Friday, February 26, 2021

Batswana own little, don’t control international distribution

Once more, the indicators of “prevalence of foreign ownership”, “extent of market dominance” and “control of international distribution” in the 2015 edition of the Global Competitiveness Report confirm just how economically disempowered Batswana are.

With regard to the first indicator and on a scale where 1 represents “extremely rare” and 7 “highly prevalent”, respondents were asked to state how prevalent foreign ownership of companies is in Botswana. The score (5.5) leans heavily towards the latter and Botswana was ranked 16th among 144 nations that were surveyed by the World Economic Forum for its annual report. The closest African country is Zambia which, with a score of 5.3, is ranked 26th. In the case of market dominance, respondents were asked to say whether corporate activity in Botswana is dominated by a few groups (1) or is spread out among many firms (7). Botswana is ranked 121st with a score of 3.1. What the report wouldn’t tell a reader is that this score is a result of mostly white-owned South African firms dominating the Botswana market. Only two Southern African Development Community countries ÔÇô Angola and Malawi ÔÇô score less than Botswana.

Under such circumstances, citizens will obviously have little to no stake when it comes to the control of the international distribution. On a scale where 1 represents “not at all ÔÇô they take place through foreign companies” and 7 represents “to a great extent ÔÇô they are primarily owned and controlled by domestic companies”, Botswana is ranked 134 with a score of 3.2 ÔÇô the lowest for a SADC country.

For decades now, the Botswana government has been trying to economically empower (indigenous) citizens to give them a larger stake in the national economy but such effort has not borne superlative results. As just one example, the highly lucrative luxury safari tourism in the Okavango Delta is wholly operated by whites. One potent argument that has been made by Justice Dr. Key Dingake in his book, “Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law in Botswana”, is that the Botswana constitution doesn’t recognise the socio-economic rights of citizens as justiciable.

“This does not mean they are not rights. It only means that in the context of Botswana they may not be justiciable (capable of enforcement) because they are not constitutionally entrenched,” the judge contends in the book.

While South Africa also faces the same inequity challenges as Botswana, its constitution provides what most consider the most sophisticated and comprehensive system for the protection of socio-economic rights in the world.

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