BY PORTIA NKANI
With high rural share of employment and potential for broad-based employment impact, the agriculture sector has been identified as critical for diversification and poverty alleviation in the country.
Economist Consultant on Social Protection and Jobs at the World Bank – Mpumelelo Nxumalo shared the sentiment at the National Employment Policy hosted by the Finance Ministry in the capital Gaborone during the past week.
Nxumalo said Botswana could expedite the development of agricultural sector identified in the AGOA response Strategy including horticulture and agro-processing (fruit and vegetables).
He said as urbanization continues, demand for food will create opportunities for nonfarm employment in food processing, implying the need for interventions linking smallholders to agricultural value chains
Apart from agriculture, Nxumalo said manufacturing sits somewhere in the middle, with potential for broad-based job creation, but held back by weak comparative advantage, in particular lack of scale economies and high transport costs.
He added that, “services appear to offer the best combination of comparative advantage (especially in tourism), sustainability, and jobs intensity. Services also represent a sector where Botswana is least constrained by comparative disadvantages of scale and geography.”
Nxumalo said that despite Botswana’s reliance on natural resource exports, diversification does not appear to have been hampered by any obvious Dutch disease effect, at least in terms of its traditional manifestation through an overvalued real exchange rate.
Botswana has undergone structural transformation over the last 50 years and there has been a decline in the growth of value added across sectors with a more recent uptick in services.
The main aim of this National Employment Policy workshop was to jointly discuss policy considerations and options for Botswana and also to inform the scope and substance of the country’s National Employment Policy under preparation.