Sunday, October 17, 2021

Dear Hon. Kenewendo, Now that you are a Minister…..

Good day Honourable Minister Bogolo Kenewendo, May we humbly take this opportunity to formally congratulate you on your appointment to the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, a position you once mentioned amongst your target ÔÇô “should the president appoint you to cabinet.”

The purpose of this commentary is not entirely to congratulate you but rather to offer a quick reminder of what we believe you are getting into.

You might not have the opportunity to read our previous commentary in this space in which we encouraged the new President His Excellency Mokgweetsi Masisi to consider fresh blood in his appointment of new cabinet. We did not end there. Our submission to his Excellency Masisi was that he needs imaginative leaders to run Botswana, let alone a modern day government. Our submission today is that we have the confidence that amongst the available ruling party legislatures, you are one of those that deserved to be picked into cabinet. Once again congratulations.

Congratulatory aside, we strongly believe that no one can successfully grow an economy if they are not “imaginative”.

For our economy to grow at a higher rate than it is now, we need imaginative servants of the people in the form of trade and finance ministers.

These two ministries are of no doubt engines of economic growth. We can only attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) if we have a trade minister who is imaginative and can think of ideas that can lure investors into this country. That responsibility has been given to you Hon Kenewendo.

Whether we like it or not, the overall status of our economy point to the failures of your predecessors – atleast during the period they presided the Investment, Trade and Industry ministry.

As a result, and as you may be aware ÔÇô Hon Kenewendo, Botswana remains one of the few countries in the world where the government wealth is so immensely higher than that of citizens of its citizens. We live in a rich state, poor citizen setup. This is an anomaly that your predecessors failed to confront and that the youth of this country ÔÇô your generation is looking up to you, to turn the tables in their favour.

Hon Kenewendo ÔÇô as you may know, the ministry you have just inherited partially oversaw poor management of the economy over the last decade or so. Its failure has strangulated some businesses which have been compelled to shut down or shed off labour to cut down costs. At the same time, the existing businesses require immediate support to get them working at maximum capacity as we look out there for new ones. Identifying them and linking them to potential investors will help them rise again. Given your experience in the private sector, and your short stay in Ghana, this should be amongst your priority.

It is also our humble suggestion that some of the causes of the collapse of local businesses is the sole proprietorship mentality of our indigenous entrepreneurs, many of such businesses die with their owners. To ensure the sustainability and continued operations of Batswana businesses, your Ministry should, in the medium to long term encourage local business people to pull resources and run their businesses rather than going solo and dying with them in many instances.

This will take nothing but an educational drive as well as tangible and intangible incentives which should be given to Batswana investors and potential foreign investors to encourage partnerships in the establishment of businesses. This will not only increase their capital base, but also ensure the growth and expansion of businesses and also the perpetuity of those businesses.

All these socio-economic challenges that Batswana face need an imaginative leader. Botswana need executive leaders who can rise above the local to communicate a grand vision, inspire others, while at the same time energising common action. This is you Hon Kenewendo. You are now an executive leader who will help our country to do edgework instead of remaining comfortable like we were in olden days of Vincent Seretse, Dorcas Makgatho and Neo Moroka.

If you let yourself to be more flexible and imaginative enough, our country will be better at innovating and recovering from inevitable mistakes. All this will make us less vulnerable to the random upheavals that the global economy inflicts every now and then. Remember, and always remember Hon Kenewendo that greater imagination will allow us to see that there are benefits to success and adversity, to boom and bust alike.

Going forward, your task must be to ensure that this country is prepared for the inevitable storm and the interesting opportunities that spill from the highs and lows of the economic swells and to benefit from their diverse treasures.

We also need to remind you that for most part of your professional life you have been a notable critique of how the government runs its business, precisely on issues related to Visa issuance, business registration and generally around doing business in Botswana. Some of the things that you wanted and wished the government could change falls within your portfolio. This is the time to make those changes. Do not fear to use the powers that you have been given by the President to make the necessary changes. There are a lot of parastatals in your ministry, as you already know. Most of them have overlapping mandates. See to it that the process of merging them up, which has already started end well. Make sure you also prioritise cutting leakages at some of these SOEs and parastatals. A broke government cannot afford to waste money. You know better as an economist.

The #Bottomline ÔÇô Hon Kenewendo is that the development of our economy has long reached a critical juncture, as indicated by the slowing pace of economic growth, chronic unemployment and mounting pressure on government budget. We strongly believe that we reached this point partially due to lack of being imaginative, even at ministers’ levels. So it is up to you whether you chose to become an inspiring and imaginative minister or you follow in the footsteps of those who came before you. All the best in your choice!

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