Friday, March 1, 2024

Time for beneficiation and processing to top economic agenda

With the economy literally down on its knees characterized by massive job losses on the back of the closure of a number of mining houses especially in the northern part of the country, beneficiation and down-stream processing should be brought back to top economic diversification agenda.

Bluntly put, past efforts on economic diversification have not yielded much positive and tangible results.

Instead we have seen unemployment continue on an upward trajectory.

Although currently on a slippery slope, the mining sector still remains by far the country’s primary economic driver. Diamonds continue to  be country’s biggest revenue generator and contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is by far the biggest foreign exchange earner. The non-mining sector contribution to the overall GDP is still too little, to say the least as shown by authoritative statistics.

Given Botswana’s rich mineral deposits, beneficiation and processing can in the long term prove to be the main solution to the elusive economic diversification drive.

With the current rebound in commodity prices, beneficiation and processing can help steer the economy upwards with creation of a lot of jobs that will eventually cater for the thousands of graduates that are being churned out by the education system.

It is time up for the country’s economic planners to re-strategize and build a firm foundation upon which the country will benefit from the commodity prices rebound. The re-strategization should be outward looking in all its facets for long term economic viability.

There is no more justification for the continued exporting of mineral resources in raw form. It does not make any economic sense to continue exploiting the country’s mineral wealth while processing into finished products is done outside our borders. By allowing the status quo, we are fundamentally exporting the many jobs that we ought to be creating for the growing number of unemployed people who are not able to find jobs. Unemployment will inevitably become a ticking time bomb if all efforts are not directed to addressing this menacing problem head-on.

Failure to expeditiously diversify the economy calls for an immediate mindset change. The business as usual mindset must be discarded forthwith. The lackluster attitude is not doing the economy any good when so many of our people remain unemployed. Literally speaking, and for the umpteenth time, Botswana is sitting on an unemployment time bomb which could be averted through intensified beneficiation and processing of the country’s mineral resources.

With a small population of only two million, Botswana’s unemployment levels are perpetually skyrocketing without any signs of abating anytime soon.

With proper beneficiation and processing initiatives, Botswana stands to create a lot of jobs for its unemployed masses.

There is absolutely no reason why the country’s minerals continue to be exported in raw form. By exporting raw minerals, the country is literally exporting many jobs that should be accruing to its own citizens.

The same goes for the meat industry. Botswana counts among the countries with the largest cattle herd in the world and there is absolutely no reason why after more than half a century of independence, there is not a single meat processing plant in the country.

In the same breath, economic diversification should not be the sole responsibility of government. The private sector should up its game and be seen to be playing a meaningful role, surpassing that of government.

The country’s education system should a necessity also under go a radical paradigm shift capable of producing enterprising and innovative graduates capable of creating their own firms instead of over-reliance on the already bloated civil service. There has been persistent calls for the down-sizing of the public service which gobbles billions annually.

it is time that the produced graduates be men and women of such enterprising acumen who are prepared to take risks and create industries that will in turn create jobs for their fellow countrymen while at the same time creating wealth for themselves.

Government red tape and bureaucracy also remains a big challenge that has to be tackled forthwith.

Private investors have no business in being sent from pillar to post when they seek to set up shop in our country.

It is not only government red tape and bureaucracy that needs urgent to be addressed urgently. Utility costs still remain one of the biggest impediments to do doing business in the country as they remain extremely exorbitant in in comparison to other southern African states. All these issues need to be addressed urgently especially that a lot of strides have been made in terms of infrastructural developments that have already been made in the local economy.

Government in partnership with the private sector through Business Botswana should converge and forge ways in which to make Botswana more business friendly and enterprising.

Political and economic stability that has served Botswana well in the past  is not guaranteed to the extent that it should be allowed to breed complacency. The liberation of the southern African region has brought unprecedented and stiff competition that the country must brace for and beat at all costs. That is, if the political leadership is resolute in its endeavours to remain economically competitive and way ahead of imminent competitors who are evidently doing all in their power to attract new investments in their shores.

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