Engineers plead for citizen empowerment

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 03 September 2014   |   By Kabelo Adamson
Grinder at work Grinder at work

The engineering sector has warned that reliance on imported skills is not a long term solution as citizen companies are not given an opportunity to participate in the economy regardless of policies like Economic Diversification Drive (EDD).

The sector led by Obed Motsumi has in the Botswana Confederation of Commerce Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) annual report detailed their objections concerning the industry in Botswana. They assert that-as outlined in the report is, local companies and the amount of work they do when compared to all engineering works done in the country, it appears that more work is going to foreign companies.

Though acknowledging the importance of foreign companies doing projects in the country as they somehow impart skills on citizen companies, the sector says local companies’ capability should be highlighted son that they become the first point to call in areas where they have competencies and can deliver products and services more cost-effectively within the country.
An area where scope exists but is not exploited according to the sector is mining as compared to government departments. The division’s view is that plans should be put in place to ensure that during major works such as the expansion of power plant activities, “recognition should be given to the opportunity of facilitating skills and knowledge transfer, by ensuring the participation of capable companies even if it is on sub-contracting basis,” the report says.

Other challenges that the sector faces include the existence of unfair trade barriers as it said that it has occurred that Botswana companies are operating at an unavoidable disadvantage which can only be overcome through the involvement of BOCCIM and government. It is reported that in the area of procurement it has been observed that a lot of companies in South Africa obtain Africa-wide agency status from Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) and then use this to block out Botswana companies and those from other small economies.

Furthermore the sector accuses major companies for preventing OEMs from arranging direct procurement deals with local companies. The engineering segment has requested BOCCIM and the government through Ministry of Trade and Industry o advocate for its companies to directly deal with OEMs except in a situation where such OEMs already have appointed agents in Botswana. What makes matters worse is that South African companies are said to be informing overseas OEMs that Botswana is part of South Africa; meaning that any applicant from South Africa who requires direct trade link or an independent OEM status would not be entertained.

In 2011, a parastatal known as Engineers Registration Board (ERB) was formulated as a way of sieving genuine engineers from bogus ones. The idea was to promote integrity of engineers as way of protecting the public from shoddy projects that may come as a result of those bogus engineers.

The sector has recommended that BOCCIM should ensure that amongst its sectors such as the Chamber of Mines, commitments are made to ensure that local companies are engaged or are handheld where there is doubt that they can perform. In addition the sector has also recommended that the government set up a mechanism which will be open to local companies to register works that they feel are given to foreign companies with the ultimate effect of compromising the effort to empower local employment and business expansion.