The Umbrella for Democratic Change Policy Director, Ndaba Gaolathe, says while there is a tendency to assume that capital is the most serious constraint to business development, the fact of the matter is that management is actually the bigger, more pressing problem.
The management he is speaking of is one that manifests itself in terms of managing joint ventures (strategic alliances), internationalisation, product and service development, operational processes, human resources, talent, financial structuring, projects and niche choice. Upon conviction that what he negates is true, Gaolathe says that the government has been focussing on providing access to funding through initiatives such as the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency while doing precious little to provide a raft of integrated interventions that also enhance product and service quality, markets, partnerships and other aspects of business or entrepreneurial development.
“Our current government system also does not utilise the large government procurement system to identify and nurture potential businesspeople in a systematic way. This is only possible if the government of the day insists on fairness and on criteria that rewards genuine entrepreneurs as opposed to ‘tenderpreneurs’,” he says, referring by the South African-origin word, to those who use their political connections to get government tenders and contracts.
He slams the current government for its lack of fairness in the allocation of tenders, a condition which, he contends, “corrodes away any sense or culture of excellence in the way things are done.”
In addition to throwing money at problems in the manner described, Gaolathe adds that government has done a less than admirable job of “attracting local investors.” As a matter of fact, one never hears government officials as indeed the business community using that phrase or promoting such idea. Gaolathe says that failure to attract high-impact local investors “is another way of saying our country is not able to bring out the best in its own entrepreneurs.”
He makes the larger point that whether investors are international or local, there is no focus or milestones set in place to guide the investor attraction strategy. The result: low-impact investment.
“If government is not specific about what it seeks to achieve in terms of job created, types of skills created, sustainability of ventures, type of sector to focus on, level of revenues, investment quantum and extent of market niche or competitiveness, then it is easy to miss out on potential high-impact investors,” he says.
In order to ripen market conditions for high-impact investors, Gaolathe suggests that Botswana’s system should be structured in a way that offers a wholesome economic ecosystem. Such wholesomeness must be in the form of coordination of the complementary economic institutions; better planning and implementation of comprehensive enabling infrastructure; fairness of procurement system; stronger management of government’s strategic investments; better project management of PPPs; and, better application or collaboration of research and development, financing and management systems.
“If these conditions are not met, then the country will fail to attract high-impact investors,” he says.