The Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology, Johnny Swartz, this week rebutted suggestions the newly adopted Botswana Innovation Hub would sideline Batswana inhabiting in the rural areas, arguing the move to design the institution was premised to create employment and development of skills, which would play a pivotal role to the livelihood of Batswana, including those in the rural areas.
Endorsed in the previous sitting last November, the Hub is expected to accelerate economic diversification as well as create more employment opportunities to increase productivity but there remained suspicions the initiative would discriminate, affording opportunities to the Batswana living in urban areas while those living in the rural areas would be left in the lurch.
However, answering a question in parliament Tuesday, Swartz discarded such assertions, insisting that the government, through the initiative, anticipates “employment and skills development would be the major outcomes which would benefit our people”.
“The tax income from the companies in Botswana Innovation Hub as well as the tax collected from the employees in Hub is also a national resource that will benefit all Batswana, including those in rural areas,” he added.
Addressing parliament last November prior to the adoption of the resolution, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo, alluded to the importance of the Hub, echoing the sentiments expressed by President Khama in his state of nation address.
“The role of BIH is to facilitate the growth of the technology service industry, in particular the information and communications technology with the aim of making Botswana an exporter of such value added services,” Matambo then insisted.
As a landlocked country, he added, exporting services using the telecommunications and data network offered a new opportunity.
Contributed Khama during the address, “Our government recognizes the need for all of us to adopt a more outward looking posture that is conducive to accelerated private sector development. In this respect, existing and potential investors can be assured of this government’s steadfast commitment to an open economy in which all who can make a positive contribution are encouraged to do so.”
He added, “In pursuing investment, more especially outside investment, our country will continue to market its comparative advantages, which include, amongst others, relatively educated and adapatable workforce and low rate of taxation when compared to many countries and stable banking institutions that ensure adequate financial resources to cope with
exogenous shocks to the economy.”
Worried the envisaged Hub would sideline the rural populace, Shoshong Member of Parliament, Phillip Makgalemele, Tuesday asked the minister to state the functions of the Hub and how it would benefit the rural areas.
Besides attracting both local and foreign businesses and organizations that are technology driven and growth and export ÔÇôoriented in the areas of information and communications technology, biotechnology, mining technology and sustainable energy, Swartz indicated the Hub aims to support local start-ups through incubation and business development services.
“These sectors have been identified as having potential to diversify the economy and promote sustainable growth. There would be individuals or companies with business ideas and with research results that can be developed into goods and services with potential for commercialization and export,” he maintained.
In addition, the Hub is expected to promote technology development and support skills development through appropriate incentive schemes, the activities, which will contribute to the diversification of the economy and create employment for Batswana.