Wednesday, April 24, 2024

What can CEDA offer a Motswana woman, youth? 

 In the last 15 years, two generations of young people were hit by three major global crises: the 2007-2008 financial crisis, which left lasting scars on adolescents and young adults’ socio-economic prospects and trust in government, the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis sparked by the Russia – Ukraine war. As a result, young people who already shouldered much of the economic consequences of the financial crisis have again found it increasingly difficult to transition to an autonomous life. In Botswana, in between these crises the government has been pursuing its own strategies and assembling its own baskets of incentives to help the youth. To date, various indicators show that young people in the country are expressing growing concerns about the long-term implications of the ongoing cost of living crisis it may have on disposable income and future earnings, mental health, education and employment outcomes, among others. 

But now the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA), a state owned agency mandated to develop citizen entrepreneurs says plans are underway to empower the vulnerable group in the society being women and young people to utilize some of the existing programs under the organization. 

CEDA, according to its Communications Manager Neo Tumelo has funded 7763 women owned businesses to the tune of P107.3 million since 2020. The funding has been spread across the main sectors being Agribusiness, Manufacturing, Services & property development, the aforementioned projects were mostly under the retail, poultry, and manufacturing. 

The Agency’s says it has also funded 5129 youth operated businesses  valued ay P83.9 million Pula since 2020 across the aforementioned main sectors. Tumelo says CEDA’s commitment to youth is not just at funding level. 

“The Agency has over the years developed policies & programmes that have supported young entrepreneurs as well as sought potential employees for the Agency. These include the CEDA University Challenge as well as the CEDA Graduate Development Programme”. 

With less than 15 years left before 2036 – the year, in which Botswana aspires to become a high-income country, economic pundits are already questioning whether the country is not trapped in the middle-income bracket and whether is not at risk of leaving its youth and women behind. 

Globally, the notion of a middle-income trap has generated much interest and discussion, but little consensus. There is no agreement on what the trap is or how long a country needs to be at the middle-income stage to be considered trapped.

The global debate centres on a well-known stylized fact. Many countries, including Botswana made the jump from low income to middle income, but only a handful were able to make the final jump from middle income to high income. Economists suggest several structural factors, such as the shift from input-led growth to productivity- and innovation-led growth, make the middle-to-high transition more challenging. 

For Botswana, some economic pundits are of the view that with the right mix of policies and laws, the country can still change its fortunes by 2036 and earn a few more tiger stripes.

The country’s central bank says to move to the next economic stage Botswana need a through introspection of its Development Financial Institutions otherwise known as DFIs. 

DFIs are specialised banks/entities set up usually by states to support economic development. In Botswana DFIs include the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency – CEDA, Botswana Development Corporation – BDC and the National Development Bank – NDB. 

Bank of Botswana says the overall performance of the FDIs in Botswana has been lacklustre, evidenced by recurring episodes of restructuring, refinancing and closures. 

SECRETIVE…

Despite the pledge to help the youth and women, CEDA appears to be one of the most secretive state agencies in Botswana. 

In August 2022 the minister responsible for Entrepreneurship Karabo Gare, like his predecessors before, failed to account for a forensic audit report conducted at CEDA in 2012. The findings of the report have been kept secret from the public. The Serowe South Member of Parliament Leepetswe Lesedi had brought a question to parliament during the August sitting seeking answers on why the report is inaccessible to the public, and what action has been taken following the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime’s assessment of the report.

In response, Gare confirmed that the report has not been shared with the public since it was completed ten years ago, and that DCEC has investigated the findings of the forensic report and passed its recommendations to the CEDA board on what action to take. Among the recommendations from DCEC was for CEDA to establish whistleblowing framework, with the crime buster even seconding an officer to CEDA for three months.

Gare could not get into details about the questions raised by Lesedi, stating that the answers are long and he will provide a written answer to the legislator. However, the little that Gare said continued the cloak and dagger that surrounds the report, and at some instances, bringing to light the inconsistences and contradictions.

In March 2019, Moiserala Goya then former assistant minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, revealed in parliament that CEDA’s forensic audit report will not be released to the public because it is highly confidential, and that the findings were investigated by DCEC which found that the allegations contained in the forensic report were “unsubstantiated”. 

“It should be noted the forensic audit by its nature is strictly confidential to those necessary for acting on its findings. Therefore, by making findings of the report public it may prejudice investigations. In this regard, the ministry is not in a position to make the CEDA forensic report public,” said Goya in a seemly contradictory stance, considering that he said investigations were complete. 

Goya’s response to making the report public was exactly the same response Sadique Kebonang gave in 2015 when still minister of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI). 

CEDA’s forensic audit report has been a hot issue since its completion – shrouded in secrecy, and sparking fears that there is more to the report than what the public is being told. The then minister of MITI in 2012, Dorcus Makgatho, told parliament that the report was complete but she has to consult cabinet first then brief parliament about the report. It never happened.

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