Tuesday, January 18, 2022

UB experts under-utilised in national development

To some, the low point of the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited IPO Pitsolast Monday would have been when a lecturer in the Department of Accounting and Finance at the University of Botswana begged to volunteer his expertise to assist in a process that desperately needs his specialised knowledge.

“We are worried about the level of financial literacy among Batswana. When people are offered an opportunity like this, they don’t know what to do with it,” said Ishmael Radikoko who suggested that BTCL should collaborate with UB’s Faculty of Business. “Whom can we see and talk to about how we can assist?” In response the Chief Executive Officer of the Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatisation Agency, Kgotla Ramaphane, directed Radikoko to a “communications cluster” that is conducting a public education programme on the IPO.

The IPO launch is next month but Radikoko considered the time period to be too short given the general level of financial literacy in Botswana. Radikoko is part of the 10-member national Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) team which has just completed its first GEM assignment – the 2012 Adult Population Survey (APS) and National Export Survey (NES) for Botswana. An APS gathers data from an extensive and random representative sample of at least 2000 adults aged between 18 and 64 years for purposes of measuring societal attitudes, participation levels of individuals at different stages of the entrepreneurship process and salient characteristics of entrepreneurs and their businesses.

An NES gathers insights into the entrepreneurial start-up environment in an economy from experts. The 2012 NES results show that conditions set up to stimulate entrepreneurial activity in Botswana are ineffective. The world largest survey on entrepreneurship with an estimated representation of 74 percent of the world’s population and 87 percent of the world total GDP as at 2012, GEM is a consortium of researchers from some 99 countries whose work is coordinated from the United States. The government is not using the expertise of other departments at UB. In all the time that it has been fighting Survival International, not once has the government sought the services and expertise of the San Research Centre, which has built an impressive body of knowledge about the San ÔÇô or Basarwa as they are more commonly known.

Through the use of “innovative strategies for promoting San access to higher education and capacity building” that are not found with the education system, the Centre has educated a large number of Basarwa, some going as far master’s degree. Interestingly, local benefactors are more willing to generously donate to the Kuru Dance Festival than the Centre – which could mean that unless the deal involves Basarwa’s bodies quivering like pneumatic drills as they enter the semi-conscious state of a trance dance, companies will not donate any money. When a South African think tank called the Centre for Higher Education and Training (CHET) did research at UB a few years ago, a lecturer-respondent told the researchers that there were no incentives for staff to undertake research that is directly linked to development. The CHET report quotes the lecturer as saying:

“Let me be honest here. Quite honestly at this stage, we don’t think government is consuming a lot of our research and I’m not saying they are to blame. The research that we’re doing here is mainly research driven by our need to publish because we’re living in a world where you publish or perish, and therefore it’s really not focused on trying to solve the real socio?economic needs of the country. If I can publish in theJournal of African Economists, once it gets in there I’m done; I have fulfilled what I’m doing. Whether somebody picks it up or not, it has not been an issue.”

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