Selebi Phikwe Economic Development Unit (SPEDU), an economic diversification arm aimed at transforming Phikwe and the surrounding areas into “the model” of the illusive Botswana diversification plan, adopted seven key resolutions that will form the basis of the fledgling unit.
The plan, which, if successful, is expected to turn the region into Botswana’s “bread basket” and envy of most of the developing countries, is a squeal to EU-sponsored research done some two years ago.
Some of the recommendations adopted Friday at the “National conference on the Economic Diversification of Selebi Phikwe” urged the region to shore-up its image and fast track robust infrastructural development that will include a railway line that links the region with the Maputo port.
Under the envisaged plan, Talana FarmsÔÇöin the Tuli Block ÔÇô has the potential to act as the bread basket of the country and the region and railway links with southern African region and the international ports will assist in delivering some of the objectives.
The railway line will link the SPEDU region with the international community while the re-opening of Selebi Phikwe airport is expected to drive in some of the much sought after Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Further, some of the initiatives include the upgrading of the regional bridges and road networks within Bobirwa, Mmadinare, Selebi Phikwe and Tswapong North areas in a bid to entice investors into the region.
The area is expected to market its potential to region, Botswana and the international investors as the best region to do business from.
However, according to participants, the region has to look more into issues of economic empowerment than what has been done before with a lot of emphasis on community involvement.
The move is expected to lead to local procurement initiative driven by government, which is hoped to support citizen-owned enterprises.
It is also expected to be helped by the Competition Policy that is being driven by Ministry of Trade and Industry, which among other things will work against cartels and monopolies in the market.
The adopted initiatives are expected to be evaluated on regular basis and reports from government, SPEDU and communities are expected to be presented.
The private sector is also expected to be brought into the picture so that the plan can have a positive impact going forward.
The Marshall plan comes after the EU sponsored research that indicated that up to 80,000 people’s lives are likely to be affected by the closure of the country’s oldest copper/nickel mine.
The report had warned of a possible social unrest and the likelihood of a ghost town if billions of pula are not injected into the area in the form of investment.
However, SPEDU has warned of its dire need of cash that is aimed at ensuring that it hit the ground running.
“This afternoon I had thought to hear something different but it was just like business as usual. I had thought to hear something along the lines of business unusual,” the coordinator of SPEDU, Kago Moshahshane told a two-day conference gathering in Selebi Phikwe on Thursday as he signaled the urgency of the matter.
“There is no money,” he said, adding that the needed to hear more since the European Union funding has dried up.
However, his plea for cash is belated as the national budget is expected to be delivered in less than a month from now.
Some of the things which the diversification of the town and the area is to work on its image and present itself as the best place of doing business in the country.
The ambitious plan is partly borrowed from the Limpopo region in South Africa which has adopted a strategic vision that will help it stand out in South Africa.
The move will include the improvement of skills available within the region, reduction of unemployment and inequalities while at the same time improving on infrastructural development and access to services.