Saturday, October 23, 2021

BPC should make up its mind about the future of Botswana’s energy needs and supply

Only a few weeks after his appointment, the Chief Executive of Botswana Power Corporation called the media and told them that as presently crafted the state owned company would never be able to compete let alone deliver on its mandate.

Dr Stefan Schwarzfischer said BPC needed to be overhauled right from the top ÔÇô root and branch, as the English would say.

He was resolute that everything about BPC was wrong; from the business model to skills compliment.

During the short time he had been at BPC he had seen how some employees had come to use the corporation as a power base for other ends other than serving the customers.

He had immediately become aware of the fact that BPC had for some people become a comfort zone.

These were the people who were resistant to change.

More worrying to him, was the fact that BPC continued to employ and pay people who the corporation did not really need.

Transformation was necessary, he said, if BPC was to survive.

For that transformation to be successful it had to be implemented transparently and swiftly, the new CEO told a clutch of editors he had called.

He announced that the shareholder had made a decision to sell Morupule B ÔÇô the corporation’s supposed flagship that had become troublesome.

But more importantly, Dr Schwarzfischer announced that Botswana would not experience load-shedding in winter ÔÇô a first in many years.

The corporation, he said had just negotiated an agreement with the South African Eskom.

The deal, he said was the best BPC had extracted from Eskom ever. Payments to BPC would only be made for what power had been used.

The long term ambition was that BPC and the country should become a net seller and exporter of electricity rather than buyer.

He also announced a few projects of both generation and transmission that BPC was about to engage in.

Most exciting by him was the line that would link much of Ngami and Okavango to the national power grid.

The overhaul of BPC was long overdue.

True to his word, winter passed with minimal glitches.

We hope that the CEO will be unrelenting in making BPC customer centered.

BPC has to generate revenue for itself.

But most crucially, BPC now appreciates its position in the country’s overall economic ecosystem.

That was always lacking.

Without power businesses collapse as it happened between 2013/14.

Dr Schwarzfischer does not have a lot of time on his side.

The average tenure of a BPC Chief Executive Officer is about five years.

But anything can happen before that.

Being a state owned company, BPC is prone to swings in political moods.

He has to move fast while he still has political capital.

So far indications are that Dr Schwarzfischer still in a honeymoon period.

Human Resource overhaul has progressed with little noise.

All key positions have been filled. And those offloaded have quietly met their fate.

Indications are that he has all the kind of political support he needs from the shareholder to implement the kind of major surgery necessary to save the ailing BPC.

This is the time for him to make big decisions.

He has to decide on what long term investments BPC needs to make to make for the country to secure power supply that is affordable and also reliable.

The story of BPC is really a story for many other state owned parastatals in this country ÔÇô adapt or die.

State owned companies in this country have long become labour bureaus for deploying the politically connected.

BPC has shown that there is in the end a price to pay for such malignant attitude.

The country did not have to go through the kind of economic trauma that it did in 2013/14 when BPC failed to supply power.

The economic costs have been immeasurable.

And many small businesses that closed as a result are unlikely to come back.

Dr Schwarzfischer has to make long term plans for BPC. And stay focused.

He should never set his eyes off the customer. And perhaps more importantly he should ceaselessly work at improving efficiencies. Comfort zones should never again be allowed to set in.

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