The Government and parliament have to be commended for having availed sizeable resources to creating the Local Enterprise Authority.
The decision to create LEA bears testimony to the fact that there is a realisation by those running the country that small businesses have a great potential, if assisted and empowered to make the country?s dream of economic diversification come true.
For close to thirty years now, the government of Botswana has, through various initiatives, tried, with limited success, to diversify the economy away from diamond mining.
As a country, we should not give.
We must accept that there is no alternative to economic diversification.
We must try all the tricks, without giving up with the hope that someday we will make it.
Coming back to LEA, we want to point out that in many developing countries; be it in Latin America, Asia, Africa and indeed in the developed world, small and informal businesses, when well linked to the overall larger economies, have proved not only to be viable businesses, but also by far the largest sector of employment creation.
In Botswana, very little is known as to how much the small and informal businesses contribute to the overall economy.
Research on that front is very old.
But even with no reliable research everyday experience shows that with large multinationals now employing fewer people than ever as a result of their over reliance on technology, the best hope is to go the small business and informal sector way.
Botswana, luckily, is one country that has invested handsomely in the training of its people.
It is common knowledge now that a growing number of university graduates and those from other colleges of education can no longer be readily absorbed into formal government employment.
These are the people who should be encouraged to become the backbones of the informal sector.
They are the people who should be encouraged and supported to start small businesses that, if well managed, could overtake bigger businesses.
That is where Botswana?s strength lies.
We can only hope LEA will not become just another bloated government parastatal providing hefty salaries to its employees while doing nothing to uplift the economy of the country by way of leading these young unemployed people by hand and showing them the way as to what they have to do to transform this country.
As the newest parastatals to come on board, LEA has the greatest opportunity to part ways with the appalling tradition whereby parastatals do not see themselves as instruments of change, meant to better people?s lives by using their internal capacity to help people to help themselves.
LEA should aim to use Botswana?s existing strengths to open new frontiers of national development. LEA should aim to assist Batswana small companies to enter the export international Markey for that is where future economic growth of this country lies.
We hope the ongoing recruitment drive by LEA is aimed at just that.
Access to finance by small businesses is a handicap. But we want to point out that it is not panacea to excellence.
There are other equally important aspects like training, management and access to the market that are also equally important.
The situation that prevails today is that small business that have been availed finance in the form of CEDA and other government backed facilities are not given the opportunity to become government suppliers.
One struggles to see how such companies are expected to survive let alone repay the government loans.
We hope that is also a challenge that LEA executives will take seriously instead of sitting back and enjoying the comfort of their executive offices as is the case with other parastatals.
Thus, we hope LEA will play a pivotal role in growing the Botswana SMME sector, especially through creating linkages between the sector, government, other parastatals and indeed the outside market.
We believe the job is cut for LEA.