Saturday, June 3, 2023

Unemployment saga reaches violence level

With long term unemployment proving to become a fundamental problem for Botswana’s ailing economy, economic commentators continue to warn policy makers to wake up to this ticking time bomb and treat the issue with seriousness. This week, as the saga continued, SUNDAY STANDARD’s TLOTLO LEMMENYANE reached out to key commentators to get their views on the matter. 

Professor Brothers Malema

Lending his response to the unemployment protest Economist and Associate Professor at the University of Botswana Brothers Malema advanced his view to Sunday Standard that the demonstration reflects the belief of young people that their political representatives should one way or another come to their rescue based on the job creation promise that had been made to them in the last election. 

“If the leaders were seen to be trying to resolve the issue, I don’t think we’d be where we are,” he opined, adding that the government has to recognize that this is a national crisis that needs urgent attention before things spiral further out of control. Malema acknowledged the unpermitted protest but he vehemently advanced the view that the nation should not lose focus on the real issue, which is unemployment. “The government should do everything possible to ensure that they bring on board all stakeholders, not only Economists, within and outside government but every person who has a part to play including the parents. To say that government can do it alone, I think is totally miscalculated. And for government to think that that they have all the resources to come out of this economic impasse, it’s also totally unrealistic.” Malema posits that the Economists don’t have the answers, and as observed neither do the politicians, but a meaningful approach can be established through combined effort particularly that the issue of unemployment knows no political and societal lines but is a national problem.  

Dr Keith Jefferies ÔÇô Econsult Botswana 

Economist Keith Jefferies, Managing Director at a local Economic think tank e-Consult, who has in previous economic reviews written extensively on the issue of unemployment reiterated to Sunday Standard what could now be considered common knowledge: the reality of the exponential growth of labor force in comparison to the limited formal job opportunities. “One can’t get away from the fact that what we need is a lot of jobs in the economy,” he said. Jefferies advised that the decisions government makes going forward should, as a matter of priority, be cognizant of the need to create jobs. “Impact of job creation should be first and foremost on those factors,” he said, a point he was making to restate the need to focus on job creation policies.  

Unemployed female young person 

In 2015 a group of young people participated in a focus group discussion under a research survey and these words were voiced by a female young person as a solution to addressing unemployment. The focus group dissected constraints to labour market entry in Botswana and the manner in which they could be tackled. The views of the youth participants were captured in a paper titled ‘In their own words: Unemployed young people on tackling youth labour market entry constraints in Botswana,’ authored by Latang Sechele. 

“Sometimes we just talk…but we do not let the policy makers know about it. Our ideas and suggestions must be implemented by those who are in a position to do so. We need to form a group as young people to make sure this is done.”, said one of the unemployed female young person 

Shaw Kgathi – Minister of Defense, Justice and Security

The comments uttered by Minister of Defense, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi following the unemployment protest seem to have given credence to what critics have previously described as a ‘casual’ approach  to the unemployment issue. “I want to assure the youth of this country that we have a solution for their problems,” Kgathi professed in parliament on Tuesday. The solution which the Minister speaks to is yet to come to the fore.  

The truth is apart from the events that unfolded at the unemployment protest the issue of unemployment remains a ‘stale’ but urgent conundrum facing the economy of Botswana. Stale in the sense that the analysis that has come out of the unemployment issue has repeatedly remained the same over decades, and today still lacks a resolute response. If key politicians turn a blind eye to the appeal of people who demonstrated it as an act of seeking accountability on a word that had been given to them in 2014, it becomes necessary to open the discussion to other key voices regarding the issue.  

Dr. Racious Moatshe – Business Botswana Chief Executive Officer 

From the side of the private sector, which is broadly represented by Business Botswana (BB), Sunday Standard garnered from BB’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Racious Moatshe that the time could not be more opportune than it is now to introspect. Dr. Moatshe expounded that parallel to looking at what government is doing private sector should come in and assess as to enhance the capacity of projects undertaken. “We can help in taking the lead,” he said. 


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