Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Bravo Olopeng! But there is more to be done…

Recently the local press, both public and private, reported that cabinet has endorsed exemptions and reservations on youth business, following a presentation by Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Thapelo Olopeng.

According to the various media reports, cabinet has endorsed his proposals for waivers to be given to youth operated businesses. Although the modalities and effective dates are unknown yet, we strongly believe that these recent efforts will go a long way to assist the youth in their ‘start-up’ businesses. Key amongst his proposal will be removal of deadlines for submission of forms for ‘start ups’ and extension of deadlines for recapitalisation.

Though these initiatives are not in any way the complete panacea to the problems bedevilling youth in business, they are a good start and should be commended. We understand that Cabinet has endorsed a reservation of 30 percent of cattle patrols, cut lines and fire breaks tenders for the youth. This is well and good, but there is also a need for a change of mindset among the youth. The question remains, how many young people would be interested in such tenders and implement them efficiently until delivery?

Another achievement by Olopeng is the decision to deal away with turnover requirements for youth applications for import and export licenses.
Furthermore, the graduation age from light duty to heavy duty license has been reduced from age 25 to 21. For his part, Olopeng has cautioned the youth not to blame the leadership for their unruly behaviour, which drives them to abandon projects after accessing funds.

Minister Olopeng must be commended, but he must also be urged not to stop there. A lot more still needs to be done. He must still work in conjunction with the private sector and other relevant stakeholders such as the Ministry of Trade and Industry to ensure that markets are made available for youth owned businesses. We also want to put it to Minister Olopeng that there is hope that the latest initiatives will succeed where many other past broader policies, such as the Economic Diversification Drive, have not been as successful.

We can no longer afford to have government funded businesses being under-capitalised while on the other hand we applaud the youth as the engines of the national economy. The CEDA Young Farmers Fund was established more than seven years ago, but it has since become clear that not every youth in this country is enthusiastic about farming or farming related business. Though government has pumped millions into the fund, a lot of young farmers have not really embraced farming as vigorously as we would have liked.

We cannot solely blame the youth for their lack of drive to go into agriculture, but it is important that we listen to them and perhaps assist them to invest in sectors that are close to their hearts, but still viable.

From the government side there should be clear intentions that concerned stakeholders are gearing up to provide the necessary technical assistance to support youth who desire to venture into vital sectors such as tourism and ICT. At the same time, while we cater for those with ‘business minds’, we should not forget those who are unemployed but do not necessarily have skills or interest in starting their own businesses. As such Minister Olopeng should encourage government to stop being reluctant to direct more financial assistance to middle aged public workers to encourage them to leave the public service early as a way of paving the way for the more energetic youth.

The #Bottomline remains that business is not rocket science. To Minister Olopeng, we say bravo. The risk that you are taking with our budding youth entrepreneurs is worth it and you will be proven right in the long run. They will be those who succeed and those who will not. The essence in all these endeavours is for Batswana business owners, precisely the youth to succeed and make a living while at the same time employing others.

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