Monday, January 17, 2022

Makgato-Malesu encourages truckers to be proactive

The newly launched Association, the Botswana Truckers Association (BOTRA) has been advised to be proactive in transforming the business sector and avoid being cry babies. Speaking at the launch of the association, Minister of Trade and Industry, Dorcas Makgato-Malesu, said the Association should avoid raising incessant complaints and rather seek avenues of growing their business.

“Instead of narrowing your mandate to lodging complaints every day, you should be proactive and ensure that growth and development of this trucking industry goes hand in hand with the growth of trade and industry, and thus economic growth of the country,” said Makgato-Malesu.

She expressed hope that the launch would be testimony to growth and maturity in the transport sector. She added that the transport sector is a facilitator for most, if not all, economic activities, the link between producers in different industries and distributors in the whole value chain, all the way up to the end user.

“This value chain moves in the outward direction from the primary producer, to the end user, through distribution agents, wholesalers and retailers. Every step of that route requires transportation. Commercial transport business is also involved in the inward transportation of inputs to producers. Both government and the private sector are impacted by the transport industry,” she said.

Makgato-Malesu, who also officially unveiled the association’s new logo, said the fact that Botswana is geographically located at the centre of SADC countries should be recognized as a natural advantage to many industries, including, naturally the transport sector. However, she agreed that the industry is still in its infancy stage as evidenced by the association’s launch that day; in contrast to trucking associations in neighbouring countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia, which have existed for years. She said Botswana is yet to reap the benefits of natural, comparative advantage of its location in SADC as the transport sector in the country is too small and underdeveloped.

“As we are all aware, our neighbours are better developed, and therefore we have to play a game of catch up. Catching up to and even overtaking economies that were in higher stages has been accomplished before,” she said.

She added that a small population should not be a deterrent for development because economies such as Hong Kong, Switzerland and New Zealand have demonstrated how a determined, well-planned and skilfully executed strategy can lead to development and growth that leapfrogs economies that started earlier and were ahead. Makgato-Malesu further explained that from the association’s engagement with government, it appeared there were issues that the association considered crucial, and at the same time hampering the development of the industry. These were: anti-competitive behaviour in pricing amongst transport operators; influx of foreign truckers into the already squeezed local market; non-harmonized dimensions in trucks which are not aligned to SADC protocols and weal linkages with other sectors.

She said, “Ladies and gentlemen we recognize and appreciate these challenges. We also commit as government to work with you and find smart solutions for addressing them. I must at the same time hasten to say that any solutions must be in line with the international agreements that we have with other countries, as well as with regional and international organizations.”

She expressed her pleasure to inform participants that the government has already started finding solutions to some of the challenges. The transport and logistics sector, she said, was identified and also recommended for value chain assessment, given its potential as an export sector and an important enabler to other sectors. She explained that the government therefore is undertaking a study on the Transport and Logistics sector in Botswana.

“The objective of the study is to assess the competitiveness of Transport and Logistics sector, both as potential services export sector and as a critical enabler for other sectors in the economy. The recommendations from the study will provide input on the potential for the sector, the areas where investment may be targeted, and the policies that must be adopted and implemented to support the development of the sector,” she said. She further explained that the study will naturally look at cross border trade related issues and assured the association’s members of government support in development of the sector.

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