Monday, January 17, 2022

More than a million Batswana economically marginalised

Almost half the population in Botswana is economically marginalised and the hard figures are staggering.


The figure that the 2011 population and housing census yielded for the country’s population is 2, 056, 370. The latest Rand Merchant Bank Where to Invest in Africa report shows that some 1, 053, 486 of those people are “marginalised.” The remainder is categorized as follows: 386 642 are lower class, 298 169 are lower middle class, 131 790 are middle class, 89 328 are upper middle class and 96 955 are upper class. In setting the record straight, the Senior Corporate Communication Officer at Statistics Botswana, Temba Sibanda, explains that they use altogether different language to one used in the RMB report.


“Statistics Botswana has classifications of Low Income, Middle Income and High Income as categories in its publications from Household Income Expenditure Surveys,” he says.


That is indeed confirmed by Moatlhodi Sebabole, Research Manager (Treasury) at the First National Bank of Botswana. RMB, Wesbank and FNB are the major divisions of the First Rand Group.


“In terms of the RMB’s “Where to Invest in Africa” report, we use the Canback Dangel database as the classification for standardization and consistency across all the African countries that are covered in the report,” Sebabole says.


The only commercial database of its kind in the world, this database covers 212 countries using an international definition developed by the Mexican Association of Market and Public Opinion Research Agencies (Spanish acronym ‘AMAI’) to define socio-economic levels.


An insight that has been provided by a University of Botswana economics lecturer in the past should shed a bit more light on the figures in the RMB report. According to Dr. Oupa Tsheko, about 80 percent of Botswana’s national wealth is in the hands of 20 percent of the population. His estimates are that roughly 2 percent in the 20 percent bracket are indigenous Batswana. The latter condition is the reason some politicians (like former minister Duke Lefhoko) have proposed that citizen economic empowerment programmes should target indigenous Batswana. In one respect this disparity is a legacy of Botswana’s colonial past. In 1923, the British colonial government introduced the Credit Sales to Natives Proclamation whose net effect was to put Batswana traders out of business. To a large extent, the success of businesses (especially small ones) depends on their ability to obtain credit but in terms of this proclamation, natives could not get credit. This gave whites and Asians a head-start on indigenous Batswana and catching up seems almost impossible. 


With a Gini index of 60.5, Botswana is, according to the latest figures from the World Bank, the third most unequal country in the world after South Africa and Namibia. Both the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank have expressed grave concern that while Botswana has made remarkable progress in social and human development, its level of poverty remains egregiously high for an upper-middle-income country.


The RMB report shows that far too many people in Sub-Saharan African are marginalised. Some 123 million people in Nigeria (population 183.5 million) are categorized as economically marginalised. In a population of 15 million, some 12.9 Zimbabweans are marginalised.


South Africa (population 53.4 million with 30 million marginalised) has the highest number of upper class people ÔÇô 2.9 million ÔÇô which makes it a regional and continental leader. It is followed by Angola with 134 245 and Namibia with 110 437. At the bottom of the table are Eritrea (95), Niger (15) Chad (12), Burundi (10), Mali (4), Guinea Bissau (3), Liberia (2) and Somalia (0).


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