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Lack of ambition stalls Botswana’s progress

Publishing Date : 13 November, 2018

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President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi this week delivered his first State of Nation (SONA) since taking over the reign at the beginning of April. As usual, and like those who came before him, the speech spoke about problems that the country is facing but seldomly about how the problems will be addressed. 


It is important to remind President Masisi that until we transform our selves into people who are willing to do something radically different, our problems as a nation will not go away. The unemployment among the young people, the income disparities, lack of housing and the devastating levels of violent crime in our society is one of the serious problems which are facing as a nation.


Part of problem, as captured by various reputable reports is our inability to position our country to compete successfully with other economies. This emanates from the fact that Botswana’s infrastructure makes it difficult for Botswana to be an attractive or optimal area for investors. What we tell investors is not exactly what they see on the ground. The last decade or so have seen our infrastructure, especially the most basic like roads deteriorating to devastating levels. This has not been helped by the fact that Gaborone have seen its periphery growing due to migration in search of opportunities.  


These are the realities which we are facing, and of course it is not easy to address it because our game plan should have practical solutions. But the thing is, we do not even have a game plan at the moment. Just a fortnight ago, Botswana fell down the pecking order in the annual Global Competitiveness Report 2018, published by the World Economic Forum, from 85th to 90th out of 140 countries. Botswana has also fallen in the Doing Business ranking, from 71 in the 2017 report, and 81 in 2018 and 86 in the latest report, out of 190 countries.   


Doing Business captures several important dimensions of the regulatory environment as it applies to local firms. Doing Business 2019 measures the processes for business incorporation, getting a building permit, obtaining an electricity connection, transferring property, getting access to credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, engaging in international trade, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency. Doing Business collects and publishes data on labour market regulation with a focus on the flexibility of employment regulation as well as several aspects of job quality. 


In today’s era, internet is the most important infrastructure in business because it makes doing business easy. The start reality is that a lot of people and businesses in Botswana do not have access to internet mainly because the infrastructure that we have currently is inadequate which makes provision of internet very expensive. These are the thing that are not captured well in president Masisi’s address and whether we can expect massive transformation in the next two years or so.


Some problems, as also highlighted by other report include income disparities that exists between the citizens, with Botswana ranked by the Human Development Index as among the four most unequal societies in the world. Will these injustices continue unabated? Another problem that Botswana and is reluctant, as continuously highlighted by The Gender Gap Index report is under representation of women in the legislative house and how Masisi— though it is not his concern alone—he will address it. 


We all know the power of the presidency, which is necessary for Masisi to use to build this country. Masisi himself should know better, the economy will never be kinder to him, until and unless he makes the right decision politically and economically. Masisi come across as someone who will most likely hope that investors will flock to Botswana and energize its economy.  If this is the only game plan available to him, Botswana is in for a rude awakening. 


We should also know real opportunities that we should harness as a nation to create new sustainable jobs and value to our economy. We should not continue just building malls, we should build big factories too. Botswana needs a responsive, agile and ambitious decisions. We should plan for the future and commit to seeing Botswana successful. Such cannot be achieved through talks shows. We should report real progress in every SONA and the next budget should really be around transformation and be people centred. 

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