Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Local ‘give-me’ mentality may be going international

Some Batswana visitors to the stall of the Polish government at last week’s Global Expo organised by the Botswana International Trade Centre (BITC) would definitely have rubbed those manning the stall the wrong way. At a workshop held on the sidelines of the Expo about business opportunities in his country, Andrzej Krezel, Head of the Trade and Investment Promotion Section at the Polish Embassy in Johannesburg, said that the very first question that some Batswana who visited the stall asked was:

“Poland, what can you do for me?” Evidently being euphemistic in his choice of words, Krezel lamented that it was extremely difficult for to even begin to have a fruitful conversation with someone who approached them with that mindset. “We want to build important trade relations between our countries and Botswana,” he said, referring by “our” to Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, which seek international foreign direct investment as an economic bloc known as the Visegrad Group. An hour after the presentation by the Visegrad Group, it was the turn of the Zambian Development Agency.

One of the questions that ZDA’s representative, Obby Banda, had to answer from the floor was whether the Zambian government can give a foreigner money to start a business in the same way that the Botswana government does with the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency. The answer was in the affirmative. In “Culture Smart! Botswana”, a book that touts itself as “a quick guide to customs and etiquette” the author, Mike Main, warns international visitors about some fleecing they might suffer at the hands of some locals.

“Experience in the tourist industry, for example, shows that most promises of friendship with visitors start with an exchange of photographs and end there. In this context the income gap between a visitor and the type of Motswana he or she is likely to meet is so large that there is a risk that the disparity will distort the budding relationship, leaving one side hoping to benefit considerably in material and financial support and making it unclear what the relationship is really about: is it true friendship, or is it taking advantage of somebody who appears to be offering a helping hand?”
writes Main whom the book identifies as a businessman and management consultant specializing in leadership, team building and presentation skills as well as a committee member of Transparency International, Chairman of Maru-a-Pula School Council and the Gaborone Music Society.

Part of the answer to the question of why some citizens of one of Africa’s richest country should make begging bowls extensions of their hands may be contained in this sobering fact: Botswana has the third highest rate of income inequality in Southern Africa after Namibia and Comoros. The region is itself the global epicentre of income inequality.


Read this week's paper