Monday, July 15, 2024

Batswana should be encouraged to become industrialists

This past week, there were reports in the local media that through his Permanent Secretary, President Ian Khama had issued a directive that government departments and parastatals should henceforth support citizen-owned small businesses as a matter of policy.

Up to now, citizen companies have had to rely on the whimsical and capricious goodwill of government officials to get a slice of the otherwise large share of government contracts.

We want to ask the government to go further and come up with legislation that deliberately engenders citizen economic empowerment.

Apparently, the PPADB (Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board) has also been asked to align itself with this refreshingly new policy.
That is all more than welcome.
In fact, the whole development is long overdue.

We have always believed that, given the structure of Botswana’s economy where government literally sprawls every sector and sub sector, no form of citizen economic empowerment was ever going to happen unless it was backed up by a genuine form of political goodwill.
Our take is that the time for debates is over.

We should no longer be debating the merits of citizen economic empowerment.
There is sufficient consensus on the ground amongst Batswana of the need to deliberately harness the country’s resources to economically empower citizens.
It is, therefore, heartening to see that so early in his tenure President Khama seems to have placed citizen economic empowerment as part of his top priorities.

We think if properly harnessed, the size of the government procurement budget is large enough to see the long elusive dream of citizen economic empowerment come true.

We draw solace from the directive that departments and parastatals will henceforth be required not just to draw up policies which support government on this regard but also produce quarterly reports of progress on how they are individually implementing this overly important national policy.

It is our hope that the President will not allow fatigue to set in before this very important policy bears fruit.
He should insist on building momentum until such time that citizens of this country feel they own not just the country but the economy of the country as well.

For too long Batswana have felt helpless and desperate witnessing the wealth of their country almost exclusively enjoyed by expatriates who, in most cases, come here to make a quick buck and exit the following day, leaving behind no significant investments for the country.
Having said that we want to point out that if Khama policy is to bear any lasting fruit it also will need the seriousness on the part of Batswana businesses.

Utmost in our mind is a change of mindset and attitude towards business.
It is regrettable that thus far most of our attitude to business has not been encouraging.
We hope we have learnt the lessons and will seize this new opportunity to open a new leaf in our quest to reclaim what is rightfully ours.
A culture of entitlement has long distracted Batswana from professionally growing their businesses.

We hope those days are now behind us, especially because of the many cases of mistakes that led to business collapses from which we can learn a lot.
While the growth of small businesses is integral to employment creation we want to hasten to point out that Batswana should in the same breath be encouraged to become large scale business people and industrialists.

Not only does the country need a growth of the middle class, there also is a need for large scale home grown entrepreneurs who will become mentors for upcoming youth.
It would be dangerous as to counterproductive to allow ourselves to be trapped in the small scale mentality which in the long term is not sustainable without generous patronage from the government.

Where possible government should go an extra mile to assist citizens who show the potential to growing into large scale, export oriented businesses.
Again, we hope that the announcement by government to grow Batswana small businesses will not be used to create a feeling of contentment as a political ploy to arrest everyone else into small scale mentality while a few select and well connected individuals rake in the larger and more lucrative government contracts worth billions of Pula at the top of the rung.


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