Friday, September 22, 2023

Pothole or diamond city… We can choose what Gaborone will be

For the past several years the Gaborone City Council has been selling us the “diamond city” dream. In that dream, Gaborone was to be transformed into a tourism and investment hub with world class infrastructure.

The dream was not just in the plans of the local authorities but was also highly talked about by senior government executives such as the former Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe.  Whilst still at the minerals ministry, Kedikilwe announced a new deal that dictated that “diamonds mined here” should be “polished here”. The sentiments made by Kedikilwe then paved way for what was to be talk of the town for several months even to date. Since the main talk was about De Beers’s Diamond Trading Centre relocating from London to Gaborone, we had imagined that as a country we would do certain things differently as a way of meeting even the barest minimum standards that international business people that come here expect.

Even the relocation of DTCB aside, Gaborone has been facing massive urban explosion over the past decade due to people from all walks of life flocking to the city for “greener pastures”. These numbers also include that of foreign nationals who crossed the borders for one reason or the other, but most likely for economic reasons.

Although Gaborone is at present far from being a million city, the official population projection of Botswana points out, that it will become a half-million city in 2021. The growing population and its possible impact in our economy is however a topic for another day. This week we should perhaps focus on other issues that could bring us investors or even those that could chase them away.

We should not make a mistake of forgetting that we live in a supremely interconnected and interdependent global economy. One that is highly competitive for investment. Gaborone as part of the SADC bloc is facing stiff competition from developed metropolitan such as South Africa’s Johannesburg and even peer cities such as Namibia’s Windhoek. Even developed cities like Nigeria’s Lagos who continue to experience grand surges of growth are still luring investors to their side.

We are in competition either directly or indirectly for these people who have money to invest in our respective economies and hire our people or at bare minimum impart knowledge to them. But the truth of the matter is that going forward, Gaborone, as our mother city can only compete or outdo such giant cities if we have a complete turnaround strategy plan for it.

Globally, from London’s Sadiq Khan to Patricia de Lille in Cape Town, visionary mayors continue to make improvements to their respective cities. What is our city Mayor’s office doing so far to make Gaborone attractive? Where is the “diamond city” dream that was first is introduced a few years back by the now Gaborone North legislator Haskins Nkayigwa who was the city mayor then?

While we ponder on the issue, the Gaborone City Mayor’s office should be reminded that Gaborone cannot be turned around if we do not restore the confidence of its resident and that of future investors.

This reinforces our belief that Gaborone City Council leadership should consider coming up with a fresh vision based on a complete turnaround of the city’s physical appearance.  They should then rally the people to “force” the powers that be to make it possible for financing of any projects that they would want to undertake.

While we do that, we need to get the basics right. Our starting point therefore is making the city clean. Clean not just by litter-picking but also keeping livestock away from our streets. As it stands, it seems most farmers or owners of these livestock roaming Gaborone streets have decided to care-less about their responsibilities. So when owners have so clearly neglected their responsibilities, we think the City Council must take charge. The owners of these livestock, some which cause accidents (and subsequently death) should be made to pay higher charges for their negligence. Studies show that investment, trade flows and commerce thrive in safe environments, where the law is supreme and applied impartially. It is high time that owners of livestock that do not only cause death but also chase away prospective investors should face the music.

The truth of the matter is that we have used a lot of tax payers’ money to lure foreign direct investment through well developed infrastructure. As it stands though, when foreigners come here they are met by hundreds of cattle lazily crossing some of the city’s busiest roads like ‘western bypass”—–this could mean only one thing; that we are forfeiting all claims of being taken seriously by such people. The future of our city is a turning point for the domestic economy and only with a good strategic turnaround plan will Gaborone truly become a global city to rival all others.

The #Bottomline is that global cities, like countries, thrive on “soft power”; the power to attract. We are sorry to say the obvious….our city is so far not as attractive as it should be. Let’s strive to turn things around so as to present Gaborone as an ideal business destination as well as a world class city that we have always dreamt of having.


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