Doubt hangs over the government’s latest move to subdivide concession areas in most of the tourist areas to give Batswana a stake in the industry which is mostly foreign dominated.
Though pundits are of the view that it is possible to subdivide concession areas they are of the opinion that the move will not take place in prime tourism areas owned by rich individuals.
Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Minister Tshekedi Khama hinted at the just ended Botswana Travel and Tourism Expo that the move was meant to empower women and youth to participate in the tourism industry.
Khama’s pronouncement comes at a time when some Batswana who were part of the expo also raised concerns about the absence of locals who run the tourism business.
Khama stated that the move would allow Batswana to participate in the tourism industry that some view as an industry run predominantly by foreigners.
However, Professor Joseph Mbaiwa remains doubtful on Khama’s move to subdivide concession areas that have been in the hands of white-owned companies.
Mbaiwa argues that it is not possible for Batswana to be given access to most of tourism prime concession areas currently in the hands of rich individuals.
“I don’t see any Motswana having access to prime tourism areas such as the Okavango Delta and Chobe. Batswana will have access to areas in the periphery of the tourism sector where such areas have no value compared to prime areas,” added Mbaiwa.
He further stated in the absence of strong empowerment legislation Batswana have no chances of owning and running tourism establishment in prime areas.
Mbaiwa stated that there was a need to come up with a different model of funding Batswana who want to go into tourism since financial institutions such as the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) plays a little role in terms of funding tourism business.
Mbaiwa further stated that the government would not touch prime areas owned by rich individuals since they were aware that the move could bring along lawsuits. He said that there were lease agreements that had been signed some which goes up to 50 years which was going to be difficult for government to subdivide the concession areas.
He said that there was a need to give a percentage of shares to locals for any company intending to set up tourism establishment in Botswana though he was not suggesting that it should be done the way Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe did it in his country.
“I am not talking about naturalised citizens since there is a notion that a foreigner who gets citizenship is regarded as a citizen. This should be given to indigenous citizens,” he added.
Meanwhile, JENMAN African Safaris’ Administration officer, Lorato Kalayati, was concerned about the absence of Batswana tourism owned business owners at the expo.