Promising to reboot, re-engineer economy
Titans of industry, corporate executives, politicians and diplomatic corps convened at Adansonia hotel in Francistown for the 15th bi-annual National business Conference (NBC) on September 10-11.
Themed “Breakthrough to a high-Income Botswana – the role of the private sector in changing the path’’, the conference ran for two days. Opened by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, he promised to ‘reboot’ the economy of the country and ‘re-engineer’ the way things have been done”.
Bringing the National Business Conference to Francistown was greatly welcomed by the business community of Francistown; which gave local entrepreneurs a great opportunity to network with key pivotal players and decision makers.
Masisi described his recent three-day excursion to China as a resounding success, with this trip bringing about the signing of four agreements into fruition that he said would help ‘jump start’ the fragile economy, stimulate investor confidence and bolster Sino – Botswana relations.
The conference had key stakeholders and pivotal players in the parastatal and corporate sector in attendance and some visionary business leaders, and economy intellectuals who sought out to impart expert opinions on key issues. Some sought to offer possible solutions to attaining ideals enshrined in Vision 2036 and catapulting Botswana out of its current socio-economic situation.
Q & A session
President Masisi was gracious enough to agree to a live ‘Q & A’ session, with the audience being part of the process and fielding questions to him.
Interviewed by Tshipidi Moremong – Head of Client Coverage Rest of Africa at Rand Merchant Bank – in a segment entitled ‘Conversations with the President’ , President Masisi clearly enunciated his vision and plans for Botswana, that shall make the ideal’s outlined in vision 2036 a reality.
The President spoke of “”… ‘Rebooting’ the economy of the country and ‘re-engineering’ the way things have been done”. He said he would “…demand accountability and delivery especially from my Cabinet and the public service.’’
Various areas that were touched on by different speakers during the conference, related to strategic ways Vision 2036 can be attained, as well as ways to overhaul the current sub-standard work ethic inherent in the workforce of Batswana, and how it can be transformed to be highly competitive.
A video of Professor Michael Porter, addressing cabinet that was shot during President Ian Khama’s tenure was shown. In the video, Professor Porter spoke of Botswana having a weak local private sector and a poor work force. The professor implored Cabinet to make parastatals in Botswana to be run more like private enterprises and drew attention to the rigidity that lies in the labor market.
Poor work ethic
Neo Moroka, chairman of the Vision 2036 council, also addressed the conference; lamenting Batswana’s poor work ethic and strongly advocating for performance incentives.
“A nation cannot be prosperous without good governance, peace and security,” he charged. Articulating further on Vision 2036, Moroka added: “… Vision 2036 recognises the need for accountability, good foreign relations and robust civil society participation.”
The minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo implored big businesses to support and outsource from micro-business enterprises, by purchasing their goods and wares. She highlighted the importance of zoning in on the development of SME’s “… in order to build local, production capacity”.
She encouraged SME’s to get involved with and take advantage of programmes such as the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Supplier Development Programme. The minister also strongly reiterated the government’s intensions to pass law that positively impact on the ease of business practice, and that other initiatives have been engineered to promote and facilitate businesses in Botswana to export their products.
Another intellect professor Catherine Dugan addressed the conference on competitiveness, highlighting issues of accountability, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Another speaker, Olebile Makhupe – Head of Corporate and Investment Banking at Rand Merchant Bank Botswana – reiterated that Botswana can enhance efficiency and make more money in the tourism sector if transactions by tourism operators are not orchestrated abroad, but rather locally.
Makhupe said of the NBC later: “The content of the discussions at the conference was very insightful and strategic for the country and the emphasis on clearly articulating the action items will go a long way to ensure this year’s sessions is not just another talk show”. Makhupe harped on the importance of how critical it is for all stakeholders, the government, private sector as well as well as parastatals to each take ownership and be accountable for executing what’s within their forte.’’ She further added that “…… as a country we underestimate the benefits that we could derive from investing in the right infrastructure and skills that will enable Botswana to be a leader in new technologies that the Fourth revolution brings.’’
Makhupe added: “… tax incentives that we have been touting at investors, if coupled with the right ICT infrastructure can enable Botswana to even compete in the manufacturing industry where we did not have a competitive advantage in the past.’’
For the first time attender, Maje Maje – the co-founder of APEX Property Division, board member of the Real Estate Advisory Council and President of the Real Estate Institution of Botswana – said he found the NBC… “As a very important and pivotal platform where all leaders in the private and public sector converge”.
He added: “the fact that the president graced the conference and shared his vision and also ‘opened his arms’ to work with Batswana who are willing to come forth with skills and talent was highly commendable.’’
With regard to the property market in Botswana, Maje admitted that the real estate sector was going through turbulent times as manifest by the situation in Francistown and Selibe-Phikwe.
“Until there is a project which is viable we will not be able to see the real estate market ‘bounce back’ to an attractive and lucrative state,” he declared.