When the Economic stimulus programme (ESP) came to the fore, it quickly gained popularity. SUNDAY STANDARD’s TLOTLO LEMMENYANE recalls that one of the things ESP came to be known for was something that would quench the entrepreneurial thirst which seemed at the time to have been an excessive longing.
From September 2015, masses of locals, mostly youth thronged the Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) offices in Finance Park to register businesses.
The hopeful but mostly unemployed youth represented a qualifying condition to participate in the highly acclaimed ESP projects. Putting entrepreneurship and ESP parallel to each other, one has to consider what message ESP was communicating with regard to the development of entrepreneurship in Botswana.
Question on the business corridor from September 2015 were whether motivation offered by ESP in alighting entrepreneurship continue to sustainably carry the objectives of the businesses established past its three year term? The main motivation of ESP is the funds available for government to procure goods and services provided by local businesses. However the question that follows is whether this budding entrepreneurship will continue when government will no longer have a pocket to dip from?
ESP, according to Goitsemang Morekisi, coordinator at the office of the President is the bridge programme between the national development plan (NDP) 10 and NDP 11 targeting certain sectors that can shake up the economy and bring a trickledown effect. Should we expect that the entrepreneurial pursuits currently fed by ESP will produce the same trickledown effect and not become ‘one hit wonders?’ Borrowing from the definition applied by Harvard Business School coined by Professor Howard Stevenson, whom Harvard regards as the ‘godfather of entrepreneurship’, “entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled.” Applying this definition to ESP, the identified opportunities as detailed in the ESP brochure cite potential areas in manufacturing, agriculture and tourism. In the case of manufacturing the brochure indicates that the objective is to stimulate local manufacturing for domestic consumption as well as import substitution through increased commitment to Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) by both public and private sector. In agriculture areas of development include commercialization of food production, availability of power, water and road infrastructure in such production areas and the processing, packaging and marketing of the products. Tourism potential lies in tourism community development projects, dam attractions and eco-tourism activities. The outline of these opportunities merits the entrepreneurial pursuits that can be followed within such areas. In the same manner, the resources needed including the funds to exploit such opportunities have been identified. To illustrate this, following the launch of ESP various groups of people across different citizen owned enterprises were sensitized on necessary information related to the opportunities and were also up-skilled to be able to take up projects.
ESP has been designed to run over a period of three years, which invokes the reality that the funding currently available will cease post 2017. Funding presently falls under the control of government but such control will lapse in the near future. If as the definition advances above that entrepreneurship extend beyond controllable resources, can confidence be expressed that the businesses born out of ESP will become self-sustaining? The consideration of this question brings into the discussion the message which ESP might have communicated. The Business Place, an entrepreneurial walk in centre that closed down last year, had identified as part of analysis that there are those people who start a business so as to access particular funding projects that are on offer. Such was evidenced when ESP was rolled out. It is true that funding forms an important part of the entrepreneurial pursuit, but such a pursuit, as put forward, must be able to move beyond controllable resources. It is implied to certain groups of people that it is most ideal to start a business only when funding is readily available. That might have been the wrong communication by ESP.