There are many lessons to draw from the ongoing sale of Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited to citizens. Prominent among these is that citizens appear eager to participate and invest in key assets. They are ready and willing to partner with Government in business. This is demonstrated by the thousands that turned up to stake their claim to 44 percent offered by BTCL. We take it that these multitudes are not just people on a window shopping exploration but people ready to splash P1000 or more for a stake in the business. Government is therefore challenged to explore these kinds of partnerships more so as to unlock the economy and create wealth among citizens.
In the process of doing this Government will be assured of making a huge saving since citizens investors’ money will now come handy to help boost the stature of the business. BTCL in this Initial Public Offering aims to raise P250m to use as working capital and fund capital expenditure. As things stand there is no need for Government to give this entity any more money. Going forward as a private company BTCL will have to borrow elsewhere like any other business to fund its existence. This is a major lesson to Government. It should now go forward and avail more of its lucrative but costly to run parastatals for privatisation. The standing call that Government should get out of business and allow qualified and worthy business people to run businesses should be realised and no longer be paid lip service to – that is if indeed Government genuinely believes that the private sector should be the economy’s engine growth.
Some of the services that could be sold over to the public include the national television station, and radio stations among others. As things stand Government can no longer believe that holding on to Btv or RB1 and II serves them any better. Creating this into joint ventures will go a long way in improving the quality of their work, save Government money and ensure efficiency. In this day of social media, there is no longer any real value that Government reaps from holding a monopoly of communication. Now news is a commodity that cannot be controlled or rendered exclusively by a monopolised agency that hopes to help retain the Government in power.
Social media means information and news are broken as they happen. Privatising Btv will go a long way in unlocking the untapped value in the television and broadcasting industry. As things stand there has been little real work done to make the station commercially viable; local production has remained very low and news content shallow and biased. The filming industry will get a major boost from such a move and many more jobs will be created. Careers of many people who have since graduated with filming and movie acting degrees will be secured. Our sport will grow since broadcasting rights will be bought at competitive prices once the industry’s value is unlocked and becomes a thriving business.
It is important that Government appreciates fully the opportunities it has kept under lock and moves swiftly to unlock them. Btv or the media industry is just one of those. There is far more that needs to be done. Implemented well, Government will have massive savings and then be able to spend on key sectors that cannot be sold to the private sector. Government should also desist from destroying businesses through anti-competitive interventions by creating parallel agencies to compete against the private sector.