Tapping into the unexploited solar energy sector can help address unemployment issue as it has the potential to create thousands of jobs, said Dr Mabouba Diagne, Regional Managing Director, Group Head of Corporate and Investment Banking at Atlas Mara Banc ABC. Diagne was speaking on Thursday during a business seminar which was aimed at addressing issues of unemployment in Botswana which according to official version, stands at 20 percent.
He said in developing countries such as Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, renewable energy and feed-in-tariffs can play a significant role in supporting macro-economic development objectives by increasing energy security and energy access, contributing to job creation and overall sustainable development. Diagne said the Kalahari Desert offers great opportunities to develop solar power.
Diagne said both Botswana and South Africa have the potential to become solar energy hubs for Southern Africa due to the numbers of hours the two countries are exposed to sunshine per year.
“Harvesting the sun and exporting energy to the region whilst providing income, local jobs, empowerment and qualification of staff for operations seems a good fit and sustainable programme,” he said.
To achieve the objective of Botswana becoming a regional hub for solar energy, organisations such as CEDA, Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), local pension funds, investors, asset managers and commercial and development banks can partner with well-known solar companies.
Diagne also said the successful implementation of the solar energy can be linked to cattle farming in Botswana which offers financial inclusion and increase the net disposal income of the citizens. “Each year BMC needs up to 200,000 cattle to service its demand to national, international and regional export meat market,” he said, explaining that this presents a great opportunity for BMC to partner with local organisations such as CEDA, BDC, Botswana Farmers Unions, trade associations.
He said with the help of commercial banks who have the objective to implement a nationwide programme of cattle-backed corporate schemes loans, the firm commitment is to assist citizens in creating additional revenues, increasing their net disposal and also building a sustainable pension portfolio backed by cattle. Diagne, who has a doctorate in Financial Risk Management, said the repayment of the loan should be primarily from the net profit of the cattle sales.
The other segment, which offers employment opportunities, is the diamond industry through beneficiation. Diagne said currently locals play no role or limited role in this sector. He says only about 4,600 citizens are employed in this sector and salaries do not exceed P2500 per month. To address the unemployment issue through diamond beneficiation, Diagne said the country could build a postgraduate school of diamonds with the latest technology in cutting, polishing and jewellery with a capacity of 1000 students per year.