Our capital city, Gaborone has been facing massive urban explosion over the past decade due to our people flocking to the city for “greener pastures”. These numbers also include that of foreign nationals who crossed the borders for one reason or the other, but most likely for economic reasons.
Although Gaborone is at present far from being a million city, the official population projection of Botswana points out, that it will become a half-million city in 2021. The growing population and its possible impact in our economy is however a topic for another day. This week we should perhaps focus on other issues that could bring us investors or even those that could chase them away.
A few years back when former Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe, then at minerals ministry announced a new deal that dictated that “diamonds mined here” should be “polished here” we started to have so many imaginations. These were of course positive imaginations of what should or could come out of such a huge and sudden change in diamond trading. Since the main talk was about De Beers’s Diamond Trading Centre relocating from London to Gaborone, we had imagined that as a country we would do certain things differently as a way of meeting even the barest minimum standards that international business people that come here expect.
In our imaginations this included keeping our streets and main roads free of cattle and other livestock including “Mogoditshane goats”. These imaginations were guided by the thinking that foreigners who visit our country, more especially Gaborone either to do business or to buy our diamonds come from countries that have functional road lights. We have, however unfortunately already exposed these people’s lives at danger due to livestock roaming the city from the airport down into Phase 2 location up to Tlokweng border.
We should therefore, for now, excuse all the first time visitors, more especially those from advanced economies who would mistake our Gaborone to a cattle ranch, or a cattle post. But as we excuse them, we should at the same time remind ourselves that we live in a supremely interconnected and interdependent global economy. One that is highly competitive for investment. Gaborone as part of the SADC bloc is facing stiff competition from developed metropolitan such as South Africa’s Johannesburg and even peer cities such as Namibia’s Windhoek. Even developed cities like Nigeria’s Lagos who continue to experience grand surges of growth are still luring investors to their side.
We are in competition either directly or indirectly for these people who have money to invest in our respective economies and hire our people or at bare minimum impart knowledge to them. But the truth of the matter is that going forward, Gaborone, as our mother city can only compete or outdo such giant cities if we have a complete turnaround strategy plan for it.
Globally, from London’s Boris Johnson to Patricia de Lille in Cape Town, visionary mayors continue to make improvements to their respective cities. What is our city Mayor’s office doing so far to make Gaborone attractive? Where is the “diamond city” dream that was first is introduced a few years back by the now Gaborone North legislator Haskins Nkayigwa who was the city mayor then?
While we ponder on the issue, the Gaborone City Mayor’s office should be reminded that Gaborone cannot be turned around if we do not restore the confidence of its resident and that of future investors. First, we need to get the basics right. Our star point therefore is making the city clean. Clean not just by litter-picking but also keeping livestock away from our streets. As it stands, it seems most farmers or owners of these livestock roaming Gaborone streets have decided to care-less about their responsibilities. So when owners have so clearly neglected their responsibilities, we think the City Council must take charge. The owners of these livestock, some which cause accidents (and subsequently death) should be made to pay higher charges for their negligence. Studies show that investment, trade flows and commerce thrive in safe environments, where the law is supreme and applied impartially. It is high time that owners of livestock that do not only cause death but also chase away prospective investors should face the music.
As a capital city, Gaborone’s contribution to the country’s GDP is certainly high and notable. So as we celebrate the city’s 30th anniversary, and the country’s 50th silver jubilee, we should bear in mind that our national story cannot be rewritten if Gaborone is not “turned around”. This reinforces our belief that Gaborone City Council leadership should consider coming up with a fresh vision based on a complete turnaround of the city’s physical appearance.
The truth of the matter is that we have used a lot of tax payers’ money to lure foreign direct investment through well developed infrastructure. As it stands though, when foreigners come here they are met by hundreds of cattle lazily crossing some of the city’s busiest roads like ‘western bypass”—–this could mean only one thing; that we are forfeiting all claims of being taken seriously by such people. The future of our city is a turning point for the domestic economy and only with a good strategic turnaround plan will Gaborone truly become a global city to rival all others.
The truth of the matter is that If not managed properly, rapid urbanisation and growing population of cattle in and around the city will overwhelm the city’s ability to provide a quality standard of living but most importantly chase away prospective investors. The #Bottomline is that global cities, like countries, thrive on “soft power”; the power to attract. We are sorry to say the obvious that our city is so far not as attractive as it should be. Let’s strive to turn things around so as to present Gaborone as an ideal business destination. Considering that we aspire to be a Diamond hub, (or we used to aspire to be), our image and the atmosphere require a face-lift.