Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Beneficiation should top Botswana’s economic development agenda

With our economy literally on its knees, beneficiation and processing should begin to top our economic diversification agenda.

This is especially so given that our economic diversification efforts have over the past two or more decades failed to yield positive results.

The mining sector still remains by far the country’s primary economic driver. Diamonds continue to account as the single biggest contributor to Botswana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is also the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner. The non-mining sector contribution to the overall GDP is still too little.

Given the country’s rich mineral deposits, beneficiation and processing will undoubtedly prove to be the main solution to elusive economic diversification.

We are hopeful that the current slump in commodity prices will rebound in the not so distant future.

The slump in commodity prices should afford us ample time to re-strategize and build a firm foundation upon which we will be able to capitalize on the rebound for long term sustainable economic benefits.

The exporting of our finite mineral resources in raw form is not justified. Neither does it make economic sense to continue exploiting our mineral wealth while allowing the processing into finished products to be done outside the country. By allowing the processing to be done outside our borders, we are literally exporting the many jobs that we ought to be creating for our own people.

Our failure to diversify the economy calls for an urgent change of mindset. The business as usual mindset must be discarded forthwith. The business as usual attitude is not doing us any good when so many of our own people remain unemployed yet we continue to export jobs that we could be creating by way of beneficiation and processing.

There is no justification that with our population of as little as only two million people, our unemployment level stands at some whooping 20 percent without any signs of abating anytime soon.

It is our firm conviction that with proper beneficiation and processing efforts, Botswana stands to create a lot of jobs for its unemployed masses.

There is no reason why our copper and nickel as well gold are still being processed outside the country. By exporting raw minerals, Botswana is exporting many jobs that should be accruing to its own citizens.

The same goes for the meat industry. Botswana counts among the countries with the largest cattle herd in the world and there is absolutely no reason why after almost half a century of independence, there is not a single meat processing plant in the country.

Economic diversification should not be the responsibility of government alone. The private sector should up its game and be seen to be playing a meaningful role surpassing that of government

Our education system should also change focus and start producing enterprising graduates who are not only looking for employment in the already bloated civil service as well as the few sustainable private companies.

Our graduates should be men and women of such enterprising acumen who are prepared to take risks and create industries that will in turn create jobs for their fellow countrymen.

Government red tape and bureaucracy also remains a big challenge that has to be tackled forthwith.

Private investors have no business in being sent from pillar to post when they seek to set shop in our shores.

It is not only government red tape and bureaucracy that need attention. Utility costs still remain one of the highest in the southern African region. The issue needs to be addressed urgently especially that a lot of strides have been made in terms of infrastructural developments.

Government in partnership with the private sector through Business Botswana should converge and forge ways in which to make Botswana more business friendly instead of the current over-reliance on political and economic stability.

Political and economic stability have served us well in the past but the liberation of the southern African region has brought more competition that we must brace for and beat at all costs if we are to still remain competitive and relevant in attracting new investments to our country. 

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