Friday, March 1, 2024

So we have “reserved” some businesses for Batswana, now what….?

In 2015 the local press, both public and private reported on exemptions and reservations on youth business, which cabinet endorsed following a presentation by the minister responsible for youth, Thapelo Olopeng.

It has been three years now that our cabinet ÔÇô then led by former President Ian Khama endorsed Olopeng’s proposals for waivers to be given to youth operating businesses. Although the modalities remain unknown even to date, at the time we joined the nation to applaud the minister and expressed our hope on his efforts which we believed will go a long way to assist the youth in their “start-ups”.

At the time, we also noted that although the changes were not sufficient, there is always somewhere we ought to start at. As part of the changes that were to come, cabinet had approved that 30 percent of cattle chasing patrol as well as Cut lines and fire breaks tenders be reserved for the youth. While the little worry at the time of announcement was on how many youth could be interested in such kind of businesses, another worry then and now was how sustainable such businesses are? Out fear then and now is that we are breeding tenderpreneurship – a form of business that can only take a few far – economically.

Another proposal made by Minister Olopeng then was the decision to “delete” turnover requirements for applications for import and export license by the youth. It would be interesting to know or get an update on how we are doing in this kind of business and many others which had special exemptions and reservations.

Dear reader, if you recall well, we were further told -still in 2015 that the youth graduation age from light duty license to heavy duty has been reduced from age 25 to 21. It would equally be “nice” to get fresh stats on whether we didn’t just change the policies for nothing. Did our people, more especially the youth make use of this reformed policies or they are just going to waste?

Perhaps we should also state that at the time, we argued Minister Olopeng not to end at those changes. In conjunction with the private sector and other relevant stakeholders such as the Trade and Industry ministry, we encouraged him to strive to ensure markets are available for the businesses that we anticipated that the youth will venture into.  

The changes and initiatives that the minister proposed in 2015 appeared like they will succeed where many other past broader policies, such as the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) and Citizen Economic Empowerment (CEE) have not been as successful.

While we wait to get feedback on how far the initiatives have taken usÔÇô perhaps through the State of the Nation Address (SONA) billed for next month we ought to caution that we can no longer afford to have government funded businesses going under-capitalised. We have to ensure that money loaned out is used what is meant to and returned back to government coffers for lending to other Batswana.

As said in this space before, and from where we stand, a very good example of government initiative that remains theoretical, is the CEDA Young Farmers Fund which was established more than seven years ago. It has since become clear that not every youth in this country is enthusiastic about farming or farming related business. Despite government pumping millions into the fund, it has emerged that a lot of young farmers have not embraced the fund as vigorously as we or the initiators anticipated. We cannot solely blame the youth for their lack of drive to go into agriculture but we can listen to them and perhaps encourage more of exemptions and reservations in sectors that they interested in.

From the government side there should be clear intentions that it is helping or atleast gearing up to provide the necessary technical assistance aimed at supporting our youth who desire to venture into vital sectors such as tourism and ICT.

At the same time, while we cater for those with ‘business minds’, we should not forget those who are unemployed but do not necessarily have skills or interest of starting their own businesses.  As such we encourage the government to end her reluctance to direct more financial assistance to middle aged public workers to encourage them to leave the public service early as a way of paving way for the more energetic youth. As the powers that-be might be aware, business is not rocket science but it is worth to let our youthful budding entrepreneurs aim for the sky. While they try, there will be those who succeed and those who will not. The essence in all these endeavours is for Batswana business owners, precisely the youth to ultimately succeed and make a living while at the same time employing others. The #Bottomline therefore is that we need reforms of polices that will deliver tangible results not those aimed at earning political “points”. We need to capacitate Batswana to enable them to become active players in the local economy not to become spectators like they are now.


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