Kenneth Matambo, Finance and Development Planning minister, bolstered Selebi Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit’s (SPEDU’s) confidence last week as he spelt out government’s intention to support the construction of a railway line linking Botswana and Mozambique.
However, the finance minister who is due to present his median budget speech on Tuesday failed to give a financial rescue plan for SPEDU during the National Economic Diversification Conference of Selebi Phikwe last week.
“Government supports this (private sector) initiative this is why we are prepared to go into a memorandum of Understanding with Mozambique,” he said, as he tried to calm concerns that the Mmamabula- Namibia railway line seems to be enjoying a lot of support over the Mozambican one.
The Botswana-Mozambique railway line is expected to add some impetus to the SPDU drive aimed at finding long term economic solutions for Bobirwa, Mmadinare, Selebi Phikwe and Tswapong North areas.
Given enough support, the areas┬á have the potential of being the “bread basket “┬á and┬á add on the region food┬á security plan while at the same time┬á being a model of economic diversification┬á to other mining towns in the country and the African region.
The proposed railway line┬áis expected to connect what is likely to be Botswana’s most economically active region with the rest of the world.
However, SPEDU, which is led by Kago Moshashane┬áhas decried lack of funding┬áas one of its biggest threats┬ásince the EU funding is reported to have dried up.
The reports of EU funds having dried up were earlier this week met with muted rejection by the organisation’s offices in Gaborone.
The┬áconstruction of a railway line between Botswana and Mozambique came┬áamong┬á┬á key initiatives that need to be undertaken if the region┬áwas to be an economic powerhouse of Botswana.
Some of the recommendation┬á adopted Friday at the “National conference on the Economic Diversification of Selebi Phikwe” urged the region┬á to shore-up its image and fast track robust┬á infrastructural development that will include a railway line that links the region with the Maputo port.
Under the envisaged plan,┬áTalana FarmsÔÇöin Tuli Block ÔÇô┬áhas the potential to act as the bread basket of the country and the region and railway links with southern African region and the┬áinternational ports will assist in delivering some of the objectives.
The┬árailway line will link the┬áSPEDU region with the international community while the re-opening of Selebi Phikwe airport is expected to drive in some of the much sought after foreign direct investment.
Further, some of the initiatives include the upgrading of the regional bridges and road networks within Bobirwa, Mmadinare, Selebi Phikwe and Tswapong North areas in a bid┬áto entice investors into the region.
The area is expected to market its potential to region, Botswana and the international investors as the best region to do business from. However, according to participants the region has to look more into issues of economic empowerment than what has been done before with a lot of emphasis on community involvement.
The move is expected to lead to local procurement┬áinitiative driven by government which is hoped to support┬ácitizen owned┬áenterprises. The move is expected to be helped by the Competition Policy that is been driven by Ministry of Trade and Industry which among other things will work against cartels and monopolise in the market.
The adopted initiated are expected to be evaluated on regular basis┬áand reports from government,┬áSPEDU and communities are expected to be presented. The private sector is also expected to be brought into the picture so that the plan can have a positive impact going forward.
┬áThe Marshall plan comes after the┬áEU sponsored research which indicated that up to 80,000 people’s life’s┬áare likely to be affected by the closure of the country’s oldest copper/ nickel mine.
The report had warned of a possible social unrest┬áand┬áthe likelihood of a ghost town if billions of pula is not injected into the area in the form of investment.
However, SPEDU has warned of its dire need of cash that is aimed at ensuring that it hit the ground running.
┬á“This afternoon I had thought to hear something different but it was just like business as usual. I had thought to hear┬ásomething along the lines of business unusual,” the coordinator of┬áSPEDU, Kago Moshashane told a two-day conference gathering in Selebi Phikwe on Thursday as he signaled the urgency of the matter.
“There is no money,” he said, adding that the needed to hear more since the European Union funding has dried up.