South African Business Forum intends to assist in diversification of the local economy through forming partnerships with businesses and other key stakeholders. This was said by the forum’s director, Dennis Mashabela, on Wednesday at an event to provide an update on the progress made in the South Africa-Botswana Partnerships Programmes. Accompanied by Business Botswana (BB) officials, Mashabela said too much blame has been put on the government for failing to provide a platform that offers economic diversification, insisting that there has to be good working relations between the government and the private sector to diversify the local economy which is heavily reliant on minerals, diamonds specifically. Mashabela made a pledge towards assistance in economic diversification, explaining that they will create structures to diversify Botswana’s economy but said they will not claim to be the entire engine to drive such growth. He said South Africa has a fundamental duty to contribute to such growth as the two countries are major trading partners, with Botswana sourcing most of its imports from that country.
In facilitating a growing and diverse economy, Mashabela said they will develop a raft of recommendations to contribute to an improved business environment in Botswana and come up with strategies to identify and package tangible and expansionary local investment opportunities, as well as attract FDI to Botswana. The Forum’s partners and stakeholders include senior executives from organisations such as Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), Econsult and CEDA among others. Mashabela said they intend to develop sectors such as tourism and hospitality, services as well as food production. Through food production, processing and related logistics, he said, they want to bolster and increase initiatives and investments made over the years by BDC, CEDA and others to fund and sustain farming enterprises, food production and processing by indigenous farmers who form part of the private sector. He added that local companies will benefit from the value linkages identified with partner, stakeholders and sector companies – Business Botswana and the ministry of trade’s Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) Unit.
In addition Mashabela said technical partners and co-investors from South Africa and other sources needed to improve fresh produce varieties and production processes, product quality, branding and provide market access. He said the same approach would be rolled out for South African retailers in the apparel and garment sectors such as Pep. The other sector that South Africa Business Forum is targeting is the tourism and hospitality industry which is comes second after diamonds in contribution to Botswana’s economy. Mashabela said they have engaged Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB), private tertiary institutions and various South African origin companies operating in Botswana’s tourism to partner with target education institutions to spearhead services improvement and staff training.
Speaking at the same event, Business Botswana CEO, Dr Racious Moatshe said there has not been much progress in as far as growth of the private sector in Botswana is concerned. He said when they engaged with the ministry on the 51 percent shareholding with South African companies they argued that the issue was a non-starter as they are looking on how the businesses operating here could empower locals by procuring from them. Moatshe said progress has to be made but was confident that their working relationship with the South African Business Forum – now focused mainly on the retail space – will achieve that and also translate onto other sectors.