Ha re le mo tseleng re bona go hihala ha pele ga rona, a re boele ko marakanelong a ditsela, re e go simolola tsela gape. ÔÇô Daniel Kwelagobe
We are at a crossroads for real. The system is adjusting and reorganising at an alarming rate. That is neither good nor bad; it is just what it is. However, business leaders are befuddled. They cannot help it because the current crop has not ever before; dealt with the situation they find themselves in. They are facing real bread and butter issues that threaten the stability of this country and they have been found wanting. Their text book approach is under such immense challenge that they are becoming irrelevant together with their ideas. That should scare even the best of optimists. Why? Because real indicators are beginning to show; or maybe they have been showing, that perhaps the country was never out of the woods since the great depression of 2008. The central bank has really been trying to jolt the economy back into shape by adjusting, in particular, the lending rate, but the economy is not budging. Like Mourinho ‘s Manchester United, it has parked two buses in the middle of the park. Just last month, the Bank of Botswana dropped its benchmark interest rate by 50bsp to 5%, the first rate cut since 2016. This is the lowest borrowing cost since at least 2008! The intention; we are made to understand, is to support economic activity without undermining inflation.
Remember that the lending rate at one point averaged 10. 01% and it reached an all time high of 15.50% in 2008. In real terms, all of what I have highlighted means that more people are eating food they do not like; they are sleeping with partners they normally would not look at; they are using the thinnest sheet of toilet paper they have ever used; they are sending their children to schools they never knew existed; they are driving cars that do not feature in magazines and TV shows; they have friends who no longer have anything to live for; yeah, you get the picture. And it is not abstract and intangible like a Picasso or a Braque, rather it is a Ngoni. It is real and staring, daring you to blink first. The next three years are going to be crucial for the continued peaceful existence of this republic. And as the system is introducing new managers across its breadth and depth, someone must care enough to remind them that despite their loyalty to their station and employer, they are a part of a bigger picture, therefore, the onus to turn around this economy rests squarely on their shoulders. Basic economics’ sense says, ‘increased consumption, increases production’ and the rest plays between those pings. That requires a reshaping of the mindset towards competition. Botswana businesses, both emerging and established, must begin to appreciate that competing amongst themselves has done more harm than good.
The future of management entails an understanding that the whole effort of business in this country, must drive towards enabling one another to do business at a global level. This means a collaborative and not competitive system must be forged. But it must be forged with a clear understanding of what exactly we are selling to the world. Without a central understanding of what business we are in, we will never, try as we may, scale out of this cesspool we now find ourselves in. Everyone quotes Albert Einstein at this moment; I will do the same – doing the same thing while expecting a different result is insanity. Thus, incoming managers, adjust your mentality. Collaborate; do not compete, especially because the system is now regimented. Hewn out of the chaos of the last ten years, it is now ready for automation. In many ways that is our saving grace. But, once again, it requires a proactive change mentally and tactically. Managers must begin with the understanding that since the relocation of the diamond trade to Botswana, Botswana is now an international player. That on its own requires reorientation of our approach to business.
Until the relocation of the Diamond Trading Company to Botswana, our money had always been in the dirt. In that sense very little, if any, went to innovation, intellectual property, manufacturing and all the other sectors that can earnestly set this country on the path of diversification. This should be a national call. This is a national call. It requires boldness. It requires a bit more patriotism. It requires the reinvention of the norm. It requires accountability. It requires loyalty to the principles of social justice. It requires an assessment of the self. It requires an appreciation of the social contract that the people of this great Republic have with their government. It requires a unity of purpose. Notice that it is a unity of purpose and not of mind. This is so that there is room for divergent views that work towards making their target, indeed their purpose, better. And the media must step up and mobilise the people to stand with their government, a government forged by their own ballot and rebuild that which needs rebuilding. The media industry must transform from being a watchdog into a guide dog.
Besides, it is better to watch over something you know about. Ergo, incoming managers can give this dispensation – of putting everyone back to order if they stray away from the target – honour, by getting involved in the actual development of the system they critique. Therefore, the media must appreciate that for the industry to continue in existence, it would be imperative to rethink their position in this system. Right now we are at the first stage of forming. The system is coming together, and it has introduced a generation in its own class. A generation whose brilliance is above the rest. A generation the world has been waiting for. They must know this about themselves before they get sucked in and carried away. Why? Yes it is expedient to want to hold the political cohort responsible for the eroded economy, but we must as well question the integrity of the men and women who manage every stage of our system. In the beginning, the Republic of Botswana was setup as a model for astute delivery. The vision was to create a system that elicits pride, a system that is the benchmark of the world.
The understanding was that we are one and we work to protect one another for our own good. The Maxim was simple: ‘always remember that together, your prosperity increases mine and alone, my poverty robs yours.’ This was the basis of this system ÔÇô moroto oa ‘esi ga o ele, kgetsi e kgonoa ke go tshoaraganeloa, mabogo dinku a thebana, manong a ja ka losika, bana ba motho ba kgaogana thogo ya ntshi, etc. Once you understand it this way you begin to accept that managers are as culpable for the collapse of this system as their political principals. Since the next three years will be tough in any case, I encourage the first diamond generation managers to take advantage of the forming and storming stages to build a different system from the one they find. We have always been a collaborative people: matlo go sha mabapi, motshelo, mahisa, dikgahela, go ja lotlhe mo mogopong o le mongoe, etc. Our diamond generation must show that they were hewn from the hardest, naturally occurring substance found on earth; that they are the diamond’s blessing and not its curse. Brilliance!
*K. Gabriel Rasengwatshe is a strategist, multi-dimensional speaker, author and presenter of Gabzfm’s Breakfast Show, weekdays, 6am-10am.