Saturday, May 15, 2021

Industrialisation imperative for Botswana’s success

Industrialisation is a precondition for Botswana to achieve its much desired growth and strength. There is no country in the world which has industrialised overnight as this is a developmental process which has no abrupt way out of it. Although an assessment of industrialised countries shows that no country has hop scotched its way to success, Botswana is in an advantageous position to rise from obscurity and become the new investment frontier in the 21st century.

Industrialisation is important for Botswana because it positions the country to claim the future. Market analysts anticipate a slight growth in the country’s economy to at least 5 percent in 2015, which concurs with the government’s projections in the 2015/16 budget strategy paper. This is very commendable and has the approbation of most Batswana, although Botswana has the potential to exceed and do better than this.

Although Botswana is churning out thousands of graduates every year, meaning there is a great talent pool, this is certainly not enough to move the country into dominance. What Botswana needs to do is to convert the abundant labour reserves into wealth. Only when that is done can Botswana, then, define its place not only on the continent, but the global platform. However, it is not that simple as there are certain precursors that have to be addressed.

First on the list is infrastructure. Good infrastructure is critical to Botswana mostly because it enables an atmosphere and environment for investment to take place. It also helps in industrialisation by providing a wider movement of goods and services to take place. Infrastructure in this case includes, but not limited to electricity, communication, roads and railways. Botswana is making progress on this front although there is need to pick up the pace so that it can achieve high growth rates, diversify the economy and reduce exposure to external shocks.

In terms of cross-border rail corridors, this must be done in liaison with Southern African Development Community (SADC) member States. That will almost certainly be the fastest way to unlock regional trade. So infrastructure is critical because it reduces transactions costs and makes exports more competitive.
Another criticality that Botswana has to work on is policy. Botswana must look inward inorder to facilitate its industrial and economic transformation. Good policies are salutary and advantageous as they influence growth.

Local enterprises must be heavily subsidised and there must be heavy investment in the public sector. This might not be popular in some circles,but it lays the foundation for Botswana’s rise to prominence. After all, China adopted an inward looking approach to facilitate its industrial and economic transformation. A cursory look at Africa’s industrial policies reveals that most of them are usually externally-oriented. By this i mean the priorities of most African governments is foreign investment, whilst local small scale industries are usually “unfairly treated” and sidelined. This is a trap Botswana must avoid. Noone disputes that foreign investment is proper and advantageous, but Botswana must invest heavily in its own local enterprises first before addressing external investors.

The reason why industrialisation is a necessity to Botswana is because it addresses gaps in development, not just in Botswana, but regionally as well. For example, industrialisation adddresses the problem of low-intra Africa trade, provided there is a good transport network. By addessing such development gaps, regional integration will be strengthened and Africa will attain global respectability.

Minister of Foreign affairs and international cooperation, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, raised a critical point during the recent visit by the president of Ghana. She said “the time has arrived for Africa to be self reliant and to function as an independent continent.” This is what industrialisation is all about because when Africa (in this case Botswana) successfully undergoes industrial development, its huge populace will serve as a market for the outputs of its production processes whilst any excess supply can be exported.

At this juncture, it is incumbent for MPs to ensure Botswana accelerates and implements the Accelerated Industrial Development for Africa (AIDA) plan, signed in 2008 in Addis-Ababa. The AIDA provides a platform for attaining the industrialisation of the continent. If Botswana successfully steward its diamond wealth through investment and using some to industrialise, then when the diamonds run out, Botswana would still be on good economic footing.

In conclusion, credit must be given to Botswana for the work it has done and is still doing. Although the pace might not be as fast as most would want, it surely is making progress.The new sugar refinery plant in Francistown is one example that shows  Botswana is preparing a platform to be the new investment frontier and economic heavy weight in Africa. No nation will have space in the 21st century without an industrial base.

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