Thursday marked the premiere of Samsung’s latest smart phones, Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge in Botswana. We cannot say it was after a very “long wait” because the new phone has only been in the market for two weeks, elsewhere which makes Botswana one of the first countries to receive the piece of art, at least by Africa rankings.
Present at the Thursday launch was Samsung’s executive management from South Africa. In as much as the night was about Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, a rather disturbing incident happened. We shall explain shortly why we feel that the announcement of Minnie Dlamini, a South African television star, as director of proceedings for the night was a disturbing scene. While we acknowledge that Samsung is a private company that is free to handle its private affairs and legal business deals anyhow it pleases, it really seemed like an insult to local professionals who earn their living by officiating at events, for Samsung to impose doing Dlamini on their shores.
The local partners of Samsung South Africa (Samsung Botswana) should have told their superiors that we have an endless list of talented professionals who would have done the job even better. We surely cannot dictate to Samsung and its local communications agency as to who to engage but we can only advise it to “put its mouth where its money is.” Ideally Samsung should have used a local officiate at the launch, or at least hired a local to co-host the event with Dlamini. We strongly believe that giving the job to a local would have not only empowered such an individual financially but also helped Samsung to present their case better to the local clientele. This is so because such an individual would have a better appreciation of the local business environment and have a better ‘connection’ to the prospective clientele. Our country has high unemployment rate and it’s the responsibility of any company that comes here to ensure that its helps in any way to ease the situation. One way of doing such was localising event management as well as using local resources including human resources which we have in abundance in this country.
As one of the leading Information Technology appliances providers in the African continent, Samsung should appreciate that it remains crucial to countries such as Botswana where access to timely information is still a struggle especially for rural dwellers. Samsung and other private companies operating in Botswana should further be reminded to focus on improving their reputation not only among investors through huge profits, but also among a wider group of stakeholders including the communities they are operating in.
We fully expect Samsung and all other companies to recommit to this country with practical and NOT theoretical commitment. For Samsung, this would include rolling out the same solutions that students and teachers in Croatia are empowered with. Such solutions offer improved education through digital technology which we believe can be applied even here in Botswana. This is vital to our economy as it would help provide quality education and skills development to our youth who in turn would be country managers at Samsung Botswana in the future. We clearly understand that the 2008/9 global economic downturn has since turned into a favourate song by companies and governments worldwide when it comes to explanation of their limited contribution to development of communities through CSI initiatives.
But perhaps, going forward, Samsung and other corporate entities in this country should consider co-partnering in a bid to aid community-based projects implemented by NGOs and other potential beneficiaries. It was really reliving to hear Michelle Potgieter, Samsung SA’s Director Corporate Marketing and Communications highlighting on Thursday that the company intends to relook into its CSI initiatives in Botswana. Poverty, inequality and questionable democracy, are some of the realities we live with in this country and could be partly addressed through integrated CSI programmes.
But even apart from donations (CSI), companies such as Samsung can still make a lot of money in this country by providing business solutions. For instance, the Samsung mobile solution for the medical and healthcare industry implemented elsewhere helps to increase efficiency and improve service quality. Innovative mobile technology provided by Samsung or any other IT company in this country would go in a long way in enabling staff in remote hospitals such as Letsholathebe in Maun to deliver personalised, patient centred medical services. At the same time, our cash strapped hospitals will in the process reduce their operational costs. Samsung’s m-EMR which is operational in other countries except possibly only in Botswana gives professionals access to the medical information system via a tablet.
It is no secret that our country is currently battling with power supply, with remote areas being part of the problem where often electricity is not available or power supply takes the form of a diesel- or petrol-driven generator. These options are expensive to purchase and maintain. As part of its drive towards providing Built for Africa products, in 2013 Samsung announced the development of an alternative that will provide easy power accessibility at an affordable price and does not require the use of non-renewable resources for its operation. We hear that the Samsung Solar Power Generator forms one important component in Samsung’s broader business enabler solution offering, which is naturally a plausible option for outlying areas, where power supply is absent or intermittent. Already South Africa is benefitting from such a solution. Can Samsung make a commitment to provide Botswana with such? Not for free of course. Or maybe our government and other players closed Samsung out?
The #Bottom-line though is that of all the companies that I can think of, Samsung stands a good chance of building long-lasting CSI programmes that have tangible, measurable impact. At the same time, they can cement mutually fulfilling relationships with both their local customer base and government.