Monday, December 6, 2021

Botswana ‘relatively more competitive’ but ‘neglecting its human resource base’

A month after the World Economic Forum released its Global Competitiveness Report, the more localized African Competitiveness Report has just been published. The report is a special project within the framework of the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness and Risks Team and is the result of collaboration between the World Economic Forum, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

While much of the African continent does poorly with regard to its competitiveness, Botswana is among a few countries that stand out. “Mauritius, Rwanda, and South Africa, and Botswana and Morocco are relatively more competitive,” the report says, placing Botswana’s Global Competitiveness Index percentile rank between 60 and 70 percent and lauding the country (alongside Namibia) for maintaining “a relatively stable performance across the years.” The report further notes that while both Botswana and Namibia benefit from comparatively good institutions, they “critically neglect their human resource base, both in terms of health and education.”

Out of 187 economies, Botswana’s human development index ranking is 109, its institutions place it at 39, it is 127th in terms of health and primary education and among factors cited under “most problematic factors for doing business” are inadequately educated workforce and poor public health, with HIV prevalence among the adult population adversely affecting the score for the latter. Two cases can be cited to illustrate said neglect of the human resource base. A study by a South African think tank called the Centre for Higher Education Transformation (CHET) asserts that tertiary education is generally not being given priority in Botswana. The study reveals that not only do successive permanent secretaries at the Ministry of Education and Skills Development lack the expertise to assess technical reports submitted by experts of the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC), they also don’t place a high enough premium on tertiary education issues.

An unnamed interviewee at the Botswana tertiary Education Council (BTEC, now renamed the Human Resource Development Council) “described how the lack of expertise in the Ministry often led to delays after the BTEC had drafted a policy or given policy advice, because there was no one in the Ministry to assess it and decide on a way forward.” Last year, when the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited hosted a grand assembly on its IPO, a lecturer in the Department of Accounting and Finance at the University of Botswana begged to volunteer his expertise to assist in a process that desperately needs his specialised knowledge.

“We are worried about the level of financial literacy among Batswana. When people are offered an opportunity like this, they don’t know what to do with it,” said Ishmael Radikoko who suggested that BTCL should have collaborated with UB’s Faculty of Business. The Africa Competitiveness Report says that a competitiveness agenda for most African countries should prioritize building out the basic fundamentals as their first critical step toward improving productivity and competitiveness.

“That is, these economies should prioritize providing sound institutions and macroeconomic policies, adequate infrastructure, and the means for ensuring a healthy and educated workforce. This is particularly important for the five countries (Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Gabon, and Libya) that are currently transitioning to the second (efficiency-driven) stage of development, which will require them to move into higher level of efficiencies to maintain growth,” the report says.

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