Saturday, March 6, 2021

Productivity and education, not diamonds hold the key to Botswana’s economic future

A lot has been said about missed opportunities to diversify the economy.

A lot has also been said about how weak diamond sales on the back of a fragile world economic recovery continue to dog an already weak economy.

While these arguments hold some force, it must be pointed out that they are by no measure the panacea to the ailments plaguing Botswana’s economy.

Yet two other elements need to be added to the melting pot.

And these are productivity and education.

Botswana’s productivity levels are too low to sustain a modern economy.

And this applies to both the public and private sectors.

Low productivity levels raise the cost of doing business in Botswana.

The upshot of it all is that as a country we cannot compete.

And when we are unable to compete with our peers, invariably we lose out.
No amount of diamond sales can lift us up.

This is a point that unfortunately is not receiving attention from those who should be at the forefront of economic reforms.

An absence of a serious drive towards enhancing our national productivity levels drives many who want to do business to doubt the correctness of our national priorities as a country.

A failure to harp on correcting this malaise inevitably drives many to doubt if as a country we have a national agenda that informs our vision at all.

Enhancing national productivity is fast reaching the urgency levels that a few years ago were accorded to fighting HIV/AIDS.

At stake here is our competence as a people to manage a 21st century modern economy. Diamonds have played their part.

What we should accept as a country is that the era when diamonds used to propel the country’s economic growth to a double digit are gone – probably for good.

We have to work on changing our attitudes towards whatever we do as a people.

Given the entrenched cultural stereotypes towards work, a paradigm shift will not be easy, but is not impossible.
What is needed is that such efforts to bring about such a change need to be led at a national leadership level.
Clear benefits have to be spelt out to the nation if such a paradigm shift does not happen.

In equal measure it also has to be stated in clear details what the nation stands to gain if such a shift is implemented.

As change experts will attest, any process that removes people from their comfort zones is often met with resistance.

As such we have to prepare ourselves for a long campaign.

Another thing that thankfully and to their credit political leadership across the divide is already talking about is education.

We cannot go far unless we overhaul our education system so that it is designed to produce graduates that are ready for the work market.

Public education system is currently in chaos.

Even in Gaborone we have children learning under trees.
The situation is worse in the rural areas.

Most appalling also is the teacher/student ratio.

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