‘Not easy decision to join politics’

SHARE   |   Monday, 31 October 2016   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
‘Not easy decision to join politics’

When information was leaked that one of the country’s rising economists Bogolo Kenewendo – until this week a Trade Economist in the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Ghana – was to be nominated as one of the specially elected Members of Parliament, most people laughed it off. “That will be a political masterstroke of highest proportion by President Ian Khama; but anyway that will never happen,” said one opposition MP, dismissing that as wishful thinking of some within the ruling party. On Wednesday when the special session of parliament started, most ruling party MPs were sure of former MP for Jwaneng/Mabutsane Reggie Reatile as SEMP but failed to pronounce who the other candidate would be. “I hear she is based in Ghana and is from Slumber Tsogwane’s constituency and her surname is very difficult to pronounce,” said senior BDP MP, giving journalists an assignment to research about the lady.

“Is she not Bogolo Kenewendo because when I Google she is the only Botswana-based economist in Ghana and her surname fits the description of honourable,” said one journalist sending others into a fit of laughter as they all answered in unison. “Not Bogolo; she can’t leave her job in Ghana; she is not into politics!’’ She was a Trade Economist in Ghana’s Ministry of Trade and Industry; a plumb job – the kind not to easily quit for politics. It dawned on most on Wednesday evening that Kenewendo was in town and indeed on her way to Parliament. Opposition MPs, who were chatting with journalists after the hearings of the Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises, were also in shock. “I know Bogolo; she can’t join politics let alone become SEMP, it is a lie guys. This time your predictions are very wrong,” dismissed one MP during an informal chatting.

When the names of the nominees were announced in parliament, opposition MPs laughed when the name Reatile was called but there was iced silence when Kenewendo’s name was called out. One of the reasons that opposition MPs cited for not voting was that they cannot be part of a criminal activity of bringing someone who has been rejected by voters; it was clear they meant Reatile not Kenewendo. In an interview after her second day as MP, Kenewendo said that she is very excited to have been nominated and endorsed at SEMP. Asked if it was easy for her to leave her plumb job in Ghana and come back home to become MP, she said it was not. “It was one of the difficult decisions I had to make because I went to Ghana to deepen my economic experience, especially on policy analysis,” said Kenewendo. One of the areas that she will advocate for is youth and women empowerment as it has always been her passion.

It has been alleged that one of the conditions that she has been brought to parliament was to take over as Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry and help in steering up the economic fortunes of Phikwe. “I cannot comment on that,” was her answer when asked if she had made the condition that she be appointed to cabinet. With the 2019 General Elections just around the corner, Kenewendo was economic with truth when asked if she will contest the elections. One thing she declared was – she won’t challenge Slumber Tsogwane, the incumbent MP from her home village in Boteti. “I respect him as my elder and won’t challenge him if he stands for the elections,” said the Motopi-born economist. On whether she has been active in politics, the 29-year-old MP answered in negative, saying that she has always been neutral when it came to politics.

Who is Kenewendo?
She is from Motopi village in the Boteti area and a protégé of former Bank of Botswana Deputy Governor (1999-2005) and economic consultant at Econsult Botswana, Dr Keith Jefferies. Kenewendo works as a Trade Economist at the Ministry of Trade & Industry in the Republic of Ghana. She holds an MSc in International Economics from the University of Sussex (UK), a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Botswana, and is a certified Project Management (PRINCE 2) practitioner. Her post graduate experience has been in consultancy, research and policy analysis. Her areas of expertise include; Macroeconomic policy, Public debt management, Trade policy, Export development, Trade in services, Regulatory frameworks, Trade related issues, Trade and Investment policy, industrial development policy, institutional frameworks for policy formulation, poverty alleviation, financial sector development, Economics of HIV/AIDS, climate change, sustainable development, natural resource management, private sector capacity building & development, business advocacy and project management.

Kenewendo is a seasoned presenter and regularly provides analysis for local and international press. Her achievements and honours include; representing Botswana as one of two delegates to the 64th & 65th Sessions of the United Nations General Assembly, where she was nominated to present a statement of African Youth to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-Moon. She is also a beneficiary and alumni of the US President’s Young African Leaders Initiative, and has been honoured with the Ten Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) award by JCI Botswana (2012). Her duties in Ghana were to Support Ministry staff in conducting research, policy analysis and drafting, including the following: Ghana’s membership of ECOWAS, in particular the ECOWAS Economic Trade Liberalisation Scheme, Customs Union and Common External Tariff; The proposed interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA); Bilateral trade agreements; WTO issues; Industrial development, private sector development and Ghana export competitiveness.