Saturday, July 11, 2020

There is “magic” that happens when a country develop entrepreneurs. It’s called Jobs

BY VICTOR BAATWENG

I have been privileged to have ÔÇô last week – visited one of the most developed countries in the world ÔÇô USA. This is where I wrote this commentary from. The visit was part of the Foreign Press Touring programme ran by the US Dept of Public Affairs and I was part of it courtesy of the US ÔÇô Gaborone embassy.

The visit entailed addresses by US officials both from the public and private space with much focus on entrepreneurship and its critical role in any economy. We all know the role that entrepreneurs play when it comes to economic growth more especially creation of jobs. The visit to the US reminded me of two key things – The importance of entrepreneurship and something positive going on right here at home. At long last there is a proper debate in our country. The good thing about this debate is that it is not about which village is more developed than the other or whether short/tall girls are the prettiest. The debate is rather about a bread and butter issue ÔÇô jobs. Reach any social media site ÔÇô be it Facebook or Twitter, the people are sharing thoughts. Questions are being asked. The debate has been necessited by recent launches if political parties, precisely those of the ruling party ÔÇô BDP and main opposition ÔÇô UDC. The BDP has been accused of failing to set jobs target while the UDC on other side of the aisle regarded as being too ambitious on its 100 000 jobs in 12 months target.

In this space one is forced to re-visit the submissions made in one of our editions in November 2017. At the time the leader of opposition in Parliament, Advocate Duma Boko when responding to the State of the Nation Address by the former President Ian Khama made assertions that should his party ÔÇô the Umbrella for Democratic Change take power in 2019 they would create atleast 100 000 within a space of 12 months.

To some people this assertion, more especially to the political opponents of Boko, sounds like an elusive thinking. Their counter-thought is guided by the fact that, in Botswana, job creation has become a rare occurrence and the job creation rate has now been accepted as the new norm. Our job creation rate partially mirrors the country’s depressed economic conditions. As it stands, the methods that made us an economic powerhouse within the southern African region through the last two decades no longer serve us today. In the midst of rampant job losses, job creation on the other hand has become an illusion. But as said in this space before that should not stop us from asking ourselves key questions such as how we can create as many job as the economy need and can absorb. How do we reach for instance 100 000 jobs per annum as suggested by Boko? Which button should we touch to make atleast 100 000 jobs in a space of 12 months?

In the previous commentary we had made a few suggestions which centred mostly on labour export. We still maintain that if our leaders want, they can negotiate deals with their peers elsewhere to let Batswana work in their countries. For instance we all know that countries such as China, South Korea and Vietnam are in desperate need of English teachers. Even within the borders of Africa some countries are in need of nurses. But we all know that there is currently a crop of nursing graduates which the government continue to ignore their plea to get hired. So why can’t make arrangements, at state level to have such graduates get jobs elsewhere?

In short, to create 100 000 jobs within a space of 12 months we need to also look beyond our borders. This will not be a sign of desperation but rather will show how urgent and serious we take the issue. We need to be aggressive in our approach to this monster called unemployment. This however does not mean we should fall to temptations to adopt quick-fix, populist solutions, with little chance of sustainability. 

Such temptation can only drag us even further down the drain. The euphoria of a new administration must quickly give way to the hard work of economic and governance reforms with a focus on empowering citizens, especially youth and women, to solve their own problems. It must awaken their creative genius and support their efforts to hold their government accountable where there is need to. That way, a dream of 100 000 jobs in a space of 12 months will easily be attained.

It is those 100 000 jobs that could generate wages, which in turn will fuel the purchasing power of our people and turn the wheels of the economy.

In America and elsewhere in developed world they have used factories to create massive jobs. Why can’t we do the same? What is stopping us from setting up a factor each district that manufacture say toothpicks or toilet paper? In short why can’t we set up factories or even resuscitate those that failed like the Palapye glass project to create jobs for our people? There is also room in diamond polishing factories. While we ponder on the question, the #Bottomline remains that there is magic that usually comes out of building factories. That magic is called Jobs.

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.