Botswana Chamber of Commerce and Industry Manpower (BOCCIM) has been urged to revive its structures at District Levels if its members were to benefit from the achievements of the High Level Consultative Council (HLCC).
This was stated at a European Union sponsored Non State Actors (NSA) workshop faculty organized by BOCCIM and Government, at the centre in Gaborone on Thursday 3rd September 2009.
Central to the objectives of the workshop was the need for strengthening the local level consultative council structures which serve as a platform for consultation between Government and local business.
Ideally the ILCC are to be reflective of the HLCC, which is chaired by the President of Botswana, and offer Business an opportunity to exchange with Government on issues of mutual interest, appertaining to business development and economic growth.
However, given the complexity, size and scope of issues covered, the idea of decentralizing HLCC was a well thought out one but, in reality, it is simply not working.
Some Districts Administration Officers and Council Secretaries attending the workshop have pointed out how public authorities at Districts and local levels have always found themselves struggling to generate items for the agenda of LLCC, without anyone from the private sector in sight.
To make matters worse, they stated that often times, those attending would usually only be people from various government departments where the relevant issues would have already been exhausted.
“So that even when we meet, the fact that BOCCIM members would either not be there, or no new issues would have been brought forth, we find ourselves talking to ourselves over and over about the same issues,” lamented one of the heads of local authorities attending.
This led to BOCCIM Executive Director Maria MachailoÔÇôEllis admitting that, organizationally, the private sector still has a lot to do to attain an organizational identity at local levels so as to partake meaningfully in the consultations.
She also posted that it is precisely for that reason that this workshop was organized, so as to get the feedback regarding challenges experienced by colleagues at respective lower levels of both government and grass root private sector structures.
“We hope through this exchange to be able to explore ways in which we can improve linkages between big business and small business,” argued Machailo-Ellis.
Another concern raised by participants was that there is currently no way of knowing whether the HLCC is doing enough or performing appropriately.
Especially so because, partly due to the no functionality of private sector committees at local levels, there is no system within the HLCC of communicating its achievement or challenges to the remotest members of the business community.
Dr. Howard Sigwele, has suggested that the ideal approach in addressing the gap between the HLCC and LLCC, as well as correcting any apparent deficiencies would be to carry out a thorough audit of both structures.
“Only then, in my opinion would it make sense to talk of strengthening the consultative machineries at local levels, and ensure a sound interaction between the higher and lower levels of the council,” said Sigwele.
In this respect, Machailo-Ellis hastened to make a point, in case Sigwele’s words are construed for criticism of the HLCC.
She said, “Whilst I agree that there is need to ensure the establishment of a system of communicating the outcome of the efforts of HICC to the lower structures, it should not be made to look like the HLCC has failed.”
“In fact, a number of achievements can be cited, which point to the relevance of the HLCC,” added Machailo-Ellis
For example, it was through the council that His Excellency the President suggested recently, that there is need to revisit the Botswana Brand, so as to make it more attractive.
Once again, all thanks to the HLCC that a few months ago Government Gazette was issued to the effect that the implementation of new Companies Act shall be preceded by transitional arrangement to allow those companies caught up in penalties to extend their payments period.
Notwithstanding these interim achievements, concern has been expressed that a weak grass-root business network could spell a bad start, in view of the need for vibrant private sector and strong business chamber to influence government policies.
“This cannot be over emphasized in light of the economics of integration where countries need truly representative and aggressive business chambers,” concluded Sigwele.