Friday, November 27, 2020

Botswana’s future lies in ability to embrace the Digital Economy

What efforts are in place for Botswana to transform itself into a fully-fledged digital economy?

The true answer is “Not much.”

Yet that really is where the world is moving.

The good thing for Botswana is that not all is lost.

It is also not too late.

Most fundamentals are already in place.

Young Batswana are well trained, well educated, well read and well travelled.

But still it is a slippery ladder that has both opportunities and risks.

There is however a risk of these unprecedented opportunities being lost.

The boon for Botswana is that the country is already way ahead in training of its young citizens.

These young Batswana are not only computer literate but also immensely internationalist in their outlook and attitude towards the world.

The days of creating walls around ourselves and hoping that we could only trade inside those walls are long gone ÔÇô and unlikely to ever come back again.

What the Botswana Innovation Hub is trying to do is commendable.

But it is too small in scale and fundamentally lacking in ambition.

Exemptions and carve-outs that Botswana Government had devised for companies that used to invest under the auspices of IFSC (International Financial services Centre) for example should be considered and even broadened to be extended to companies and start-ups that come into the digital space.

The starting point could be to establish a Commission to drive the digitalization.

This commission should be independent from Government.

In fact such a Commission, if well run could turn out to be more effective than the Vision 2036, that as it is has neither targets nor rules.

The country stands to benefit a lot especially on sectors like education and agriculture if significant investment could be incentivized on the digital space.

BIUST (Botswana International university of Science and technology) could be empowered to lead this area.

More investment on Research and Development could be rewarded by cutting on taxes for companies meeting and surpassing the threshold.

Even more rewards could be created for companies whose products find their way either into the market or the industry.

The first step is to reform the economy.

The need to reform the economy is paramount in such instances. To do that successfully there has to be a paradigm shift.

Investing more in the digital economy would allow more for creativity and enterprise.

More successful economies have long started making shifts away from trading in tangibles as cornerstones of their being towards intangibles.

That is what Botswana should be doing now.

Diamonds, as we have so often said as a nation, have been Botswana’s best friend.

But the era of diamonds is coming to a close.

Hanging on to that era smacks of nothing more than nostalgia.

Botswana should start playing to its strengths.

A majority of young Batswana are ready.

All they need is a nudge from their Government.

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