Monday, October 18, 2021

Air Botswana surely caught up in fast changing world patterns

Futurist and Chief Technology Adviser to the Future World Global, Doug Vining, was right after all, the world does indeed change at a tumultuous pace and the fiasco currently surrounding the national airline proves his point. 

He referred to the rapid changes as evident of vuca, which is an acronym that stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity used to describe the state of situations.  

On the subject of Air Botswana, first was the Presidential directive appointing the regional tourism outfit, Wilderness Holdings Limited, majority shareholder of the national airline and then in a whirlwind was a statement from Wilderness withdrawing its interest from the initial expression to take over the operations of the airline: the term vuca is applicable to this situation. 

The recent debacle is not the first time that the national airline’s privatisation process does not reach the finishing line. The previous attempts were sullied with conspiracy theories and it seems that such may be the case with this round.  The track record of Air Botswana adds to the mix its ‘legacy issues’ as commentators have termed it which speak to its insistent imploding financial state.       

“The Company has been informed by the Ministry of Transport and Communications that the Government of Botswana wishes to enter into discussions with the Company regarding this matter. However, after careful deliberation, the Company has decided not to pursue the matter any further. Accordingly, the Company has withdrawn its Expression of Interest and has advised the Government of its decision,” reads the statement from Wilderness released on Friday last week. 

Prior to this statement the Presidential directive CAB 12(A)/2017 had instructed that “Air Botswana be turned into a company with private shareholding, and to partner with Wilderness who will make majority shareholding, subject to negotiations and applicable statutory requirements.” According to documents obtained from the ongoing Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Air Botswana completed the first phase of its restructuring exercise in December 2016 and two months later Expression of Interest (EOI) was floated.   

This is despite that the privatisation process of the airline had at the time of the Presidential instruction been at the stage of EOI which is typically used as a dip test to determine the eagerness of the market to a particular transaction. 

Generally EOI does not represent a contract or a financial obligation to the transaction but is simply used as an initial process to later invite the interested parties to a bid. The instruction terminated the game before it could be played as the process had not arrived at the bidding process.  

Vining’s visit to Botswana early last year was an invitation from Deloitte to come and stir discussions with local industry titans on the radical implications of a changing business landscape. 

His specific role to the talks was to offer insight in understanding the changing world by using lessons from the future, hence his job title ‘futurist’. “The big question is: What time is it and what are we doing about it? The answer is: It’s after midnight and most of us are still sleeping,” he had said. One could suggest that had he familiarised himself with the national airline issues he would have possibly used his expertise to interpret its rapid changes.

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