Thursday, October 1, 2020

The time to “Buy Botswana” is now

One of the most interesting aspects of President Barrack Obama’s rescue plan is the “Buy America” clause.

This is informed by the understanding that when a country’s economy is in recession, there is an added incentive to stimulate domestic employment. And when products are procured from domestic producers, the workers wages generate further spending which supports yet more jobs and helps to stimulate the domestic economy.

This is one consideration that was missing in Minister Baledzi Gaolathe’s otherwise feel good budget speech, and probably for good reason: The minister probably did not want to send out protectionist signals to Botswana’s trading partners.

Besides, Botswana has over the years failed to diversify its economy and thus is forced to import most of its inputs mostly from South Africa.

Unfortunately, this means that Gaolathe’s expansionist budget may stimulate the South African economy more than the Botswana economy.

Be that as it may, Botswana should ensure that every Thebe it spends sweats towards stimulating our own economy. Government, which is the biggest investor in the country, should try to procure as much as possible from local producers to save local jobs and create more. The same goes for the private sector.

Botswana, however, will first have to deal with its misplaced self depreciating national psyche that everything that is produced locally is of inferior quality.

It seems to be the default mode among Batswana to feel vaguely embarrassed about the country that spawned them. Unlike the many American and South Africans who display passionate attachments to their countries of origin, Batswana are averse to bigging up their country.

It is no wonder that although Botswana is the world’s leading diamond producer, we still do not have indigenous mining companies that have emerged as national champions able to compete around the world. Worse still, we still look outside the country for expert advice either in the diamond industry or the mining industry.

There is definitely something wrong with a mining country that turns up its nose at its indigenous mining experts. It is a shame that government has had to call “experts” from outside the country to advice them on the country’s mining crisis while we have Batswana mining experts in the private sector who have spent all their long careers in the industry. We should not pay lip service to “Buy Botswana”. We should walk the talk. And the time to “Buy Botswana” is now.

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