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August 31st marked Baum’s last day in office as EU’s ambassador to Botswana. Before coming to Botswana, Baum served in Malawi as an ambassador.
Asked about his highlights during his tenure by Sunday Standard, Baum indicated that one of the items that he remains unsatisfactory with is the Public Sector reforms, which he said it never did well.
The civil service reform became very challenging he said, following the 2011 civil service strike. However, he adds that civil service matters are never easy for any country. “But, if the government is determined to go comprehensive public sector reforms, it has to be done with a sense of urgency. Not much was happening in this regard.”
He expressed that a sense of urgency in implementation remains a challenge with Botswana and as far as he is concerned.
On the public finance management front, he satisfactorily indicated that the area was fast moving. At some point he said, “we were reflecting on 2013/14 programmes and started re-programming and the focus shifted in some way towards the economy and all that was later on confirmed in the NDP 11 that growth, diversification and unemployment are the key challenges and therefore priorities of the country.”
On Baum’s arrival just before the 2014 general elections in Botswana, EU was still implementing the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), while at the same time looking at the 11th EDFs and getting all the programmes formulated. The EU tried to work with government on formulating priority sectors such as public sector reforms, Public finance, and education amongst others. According to Baum, it was not all rosy.
The EU’s cooperation strategy with Botswana under the 11th European Development Fund (2014-20) – outlined in the National Indicative Programme (NIP) – highlights the Education sector and Public Sector reforms as top two priorities for the EU – with an indicative allocation of €11 million for each. Civil society will also receive support with an initial amount of €6 million.
Baum said quality and relevant vocational education and training, can provide people, and especially youth, with the knowledge, skills and competencies required for the jobs of today or tomorrow.
Recognising this, the EU together with the Government of Botswana have defined as a priority for their cooperation the support to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) policy and reforms, providing knowledge, technical capacity and financial support. A 3 years programme involving a budget support of 10million Euro complemented by Technical assistance of 3 million Euro is being prepared and is foreseen to start on the course of 2019.
The resource transfer he said is not significant and development funding should be more important. Human resource is inevitable, and he emphasised on the need to find a good balance in skills requirements. Building the skills is a long term issue and the environment for investors in this regard is constrained and the economy has hardship in meeting the opportunities available.
While a sizeable number of companies left the country during the previous administration of Ian Khama, Baum had this to day about the new admin, “we will not see a change in those priorities because of the change in President. The biggest challenge we should worry about is implementation. Previously, the awareness was a bottleneck, with the new President he wants to see change in approach, which to us is a positive thing. In any economic sector, time is key.”
Although he could not share more details of his successor, he however confirmed that the next Ambassador to take over has already passed his vetting processes and will resume his work by mid September.
“I am confident that he will make a good impression. I would really want to see him pursue much on research cooperation amongst other topical areas that are behind.”
Sunday Standard can reveal that the new ambassador is a Swedish, and has a track record of two ambassadorial positions in Africa.