With unemployment rate continuing to rise to unprecedented levels each and every year as colleges and universities churn out thousands of graduates into the streets, early this week, the second edition of the Annual Job Summit was held in Gaborone. The summit, held under the theme “Maximising job creation through effective policy and strategy implementation”, brought together officials from both the government and the private sector to suggest ways of generating employment opportunities. It followed many other platforms that have been used before to dialogue on job creation but statistics seem to suggest that reducing unemployment to reasonable levels still remains elusive. What remains unclear is whether the policy makers take into consideration the recommendations made by the organisers of such events given that unemployment figures continue to rise. While theme of the summit points to implementation of strategies and polices as a sustainable way of job creation, it emerged that implementation remains the impending factor in the creation of employment opportunities in the country and leaving unemployment figures at around 20 percent, made of mostly the youth.
The job summit came just weeks after a portion of youth held peaceful demonstrations at the Parliament against the escalating unemployment rate. They however got harsh response from the police who beat up some of them and detained others. This week the group, which calls itself the Unemployment Movement, made an appearance at the summit where its spokesperson, Kesaobaka Maruping reminded the audience about the realities on the ground that the youth face as a result of being unemployed or yet still, under-employed.
600m new jobs needed
Effects of unemployment are many, UN Resident Coordinator Anders Perderson who delivered a keynote speech at the summit said globally over 600 million new jobs need to be created by 2030 to keep pace with growth of the working age population. Perderson said more people in decent jobs would mean stronger and more inclusive economic growth while higher growth would mean more resources to create decent jobs. “It is a simple equation, but one that has been largely neglected in the international policy-making environment,” Perderson said, adding that by putting job creation at the heart of economic policy-making and development planning, it will not only increase decent work opportunities but also more robust, inclusive and poverty-reducing growth. According Perderson, decent work puts money in the pockets of individuals and families that they can spend in the local economy and save for further investment. Their purchasing power fuels the growth and development of sustainable enterprises, especially smaller businesses which in turn are able to hire more workers and improve their pay and conditions. Perderson said though efforts have been made through successive National Development Plans that have put employment creation at the top, employment creation still remains low compared to demand for jobs. The overarching challenge for Botswana, Pederson said, is how to make growth inclusive which will allow equal distribution of income, creating space for increased economic stability and more sustained economic growth. Botswana’s labour market is said to be characterised by an increasing labour force that is young but unable to find decent jobs and this is partly blamed on the capital intensive nature of the sector driving economy being the mining sector and also due to a less diversified economy.
Added to that is skills mismatch.
Perderson spoke about the 10 Action Plan which includes among others relaxation of financing conditions created to allow enterprises to flourish and working conditions be improved and SMEs helped to move to the formal sector. The plan also advises that macroeconomic policies that promote job creation and support demand and investment need to be prioritised, along with tax, infrastructure and sector-specific policies to enhance productivity. Moreover it points out that the youth of Botswana must ultimately be empowered to participate in the processes and decisions that affect their lives. The UN, according to Perderson, has over the years engaged with the government of Botswana on several initiatives towards employment creation and some important results have been achieved during that period. He, however, said there have been challenges with bringing some of the planned activities to finality, in most cases due to limited follow-up by authorities.
Lack of innovation, implementation
The line-up of this year’s speakers differed considerably with the previous summit. One speaker at this year’s event, Kenneth Molosi - the chief executive officer of EOH Consulting who also took part in the previous edition of the summit – said current unemployment levels is a result of lack of innovative ideas, adding that a culture of dependence has developed over the years. Just like many, Molosi said he often hears from other people from other countries that Botswana always makes sound pronouncements on policies but the missing gap is implementation. The discussions this year focused mainly on technology as a key driver of employment generation. This is so because technology has literally taken over everything and though feared that it might take jobs previously done by humans, it turns out that on the contrary, utilisation of technology can create more jobs. Trade Policy Advisor at the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, Dr Joel Sentsho called for innovative ways that would develop a dynamic globally competitive private sector. Sentsho compared the unemployment rate in Botswana to other countries in the continent such which seem to indicate the local rate is lower, but warned that this cannot be used as a benchmark and the country cannot set itself against the weak. Sentsho, who spoke again during the inaugural summit, said the private sector is the main driver of job creation and as such it should be developed to global competitiveness standards. He said for the private sector to achieve that it has to grow from the levels of dependence on government whereby without such support it is unable to survive.
A number of key recommendations were made post the 2015 Job Summit which was the first of many expected to come organised by a company called One Source Consulting. The recommendations included having a clear national job creation strategy emanating from government policies and initiatives and publishing the actual number of jobs to be created as it is believed that could give meaning, inspiration and momentum to the achievement of jobs creation goals. The establishment of a coordinating and implementing body was also suggested it was felt it could help ensure that any job creation strategy is coordinated centrally and delivered locally. Having such strategy in place, it is said will ensure that different ways of creating jobs are considered, in particular two approaches were recommended being incremental job creation and break-through job creation.