Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Absence of a coherent national agenda is hurting Botswana’s prospects for the future

With the BOT50 celebrations now behind us, it is time that as a nation we established a fresh and common agenda that will take us as a country to a whole new level.

Harping on past successes might make us feel good as a people. But it does nothing to prepare ourselves for the immensely difficult journey ahead.

There has never been a greater need for a more coordinated approach of just what we want to become as a country, people, and the nation than now.

The economy is not doing well, unemployment is at the highest level, with wages stagnant and unlikely to rise any time soon.

Hoping, as we seem to be doing as a nation that another miracle of the next fifty years awaits us to put it mildly, is being irresponsible.

Yet there is still an irresponsible bent to create an air of false happiness about our situation.

The Ministry of Youth is a prime culprit of that.

Admittedly, that ministry we understand is responsible for creating an air of national happiness..

But it should not be at a cost of falsifying reality.

Too many grand but incoherent announcements are made without a clear vision let alone a clear strategy of follow up and implementation.

Where there is some implementation to talk about, instances of bad coordination take away whatever credit that might be expected from such efforts.

Hardly a week passes without the minister or any of his surrogates making pretentious statements that are never followed up.

Such utopian gestures, which the ministry has crafted as a way justifying not just its existence but also relevance, are a clear distraction from real issues that matter.

The intension, it seems is to create an intension that something is being done, while on the ground no effective changes are happening to the targeted beneficiaries. We only use the ministry as a prime example. The malaise runs across the entire government.

A decade ago there was a clear economic roadmap of engendering economic diversification.

That was not an afterthought.

It was clearly captured in government policy.

Today while there is still some mention of it, there is no evidence of any official commitment to it.

Economic diversification it would seem is to many in government a wild goose not worth chasing.

Instead our ministers are busy pre-occupied with half-baked announcement all of it a result of a fight for political survival that is consuming our elite political class.

From the just ended celebrations to mark fifty years of independence it is clear that we are a nation that has become a victim of past success.

Instead of talking about the future, we dwell too much on our past.

Speech after speech it is clear just how obsessed our leaders are with past vainglory.

It would seem like our leaders of today are no longer capable of making bold decisions for the future.

Clearly a form of complacency that has set in, together with a reluctance on our part to accept that as a country we are fast losing grip of our destiny are undermining our prospects as a nation.

Our leader seem to think that by not making a public reference to the problems that we face, chiefly that of unemployment, those problems will on their own go away.

That is wishful thinking.

Personal debt, wage stagnation, low productivity, corruption and unimaginative leadership are just a few of the many problems that this country is grappling with.

Yet there does not seem to be any coherent strategy to combat these ills.

We need to look seriously at establishing a national agenda around which everybody will rally.

For that to happen such a national agenda has to resonate with all Batswana. 

A failure to do that will lead to more and polarity and indeed divisive politics, the kind of which by the way we are already starting to see creep into our public discourse.

It would seem as a country we have a blurred vision for the future, fearful of grasping to opportunities, while fiercely clinging to our past.

Anybody who has had a close look at Botswana’s current litany of problems ÔÇô and the will to resolve them, will be excused for questioning, in fact doubting the country’s potential to negotiate and ultimately cross the many pitfalls that we are grappling with as a people.

We have had a glorious past.

And that is there for all to see.

There is nothing wrong acknowledging that part of our history.

But is should not be at the expense of accepting that there is a future to map, especially if future generations are to have a chance in life even if it is a fraction of that which past generations have enjoyed.

The fact of the matter is that the future is going to be frightfully difficult and ruthlessly competitive.

Creating an army of young unemployable youth that is hopelessly ill-equipped to face the twenty first century life challenges does not seem to be a good start to kick starting a journey towards that kind of future.

This steadfast refusal on the part of our future to acknowledge the many difficulties that lie ahead is eating problems at home and abroad.

Justifiably, to outsiders this creates an impression of Botswana as a country that is somewhat schizophrenic; neither fish nor fowl.

This is not to say we should as a country embrace and think of our country as a dystopian entity.

Rather it is a call for charting a new path away from a beaten current one of self congratulation and breast beating.

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The Telegraph October 28

Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 28, 2020.