Saturday, June 15, 2024

Stalled citizen economic empowerment makes Batswana resentful

After many years of talk about citizen economic empowerment, there is still not much to show for it.

Citizens continue to be spectators in an economy that is dominated by foreigners and non-indigenous citizens.

Inevitably this has made indigenous Batswana a miserable and resentful lot.

Unless Batswana become players in the economy of their country there is no guaranteeing the safety and security of the investments owned wealthy foreign nationals that have made and continue to amass from this country.

This is the truth that those that enjoy the fruits of this country at the exclusion of citizens must internalize.

Batswana have to a large extent been squeezed to the economic margins of their country.
And when they complain they are told that they are wasteful, not frugal enough and some instance a lazy lot that likes to live beyond their means.

We point these things out not because we have any xenophobic streak in us but because we think for this country to go ahead we need to pay attention to the sensibilities of citizens and also address their many and often genuine concerns which in our view are now reaching a crisis point.

On account of the unfavorable laws, many of them cannot even venture into the informal sector.
Year in year out, Government votes a significant budget of procurement, and yet only a tiny fraction of it ever ends up in the businesses of citizen owned companies.

Official corruption, which has now become much more institutionalized and ingrained ensures that only a tiny fraction who are well placed and better able to buy their way through ever get a share of the large government procurement budget.

The euphoria that surrounded the Economic Diversification Drive when it started has abruptly fizzled out.

If there is anything to show for EDD it is the official statistics that little or no practical resemblance with what is happening on the ground.

Botswana Government has through the establishment of such institutions like CEDA (Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency done a great of ground work to give Batswana a head start in Business.

But CEDA, we have to remember can only go as far as advancing the much needed seed capital.
Beyond that businesses have to trade by way of accessing orders from clients.
In an economy still dominated by the state, it is almost impossible to survive without doing business with government.

Yet surprisingly, our government has still not come to see the wisdom of ensuring that a percentage of the government procurement budget is reserved strictly for citizens and citizen owned companies.

We are aware of many Batswana who have abused government programs or have been complicit in the same.

But in the wholesome, it is not exaggeration to say that over the last ten years or so, as a country we have witnessed a resurgent of young entrepreneurs who are coming with a totally new culture of seriousness when it comes to business ethos that was always lacking among our people.

We need to seize on this crop of young business people to build a broad base of investors and industrialists who can take the country forward.

That can only happen if their businesses are allowed to grow.

But if they are going to be able to raise capital needed for growth and expansion, there is need for facilities that go way beyond the upper threshold that is currently offered by CEDA.
In other words, it is important for Government, notwithstanding all the strictures that the economy currently faces to consider raising the amount that CEDA can extend to citizens.

This is not only because commercial loans are as of now still excessively conservative in their loans but also because of the high interests that they charge.

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