The Selebi Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU), a government agency charged with diversifying the economy of the Selebi Phikwe and its environs, has called all business people in the region for a workshop to discuss investment opportunities.
The workshop, conducted in collaboration with BCL and Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) is themed ‘Collaborating in Creating a Vibrant Private Sector in the SPEDU Region’. Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe will grace the occasion.
According to Marketing and Communications Manager of SPEDU, Kenneth Boikhutswane, the event is important for shaping the future of the region, which relies heavily on BCL.
“At SPEDU we understand the importance of collaboration with different stakeholders, hence the joining of hands with BCL and BOCCIM together with the business community to create a unique forum for the Region. SPEDU will invest about P4m into the formation of the chamber; being money for operational expenses of the first twelve months following formation of the chamber,” said Boikhutswane.
He added that a much bigger task awaits the business community to ensure that the chamber survives beyond the ‘baby-sitting’ period. “This calls for the business community in the region to ensure that they are innovative and resourceful in raising funds, as survival depends on this. The workshop will indicate the determination of members to make Selebi Phikwe bigger than it is”.
Boikhutswane stated that SPEDU has identified the lack of a vibrant private sector as one of the stumbling blocks in project investment in the SPEDU region. “In order to close the gap, together with BCL, BOCCIM has been enlisted to deliver on the thinking of their new leadership elected in 2013 to kick-start the formation of a business forum for the SPEDU Region.”
“As one of its mandate, the new BOCCIM Board has set out to create autonomous regional chambers of commerce throughput the different regions of Botswana, a move that is expected to spread the footprint of BOCCIM in the whole country.”
Boikhutswane revealed that a number of SPEDU projects are nearing fruition, with the construction of the processing and packaging plant for horticulture produce set to open in August. He said that this project will ensure that farm produce increases as there will be a ready market for crops like onions, tomatoes and beetroots, which will be processed and packaged. Another project that they have earmarked for this year is the electrification of farms along Motloutse River, which he said will be bring down costs of production for the farmers in the region.
“In order to make the SPEDU Region attractive for investment, SPEDU has set out to make it easier to access the region. Currently, a pre-feasibility study on the upgrading of Selebi Phikwe Airport is set to commence on 1st February 2014,” he said. “This will determine the necessary details that have to be addressed to bring the airport to an international standard. Coupled with the airport, the Platjan Bridge is set to be constructed, cutting by close to 200km access to Selebi Phikwe from places like Polokwane. Currently, in order to reach Selebi Phikwe by road, visitors are forced to use the Martin’s Drift Boarder Post. The Martins Drift to Sefhophe road, which is currently in a very bad state, will also be upgraded with a contractor expected to be in place in three months.”
The objectives of the workshop are to share with the Business Community the strategies of the three organisations which are, the Regional Economic Development Strategy (REDS) of SPEDU, Polaris II of BCL and the Business Sector Development Strategy of BOCCIM; to promote investment opportunities arising out of the different strategies of the three organisations to the Business Community; to facilitate preliminary steps on the formation of a Regional Chamber of Commerce for the SPEDU Region by assisting to create mutually beneficial relationship between BOCCIM and the Regional Business Community.
“SPEDU works closely with BCL, we no longer talk of the death of BCL but the diversification of the mine as an enterprise. This means the mine will get involved in other businesses other than copper and nickel. This will see the creation of a cluster of heavy industries, which will be supported by the lighter industries packaged and sold to investors by SPEDU. In terms of job creation, we estimated creation of jobs to run into thousands; in ten years, Selebi Phikwe will be a city bigger than Francistown,” concluded Boikhutswane.
The workshop will be held at Makhubu Hall on Friday 31st January 2014.