The Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI), which attracted a lot of criticism from experts over the proliferation of state owned entities in the past, has announced this week that it is rationalising some of the parastatals.
MITI currently boasts of 11 parastatals, making it one of the leading ministries, some of them doing serving virtually the same mandate. The parastatals are categorized into different types and perform various duties with some offering oversight duties while others are mandated to provide facilitation as well as general business development. Parastatals housed under MITI include Local Enterprise Authority (LEA), CEDA, Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC), Competition Authority (CA), Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA), SPEDU, Gambling Authority, Botswana Trade Commission (BOTC) and Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA). SEZA is the latest to be formed and is currently undergoing the formulation process with the appointment of the chief executive officer ongoing.
At her maiden press briefing early this week minister Bogolo Kenewendo said they have observed that the mandates of some of the parastatals are converging resulting in some overlaps and duplications. To this end, Kenewendo said a rationalization process is ongoing to eliminate duplication of efforts across the ministry’s parastatals, which will improve service delivery. However, Kenewendo could not give specific answers as to which parastatals are targeted and whether that will result in job losses, but conceded that any rationalization exercise could lead to staff reduction.
Observers have opined that Authorities such as LEA and CEDA could be merged into one as their mandates are to basically serve the Small and Medium Enterprises thereby just the same. Others include BITC which it is believed could just be combined with BOTC to form a single parastatal as both are focused on investment and trade. Former Bank of Botswana (BoB) Deputy Governor Keith Jefferis has welcomed the idea of rationalization of some of the parastatals within Kenewendo’s ministry. Dr Jefferis, an economist who has also worked as a Senior Research Fellow at BIDPA and now the Managing Director of Econsult, and has previously worked with Kenewendo at the firm, says the obvious ones to be considered are LEA and CEDA, taking into account that the do almost the same thing. “SPEDU and BITC can also be combined as there seems to be a lot of duplication there,” Jefferis said in an interview, adding that BITC and SEZA are also good candidates for rationalization.
Meanwhile Kenewendo said they will deliver the mandate of the ministry through three apexes. One of those three is investment promotion which she explained that through this apex, the ministry seeks to actively bring investment opportunities to the attention of potential investors who have the capacity to provide capital, jobs, skills and technology to Botswana and in the process contributing to economic growth. Investment, she said, targets both domestic and foreign companies. Kenewendo noted that some of the key deliverables under this apex include developing a national blue print to investment promotion, which will address issues around market selection and stakeholder alignment; advocating for the establishment of a sufficiently empowered National Clearing House Oversight body; and strengthening local systems and structures for investor facilitation and aftercare. Other apex in the ministry are export development and Small, Medium and Micro-Sized Enterprises (SMMEs).