Monday, March 1, 2021

Botswana adopting ill-suited productivity intervention schemes

The Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC) was supposed to offer a durable solution to poor labour productivity in the country but a consultant at a premier project management company says that the Centre has been unsuccesfully trying out a raft of productivity intervention schemes that are ill-suited to the local environment. “BNPC wants to apply a model of Singapore, a country whose work ethic and work culture are completely different to Botswana’s,” says Okitanye Gaogane who is Head of Academy at Innolead Consulting.

“It is struggling with balance scorecard which works well in mature environments but here they have to force it to work because Botswana is an immature environment.” Balance scorecard is a performance metric used in strategic management to identify and improve various internal functions and their resulting external outcomes. It attempts to measure and provide feedback to organizations in order to assist in implementing strategies and objectives.

Gaogane says that while Botswana has the option of benchmarking against similar but relatively advanced environments, it characteristically prefers to do the benchmarking with western countries which are light years ahead of it and doesn’t customise what it learns to its own unique environment. “When we should be learning from Zimbabwe, we choose to learn from Sweden,” he says. He explains that part of getting it right involves marrying people, processes and technology into a seamless whole.

In his characterisation, the Botswana situation is one in which “five-star technology is put in two-star personnel in a one-star process.” “There is absolutely no match there,” he says. That notwithstanding, Gaogane hastens to add that as an institution, BNPC is a noble idea worthy of praise but one which however, has not been able to blossom fully because of industrial/government maturity.

Some two months ago, former president, Sir Ketumile Masire, told Sunday Standard that BNPC was inspired by the experience of the Four Asian Tigers – Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. Between the early 1960s and 1990s, these countries maintained exceptionally high growth rates (in excess of 7 percent a year) and rapid industrialisation. By the 21st century, all four had developed into advanced and high-income economies, with Singapore becoming a world-leading international financial centre. With the hope that this economic miracle was also possible for it, Botswana established BNPC through an act of parliament in 1993.

The Centre’s statutory mandate, as outlined on its website, is “to enhance the level of productivity awareness as an advocacy function and to enable individuals and organisations through training and consulting to be productive and competitive.” Even though he accepts that BNPC “didn’t work as well as we had hoped”, Masire said that he has no regrets about establishing it and that the labour productivity problem in the country would have been a lot worse without it.

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