ICT billionaire promises to provide training for youth and extend internet connectivity to every home
Since his inauguration speech in April 2018, where he promised to create employment opportunities for the youth in the Information and Communications Technology sector, President Mokgweetsi Masisi showed first sign that his plan could be taking shape when he hosted Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa.
On Tuesday Botswana hosted its most significant Afripreneur Youth Town hall meeting at the GICC where President Masisi showcased Masiyiwa – an ICT business moghul and founder of local telecommunications company, Mascom.
The inaugural Botswana Town Hall was held under the theme ‘Unlocking Youth Entrepreneurship through the Knowledge based Economy’.
During the meeting attended by over 2000 unemployed youth and youth entrepreneurs, Masisi shed light on an agreement to provide facilities for youth innovators and entrepreneurs for a whole year rent and utilities free while Masiyiwa will provide the training. During this time, the young people will hone in and perfect their business ideas and will leave the place with a full proof business plan of how to go to approach the different fields they have chosen to ensure their businesses and ideas do not crash and burn.
The ‘graduates’ with their skills will open up enterprises that will in turn create employment opportunities for other youth. The multitudes of youth congregating in the GICC buzzed with excitement while others were visibly stunned at the prospect of the President’s promise coming to reality.
Another agreement between the two gentlemen was for the provision of internet in all homesteads in Botswana, something Masiyiwa believes should be made available to all Batswana since it is an enabler for innovation and staying connected to the global village the world has become.
The wealthy man promised to provide technical assistance to the government of Botswana in ensuring that youth-led ICT companies take the project on and own it. This will provide a sustainable employment base for servicing and upkeep of the ICT infrastructure.
In recent years the Botswana Government has acquired stakes in the EASSy and WACS submarine cables, which are managed by BoFiNet and the provision of free internet to households has always remained a mirage.
The acquisition was aimed at demonstrating the government of Botswana’s commitment to the development of the ICT sector which is estimated at U$321million. A third of the infrastructure is managed by Botswana Fibre Network (BoFiNet), which boasts more than 9000km of fiber connectivity based on an SDH and DWDM network.
The two men will in three months meet again to butt heads to assess the progress of the agreed upon projects as well as to forge other partnerships that will ultimately create employment for the youth.
Masisi has in the past been lambasted by Real Alternative Party (RAP) chairperson Gaontebale Mokgosi for his jobs promise in his state of the nation address. Mokgosi labeled Masisi`s SONA ‘A romantic fiction of transformations!’.
Mokgosi offered what he called practical suggestions for dealing with the growing poverty and unemployment in Botswana.
“The state of the nation address is gorged with reviews of programmes, strategy initiatives, project policies, as well as the development of roadmaps and frameworks. The President promises an ambitious journey of transforming the procedures, plans and practices of government,” he wrote.
He considered the address to be empty with respect to concrete packages required instantly to address the problems of unemployment and poverty.
In his analysis, the RAP Chairperson specifically pointed out unemployment as one of the topics plaguing the country.
“…unemployment needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency; the speech offers no short-term solutions to the problem. Rather, it seems Masisi`s regime finds the luxury to develop the national employment policy, the draft of which is expected to be delivered by March 2019” criticised Mokgosi, who continued that the administration chooses to take the route despite the history and experience in relation to the BDP government policy development procedure.
The critic explains that past experience dictates that the whole process of developing a policy and having it approved by cabinet usually would take a timeframe of five years. He continues that the policy would also demand that an action plan be developed for the policy implementation, further delaying the process by an additional five years at the least.
“This therefore means the unemployed, including youth should not expect job opportunities in so promised by Masisi,” Mokgosi had stated.
A lot of President Masisi’s non-believers will have their foot in their mouths if any of the agreements are implemented and the youth get the much needed employment. Another such would be Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) President and Leader of Opposition, Duma Boko who was once quoted saying that Masisi was dreaming.
Boko said Masisi had not put proper devices in place to give assurance that he is delivering on his promises. In the article was published in local publication, Boko came out at the President during the latter’s celebration of 100 days in office with blatant denunciations that his transformational agenda is still a dream.
President Masisi had prior to the criticism from his political rival, indicated in his SONA his intensions to transform the country’s economy from a resource-based to a knowledge-based one.
The World Bank report for unemployment amongst the youth aged between 15 and 24 in Botswana for the period from 1991 to 2018 states that the average value for Botswana during the period was 34.36 percent with a minimum of 24.19 percent in 2000 and a maximum of 43.48 percent in 2003.
According to the bank, youth unemployment refers to the share of the labor force ages 15-24 without work but available for and seeking employment.