Thursday, May 6, 2021

Meet the straight talking British High Commissioner to Botswana

Forget about the 5 Ds that President Ian Khama came up with upon assuming the presidency in 2008.

The British High Commissioner to Botswana has devised his own 5Cs which he says will going forward define Botswana and if paid attention to, might help put the country on the paces towards achieving a lot in the next fifty years.

As we sit inside his lounge at his official residence, Westminster House, which incidentally is the closest residence to the official residence of the State President, the High Commissioner is unapologetic about his rather eccentric stance as a diplomat.

Nick Pyle says Botswana is at the crossroads and it is important that the country sets itself on a path that will lead to it escaping the middle income trap.

Escaping the middle income trap, says Pyle will not be easy.

He says as a country Botswana has some fundamental decisions to make.

He has watched with dismay as Botswana policies literally closed out investments which the country most needs.

He attributes this to a lack of understanding between skills and qualifications. He says while many Batswana have qualifications, many of them do not have skills and this much should be understood by policy makers.

“Botswana can step forward and stand up by using its strengths ÔÇô roll up the red carpet, not the red tape. At the moment there is failure after failure,” says Pyle.

He is unapologetic in his conviction that Botswana has to decide on how it moves up. “This country cannot afford to be complacent. African time may be good if you are on holiday, but in business it can often be frustrating,” he says as a preemptive strike.

He says it is important to admit that the ease of doing business in Botswana has not improved with the times. “Registering a business in SADC takes an average of 27 days. In Botswana it is 63 days. That cannot be good.”

He says while Botswana’s past success should be a foundation for further economic growth, it has become a handicap.

He has called on Botswana government to be honest. He gives the handling of the electricity crisis as one area where Botswana Government ought to have been more open and honest.

He starts his list of 5Cs by pointing out that Botswana is characterized by CONFIDENCE. He says since his arrival here in Botswana almost two years ago he has often been taken aback by the air of confidence among the people but also by the leadership. His analysis, he says is that such confidence is a result of the country’s history. “I am surprised by the general understanding of modern politics and international relations among Batswana,” says Pyle. For a man of his experience whose tour over the years has included Kenya, Afghanistan and Malawi, Pyle says he admires the way Batswana are able to argue almost any issue.

The second C relates to being COMFORTABLE. “This country is a comfortable place to live in. it is like Texas. People here complain about traffic, but compared to many other places there is really no traffic to worry about.”

The third C; and this would get many Batswana worried is that Botswana is a nation consumed by COMPLACENCY. “In a way it is complacency in the positive because it comes from past success. Batswana think they are fine. But that needs to change. We are in 2015, not 1980s or 1970s. It has to change,” he said.

The fourth C has to do with CHALLENGES. The British High Commissioner says Botswana’s biggest challenge going forward is not power or electricity, rather it is corruption.┬á He says corruption in Botswana is growing and risks undoing all the past achievements. As a country, Botswana would do itself a great favour by nipping corruption in the bud, he says.

The fifth C, says Nick Pyle is CULTURE. “I occasionally realize people do not tell me the truth about what they think. He says this has to do with culture which is often used to hide reality. There is a dishonesty behind use of culture. Decisions need to be explained honestly to the people. Government should be more open” he says.

This he says extends to both ordinary Batswana as well as to senior officials in government with whom he interacts on a daily basis.

One trait which he has observed among Batswana is that they are too relaxed and too calm. “Botswana today reminds me of the United Kingdom in the 1980s. That is not the way to run a modern economy. Margaret came in and modernized the economy. That is what Botswana needs today.”

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