Wednesday, May 22, 2024

From BeMobile to BBS: stubborn refusal to learn

When BeMobile, a subsidiary of the Botswana Telecommunications Company, revealed its logo more than a decade ago, the sharp-eyed and worldly quickly noticed a similarity between the logo and that of another telecommunications company thousands of nautical miles away. The usually eloquent people in BTC’s public relations department were tongue-tied and couldn’t give a credible reason to explain why their logo was so strikingly similar to that of a Russian company headquartered in Moscow.

The BeMobile saga should have been a lesson for not just local designers but organisations as well that certain professional mischief that was possible in the last century is now impossible. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

When Botswana celebrated its golden jubilee of independence in 2016, BOT50, the national celebrations organising committee, revealed a logo that at first looked impressive to the unwitting. However, it was soon revealed that the logo looked exactly like one Jamaica had used when it celebrated its own golden jubilee of independence.

One accepts that a designer in Botswana can make a design similar to that made by another designer in another part of the world. However, when the designs are for companies that do the same thing or for a similar project, that is too much of a coincidence.

Just this past week, the Botswana Building Society, which is being transformed into a commercial bank, revealed a new logo that has been developed as part of what is obviously a costly rebranding exercise. No sooner had Sunday Standard published the new logo on its Facebook page than some readers made their own revelation: that the logo looked exactly like that of Birmingham Bond, a bonded warehouse operator in Birmingham, United Kingdom. In its defence, BBS said that the logo was actually used by many more institutions. Indeed, a guides company in Washington state in the United States uses the same logo. That other organisations use the new BBS logo should have been all the more reason the bank developed a completely new logo that illustrates the uniqueness companies always tout about themselves.

The Botswana Housing Corporation has done something even more dramatic: it plagiarised a maintenance policy of a US public housing authority. The policy is, to a large extent, a replica of one that was developed by the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority. The authors, Cut and Paste, even copied the Americanisms used in the policy when Botswana officially uses British English.

Whether these cases represent plagiarism or not, there is a cost element and exposure to legal risk. In the case of BeMobile, an expatriate consultant was reportedly paid millions of pula for his services.

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