Botswana’s development plans are based on cross-your-fingers-and-hope assumptions that have as much chance of being wrong as they do of being right – an African Development Bank (AfDB) in-depth analysis of Botswana’s economy has revealed.
While government has for years been struggling to diversify its economy away from diamonds, the country’s planners are groping in the dark and have no information about the number, size and activities of Micro-Small and Medium sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in the manufacturing sector which are supposed to be the country’s drivers of diversification.
States the AfDB report:“There is little data on the number, size, and activities of MSMEs. The national accounts classification of manufacturing includes most firms in the broad “other manufacturing” sub-sector.”
The AfDB says this inadequate data fails to adequately capture the activities of firms in growing manufacturing sectors, such as vehicle parts, electrical components, plastics, and the diamond cutting and polishing sub-sector, which has been specifically targeted for growth. The AfDB revealed that there is an absence of data on the impact and cost of the EDD (Economic Diversification Drive), so its effectiveness cannot be assessed.
And this is not an isolated incident. All in all, Botswana’s projects are based on plans that lack sufficient data and rigor for them to reach valid conclusions. The AfDB report points out “Inadequate project planning, premature inclusion of projects in NDPs (National Development Plans) with inaccurate costing and limited prior project appraisal.”
The report also expressed concern at what it described as insufficient monitoring and evaluation of projects resulting in cost overruns, underestimated costs and service provision that is below standard specifications, shortage of project management skills within both Government and the private sector.
It emerges from the report that the shortage of project management skills is a feed back loop of the country’s stab in the dark approach to development. States the AfDB report: “Education and training are misaligned to the job market, so that school leavers, trainees and graduates do not have the right skills and other attributes to readily find employment or other income-earning opportunities.”
It further emerged that the government is also in the dark about the tourism industry which has for many years been touted as the country’s next engine of growth. The bank pointed to “poor quality of Tourism Statistics, as those produced only include information on international visitors, but do not include any economic or financial data, and do not cover domestic tourism.
“Air transport is still limited as Air Botswana has a monopoly on domestic routes. Internet access, bandwidth and e-marketing capabilities in Botswana are not at par with global tourism destinations,” the report said. The Bank pointed out that road access for tourist areas is limited to off-road vehicles and key paved roads need improvement.
“Participation of citizens in the tourism value chain is low. Even when some types of tourism license are reserved for citizens only, challenges of lack of hospitality and tourism skills, access to finance and land still constrain citizen participation.”