Thursday, July 2, 2020

Botswana makes one step towards citizen economic empowerment

Purification and bottling of water, meat processing, packaging, fresh produce,  funeral parlours and importation of pre-owned cars are just some of the businesses that will be reserved for citizens, revealed the Investment, Trade and Industry ministry after enacting several laws. 

On Wednesday, the government published the amended Industrial Development and Trade Acts, paving way for some sectors of the economy to be in the hands of citizens only. The move was long in the making following last year’s heated general elections that placed citizen empowerment at the centre. 

President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s ruling party came under fire from the main opposition, with ruling party accused of failing to include citizens in the mainstream economy after five decades of uninterrupted. Masisi conceded that the country’s economy was not in the hands of indigenous citizens and promised sweeping changes if his party is returned to power. The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) went on to win the October elections, and soon the citizens started demanding what was promised. 

The newly published Acts with their amendments will commence beginning of June, said Peggy Serame, the minister of Investment, Trade and Industry. According to the updated Industrial Development Act , the manufacturing of bread, ice, meat processing, peanut butter, purification and bottling of water will be the sole preserve of citizens. 

Other manufacturing enterprises reserved for citizens include bricks, steel fabrication for burglar bars, windows, gates, packaging, protective clothing, roof trusses, school furniture and uniforms, printing, signage, traditional crafts and leather products. 

The new Trade Act reflected some changes made to the list of certain business ventures that are exclusive to citizens or wholly owned citizen companies. The 17 long list includes auctioneers, agents, car wash, cellphone shop business, cleaning services, florist, general dealers, dry cleaning services, general hire services, importation of pre-owned cars and laundromats.

The Act further reserves licences for fresh produce, funeral parlours, hair or beauty salons and takeaways to citizens or wholly owned citizen companies. 

The reaction to the new changes has so far elicited mixed reactions. The government received praise for giving citizens an upper hand, while critics  questioned the narrow list, arguing that the money spinning sectors such as financial services should also form part of businesses reserved for citizens. 

Besides the Industrial Development and Trade Acts, the Masisi administration has previously disclosed that the government is formulating a law on citizen economic empowerment to support the existing Citizen Economic Empowerment (CEE) policy. The president last month told parliament that when parliament convenes later this year, the executive arm of the government will unveil the proposed law to be approved by parliament. 

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.