The city of Francistown, dubbed the “Ghetto”, is set to be rebranded to “Gateway to the North” amid renewed calls that the former (Ghetto) is not appealing and has potential to scare away investors.
Ghetto is defined as a slum area inhabited by a group of people who are treated unfairly in comparison with others.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC), Paul Taylor, buttressed the calls for the rebranding of the city when officiating at the 19th edition of the northern Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) fair. Taylor called for the rebranding of the city into a destination of choice for investors, underscoring sentiments echoed at the same event last year.
In appreciation of the choice of Francistown as the home of the BOCCIM Northern Trade Fair, Taylor observed that the fair will inevitably increase interest of doing business in the city, diversifying and growing the local economy and consequently that of the whole country.
“Without wishing in any way to cause offence, calling a city a “Ghetto”, which Francistown is often referred to as, cannot be appealing to any investor. I reiterate that earlier call and suggest we rebrand Francistown as the “Gateway to the North”, a city that is open to trade, offers great potential and a viable alternative investment opportunity to our nation’s capital or other cities in our country or the region,” said Taylor.
He said the fair’s theme of “unlocking opportunities to a successful citizen participation in the economy of Botswana” clearly recognizes the private sector’s pivotal role in driving the economy and urged the sector to work closely with all stakeholders “so that it becomes quicker and easier to establish and operate in Botswana”.
The BTC chief said trade that is free of bureaucracy and red-tape is key to transforming the economy, leading to greater diversity and growth, building long term sustainability and creating positive social impact as well as eradicating poverty.
He said BOCCIM’s forging of strong links with government and the northern trade is a clear demonstration of the strong partnership that the private sector has with government in the country’s development efforts as evidenced by the High Level Consultative Council (HLCC) that was initiated by BOCCIM to promote dialogue between government and the private sector.
Taylor said there is an inevitable symbiosis between government and the private sector explaining that as government conjures policies and strategies for economic growth, they should bear in mind the needs of business in delivering a vision of a thriving and vibrant environment.
He noted further that government has demonstrated its commitment to developing a business enabling eco-system in which citizen entrepreneurs and overseas investors can build businesses, through different policies including citizen economic empowerment, SMME policy and Private, Public Partnerships.
The BTC boss urged the private sector to come to the party and assist government in leveraging off its initiatives of creating a truly private sector led economy.
“Additionally, through working together in the form of Private Public Partnerships, significant opportunities can be delivered on and significant needs met”, said Taylor challenging all to rise to the challenge and defy the global economic trends and deliver on win-win situations.
Welcoming guests, BOCCIM president Alex Monchusi noted that the number of exhibitors in this year fair has increased tremendously to over 180 compared to last year’s figure adding that the participation showed eagerness to forge business links between the exhibitors.
Monchusi also implored investors to consider Francistown as an ideal investment destination buttressing that the city is a gateway to the northern side of the country and other countries to the north of Botswana. He further appealed to local businesses to support each other and ensure that the economy thrive and move away from dependence on government to being private sector led.
In tandem with what many economists prescribe for continued economic growth, Monchusi said the economy should diversify and reduce dependence on mining by creating sustainable manufacturing and services industries.
For her part, BOCCIM executive director also emphasized the need for the rebranding of Francistown as the gateway to the north.
While she appreciated that the northern BOCCIM fair has grown in leaps and bounds as evidenced by the growing number of exhibitors, she decried that they have not yet developed a convention centre to host the event.
She thanked India and Zimbabwe High Commissioners who have become regulars at the annual event. Other prominent dignitaries at the event included Francistown Mayor James Kgalajwe, Francistown West MP Tshelang Masisi as well as Francistown South legislator Wynter Mmolotsi and former BOCCIM deputy president Iqbal Ebrahim.