has also decreased over the years, a real concern which Makgato has to seriously deal with. Let people visit Botswana, let people enjoy their stay here.  

We should take leaf from countries like United Arab Emirates, or Dubai in particular which has about 80 percent of its population being foreign born. Yet it is one of the most thriving cities with a vibrant economy. They are very welcoming, and everybody these days enjoys visiting Dubai. The same applies to cities like Sydney (Australia), Los Angeles (United States), and London (United Kingdom) among others.

Many countries have devised laws and policies that encourage and incentivise skilled individuals to come and reside in their countries, or to even take citizenship. United States has the green card which attracts people with certain skills to take citizenship in the US.
We should allow people to come and stay here, as long they are contributing positively to this country economy, we need them!



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