FRANCISTOWN: As food prices continue to soar, Business Botswana has implored the private sector to take advantage of the niche in the food market by venturing into food production.
Addressing the Botswana Business Northern Trade fair on Friday in Francistown, President Gobusamang Keebine said it was disheartening to note that prices of food commodities such as mealie-mealie and bread were going up at an average of 15 to 20 percent monthly. He said the price increment was due to the ripple effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our concern at Business Botswana is that we are citizens of this country before Business Botswana. We are concerned when prices of food substances like mealie-mealie go up the way they are going. Remember a hungry man is an angry man,” he said.
He also said it is high time that the government introspects and find ways to help improve food production in the country more so that there is abundant land and technological infrastructure in place to facilitate such.
On a different note he said the annual Business Botswana Trade Fair is very important as it brings businesses together to create business linkages, networking and partnerships including the establishment of key business relations. He also said the contribution of both large and small businesses is recognized in economies the world over irrespective of the level of development achieved in each country.
“The success of businesses is critical in a developing economy like ours as an alternative engine of economic growth. Their contribution towards job creation and social development is highly valued; hence the continued quest for performance improvement of business by both the private and public sector,” he said.
Keebine said since its formation in 1994, Business Botswana Northern Trade Fair continues to be the biggest networking event in the Northern Region and added that it continues to enhance economic growth. He also said the trade fair provides an opportunity for a frank and honest dialogue with industry experts and exhibitors to share insights on what needs to be done for Botswana to attain a high income status by 2036.Keebine said it is important to note that the world is a different place since the National Trade Fair was held back in 2019 due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The vast majority of interactions were held virtually. Many businesses continue to experience devastating financial consequences from the pandemic whether because of supply chain impacts, forced scale-down and a significant pull back on consumer spending. Businesses particularly SMME’s are still recovering whilst some did not survive the adversities of Covid 19 pandemic,” he said.
He was however confident that through economic transformation the economy will steadily grow. Touching on the theme of the trade fair “Accelerating the rise of a digital economy” Keebine said digitalization has stepped in to bridge the gaps left by mandated shutdowns and social distancing measures. He said without digital tools and technologies, the economy would have totally shut down.
In part of his presentation Japanese Ambassador to Botswana Takashi Hoshiama who was the guest speaker said Botswana can borrow a leaf from countries like Japan, USA and China in order to digitalize its economy. He emphasized that digitalizing the economy drives entrepreneurial innovation and economic growth.
“Countries like the USA, China and Japan have embraced technology such as self driving cars. USA and China have started moving towards that direction while Japan is at implementation stage. Botswana can look into such technologies as part of its transition towards a digital economy,” he said.
Giving examples of digital economic transition in his country he said Japan is currently experimenting on 5G self driving buses. The country aims to have fully achieved that technology by 2050. He said this will help the elderly and the disabled people to have independence in travelling. Hoshiama also said Japan through its technological prowess; has already started assisting Botswana on using technology to detect forest fire.
“Botswana experiences forest fire in one sixth of its land annually therefore this technology can help addressing such challenges,” he said.
Among other technological achievements, he said Japan has embraced mineral exploration technology through Japan Oil, Gas and Metals Natural Corporation as part of their digitization of the economy (JOGMEC). He said Botswana having abundance of minerals such as diamonds can benefit from such technology.