Lately there has been debate on our streets and social media platforms regarding job creation. The question that many are attempting to answer is whether it is possible to create atleast 100, 000 jobs in a space of 12 months.
The debate was sparked by an assertion made recently by the leader of opposition in Parliament, Advocate Duma Boko. In his response to the state of the nation address (SONA), Boko said that his political movement will create 100, 000 in its first 12 months of assuming power. To some people this assertion, more especially to the political opponents of Boko, sounds like an elusive thinking.
Perhaps their counter-thought is guided by the fact that, in Botswana, job creation has become a rare occurrence and the job creation rate has now been accepted as the new norm. Our job creation rate partially mirrors the country’s depressed economic conditions. As it stands, the methods that made us an economic powerhouse within the southern African region through the last two decades no longer serve us today. In the midst of rampant job losses, job creation on the other hand has become an illusion. But that should not stop us from asking ourselves key questions such as how we can create as many job as the economy need and can absorb. How do we reach for instance 100 000 jobs per annum as suggested by Boko? Which button should we touch to make atleast 100 000 jobs in a space of 12 months?
Here is (or was) one possible way. For lack of a better word, we could have “colonised” South Sudan. Instead of being jobless and angry in Botswana, our government should or could have facilitated for some of our people to set up companies in the civil war torn South Sudan. Risky as it might seem, there is money that could be made in South Sudan. For those who might not be aware, when it first got its independence, one of the first nations that South Sudan wanted to build up relationship with was Botswana. The South Sudanese had probably read about the rich history of Botswana of starting from the bottom but ending at the top of the African economic charts. In fact, at that time, our former President, Festus Mogae told the Sudanese that Botswana succeeded partially because it made education, skills training and water development among its top development priorities.
This explains why the Sudanese looked our direction for possible business partnership. In their thinking Botswana or Batswana could have been (and could still be) the rightful partners to devise development strategies. So here is a missed but still existing opportunity on our side. All we needed to do was to financially equip some of our experienced people to go set up joint ventures with South Sudanese. This could be a group of young accountants setting up an accounting/audit firm, or a local security company heading there to do exactly what the British company ÔÇô G4S Security Services is doing here. In short, if we were to help just under 20 local companies from different sectors to expand to that country and by extension take a few of our people to work for them we would have radically reduced on unemployment. Look at how some of this country’s leading retail companies owners are doing; they are simply hiring a sizeable number “of their own”. Such individuals actually are specifically given managerial position thus creating wealth not just for themselves but for their country of origin. Why couldn’t we do it with South Sudan which desperately called us to? Why didn’t we decide right from the onset that as a nation of Botswana we will provide a clear and shared sense of joint investment in South Sudan? This certainly would have gone in a long way to ensure that our bid to set a solid foundation for a prosperous future becomes a reality.
South Sudan, otherwise referred to as Africa’s youngest nation, at the time urgently needed a diversification strategy that could move it away from a mono-product economy and we strongly believe that if we had “imaginative” trade and finance ministers we could have “eaten” something in that country while we help them rebuild their economy.
Whatever the answer we have for these many questions, the truth of the matter is that we need to start looking beyond our borders if we are to create wealth first for ourselves and for the next generation. To do that, we need just a few reforms. Reforming to create jobs is quite appropriate because it is business or investment that creates jobs. It is those 100 000 jobs that could generate wages, which in turn will fuel the purchasing power of our people and turn the wheels of the economy.
One of the most definitive barriers for our people, as stated before in this space is limited access to capital. Capital, as you might rightfully guess dear reader, capital is critical for both launching and scaling a new company. Our budding entrepreneurs need capital to launch, sustain and grow their ventures and ultimately create jobs. It is unfortunate that even with institutions such as the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) having been set up donkey years ago, early-stage funding remains harder for a large number of Batswana. If we are to reach a mark of 100 000 jobs in a space of 12 months we need not to look any further than the arts industry. This is one industry where a lot of our unemployed graduates are and yet one of the totally neglected despite its huge potential. Imagine a scenario where we could team up a group of theatre artists, videographers, script writers and by extension caterers to put up a documentary that they could sell to a local television station and in turn not just make money but hire extra more support staff. In such case, could Boko’s political opponents still maintain that 100 000 jobs is illusion? With the same level of thinking, we could then move on to rebuild Selebi Phikwe
As we go through transition early next year, the new administration should by all means resist the temptation to adopt quick-fix, populist solutions, with little chance of sustainability. Such temptation can only drag us even further down the drain. The euphoria of a new administration must quickly give way to the hard work of economic and governance reforms with a focus on empowering citizens, especially youth and women, to solve their own problems. It must awaken their creative genius and support their efforts to hold their government accountable where there is need to. That way, a dream of 100 000 jobs in a space of 12 months will easily be attained.
In the meantime, the #Bottomline is that while the government continues to claim to have improved quality of life for many of the citizens of this country, challenges still remain, particularly in terms of jobs and wealth creation. As such, going forward we need a national strategy that aspires to meet the needs of all of our citizens, not just those who are in the high earning notch but also for those who do not have a regular disposable income.