The number of conflicting statements issued from time to time by people in leadership positions, amongst whom are legislators on the issue of expatriates is bound to cause some confusion amongst investors that we wish to encourage to come and set up business in this country.
At some stage, these people are bound to ask themselves the question who to believe between those who say come and invest in Botswana and those who openly express reservations about foreigners coming into this country who is to be believed.
Recently the Chief Executive Officer of BEDIA said in the Botswana Investment Guide, “Attracting foreign investment and encouraging joint venture-enterprises between locals and foreign investors are some of the key issues that will assist in the transfer of skills and ensure that the private sector plays a pivotal role in the development process.”
Almost within the same period, in which the CEO of BEDIA made the statement just quoted, one local newspaper carried an article headlined: “Is Botswana investor friendly?”
On the one hand, one legislator was quoted as having said he wants to “rid the country of unnecessary foreigners”. Which foreigners are unnecessary? Is it those who provide services like Chartered Accountants, Lawyers, Pastors, Private medical practitioners, Herdboys and Herdgirls?
One notable feature about this category of expatriates if that they do not employ large numbers. Are they the ones who fall into the category of unnecessary foreigners? Would this term embrace Herdboys and Herdgirls who are mainly Zimbabweans doing domestic chores which Batswana are loath to do?
An article in Mmegi of November 20, 2006 states “MP continues with his onslaught on foreigners accusing them of taking over jobs that could be given to Batswana.” If this is so, then that MP’s concern is understandable. Let us be quite clear, however, as to what we mean by “Jobs that could be given to Batswana.”
Supposing the President succeeds in persuading the Chinese to set up a Glass manufacturing company in Sua Pan, given the technical nature of such a manufacturing business venture, would it be wrong to bring in a nucleus of staff skilled in this kind of work to get the project off the ground, so that in the end they could, as the C.E.O. of BEDIA says, “assist in the transfer of skill”?
We have a very good training and localization policy. What we seem to lack is men and women with necessary personal drive to ensure that it is implemented in a manner that will ensure its objective. Our complaint about jobs being given to Batswana is tantamount to a lazy man blaming his tools.
If the localization policy was being implemented as intended, we should not be having any expatriate who has remained in one position for twenty-three years with no local that can claim to be a product of his training.
There is nothing wrong with foreigners, there is a lot wrong with those who should monitor their commitment to transfer skills.
We should like, H.E the President, all feel concerned that it is a deeply disturbing irony, that whilst we actively promote foreign investment and wish to entice credible foreign investors to set up businesses in our country on the one hand, we display near xenophobic tendencies in defense of our reservation policies on the other.” We live in a global village. As the Honourable M.P. De Graff said, let us remember that there are Batswana who are also working in other countries. Do unto others as you would do unto you.
Appearing to resent foreigners in no way demonstrates solidarity with the unemployed like myself. At worst, you are simply killing the goose that lays the golden egg. A re se ithaleng ka thipa mpeng. Let us be more rational in this emotive subject and show foreigners that we are really and truly an open, democratic and tolerant nation. Abnormal fears of being overwhelmed because of our small population can be counterproductive.
Jeremiah Billy Gabaake
P.O. Box 366