Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Localised investment forums are a welcome development

There is no doubt that the city of Francistown has set a trend in terms of luring investment to their locality. Therefore the organisers of the first ever ‘Francistown Investment Forum’ should be congratulated in that regard as the country’s second city managed to showcase new investment opportunities that exist in different sectors.

We have been told that the forum is the inaugural investment vehicle as the city embarks on its Vision 2022. This is a roadmap that seeks to promote and unveil both new and existing investment opportunities that will contribute to the socio-economic development of the city, which is widely feared to be deteriorating into a ghost city as its economic prospects are dwindling. Through Vision 2022, Francistown will promote investment in mining tourism, agriculture, tourism, ICT, multimedia as well as infrastructure development. With a major economic player such as BITC being the main technical sponsor of the forum and more than 12 mines around the 200km radius of Francistown, the forum provided attendants with a good opportunity to look into beneficiation projects which might bring much needed jobs and investment in that part of the country.

This special forum comes at a time when the government is yet to roll out its proposed Special Economic Zones (SEZs) which Francistown must be part of. Both the BITC and the Trade ministry have said in the past that through the SEZs, government will offer the global citizenry developed infrastructure, state of the art technology, beneficial inter-sectoral linkages, and improvements in economies of scale, specially trained skilled labour force and targeted economic incentives.

It is common knowledge that the decline of agriculture, both as a source of employment and as a share of GDP, has been a significant factor in the rural urban migration in our country.

It is therefore vital that government and all the key stakeholders support economic forums such as the one held by the city of Francistown as well as SEZs. SEZs are vital in the sense that in terms of economic governance, places like Francistown, Maun, Selebi Phikwe, Lobatse and Ghanzi may have laws and policies that are different from the typical economic laws of our country. Through economic forums and SEZs our country can and should identify a city like Francistown and large towns such as Lobatse, Maun and Selebi Phikwe as gateways and hubs to lead development in their regions, with other towns, villages and rural areas characterised as having complementary roles.

Usually the goal is to increase foreign investment. It is also worth noting that SEZs have been established in several countries, including China, India, Jordan, Poland, Kazakhstan, Philippines and Russia. By now we all know that National Development Plans (NDPs) concentrates on how sectoral investments will be made, which entails economic infrastructure, enterprise and science, human capital, social inclusion. Although these investments would affect small and medium sized towns, the towns and a city like Francistown are not singled out for attention.

This seems to be the case throughout the country despite the fact that we have potential economic hubs such as Maun (Tourism), Lobatse (Dairy and Transportation hub), and Sowa (Glass and Salt production) to name a few. Of course there is no doubt that it will take much more than an economic forum, or ceremonial visits, a lavish conference, exclusive interviews and live coverage by the state television to transform potential economic hubs such as Francistown, Selebi Phikwe and Maun into a force to reckon with in the southern African region.

We have been told that the city of Francistown gave birth to the current regional socio-economic climate in the 1800s when it became the first gold mining area in our country. In capital market language, Francistown mines brought a ‘spark to the African gold rush’. It was therefore encouraging when the city that started the hive of economic activity this week continued to pioneer the next level to which our country is headed.

The Bottom-line though is that this strategic initiative which has potential to lure investors and catalyse inward investment should be stretched to other urban areas. Our hope is that local authorities of various centres such as Selebi Phikwe, Maun, Lobatse and Ghanzi attended the Francistown forum on a benchmark mission. We hope that the authorities are also about to bring together various captains who drive the domestic economy to their shores. This kind of forums are essential as they can provide practical and workable economic solutions that are ready to be implemented, which will add value to the drive for robust trade and investment.

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