Botswana is in a state of do or die, and despite the many international accolades, our economy is on a sick bed, almost a half of our people are ravaged by or about to sink into poverty, our young people have lost the fire to dream about what they could become. We are a nation divided between an elite that enjoys our national treasures, our minerals, our land and first world health, education and life facilities – and the rest of the households with a median income of less than P2200, that lives in overcrowded conditions, that endures poor health facilities and receives a poor education.
We continue to be held at ransom by a constitutional dictatorship, a way of governing, a mindset, a culture of secrecy and elitism that feeds corruption and stunts the creative potential of our people, a mindset that keeps opportunity hidden away for the people and a spirit that holds all our people from reaching out for the best in them. We are in a state of do or die because if we don’t change, we perish, if we don’t do something fresh, something different, something radical we die. But we have a responsibility, an obligation and a duty to turn the tables of this great nation and I am here to tell you today that our movement, the AP, offers that path, the path to a New Botswana, a path to rise as a people, a path to do rather than die.
The new Botswana, with its new diplomacy, clean government and constellation of focused leadership is determined to attract more than P100 billion in investments from local and international investors, corporations, multi-national companies, entrepreneurs, universities, venture funds, private equity institutions and multi-lateral institutions towards Botswana’s boldest and most ambitious infrastructure programme in the history of our nation and towards our strategy to nurture, partner and leverage off world class enterprises with export prowess or potential in high value products and services.
The Government is failing in its role as a steward as a custodian of the national coffers. We are not given a full picture of the state of the economy. Parliament had agreed some time back that the Method of accounting should be changed to accrual, where we report on the balance sheet.
Put side by side with our peers in the region and globally, we fall far behind on key productivity indexes. (Use of IT, agricultural land OUTPUT, low wages, rampant corruption.)
To date there is no comprehensive strategy to deal definitively with the COVID 19 pandemic. No accounting on how much has been used, specifically for fighting the pandemic nor any indications on how much is going to be used. The composition of the COVID 19 Task Force should not be only medical personnel, but other disciplines as well to formulate a holistic containment and recovery strategy.
We are a generation with a clear vision of a New Botswana. At the core of our vision is a determination to transform the lives of people by lifting the material conditions of our people. This entails necessarily the building of inclusive institutions and an economy that generates high paying jobs for the majority. In this way the people of Botswana live in a country that cherishes their talent and offers them the opportunity to realise their economic and social potential.
16% of our people still live under the poverty line (almost 400 000 people), most people live in overcrowded home conditions, many of people are either unemployed our under-employed or work in poor paying jobs (average wages of P5 000 people in the formal sector)
Our ambitions in six years in the New Botswana are to grow our economy by at least 10% on average, drive non-mineral exports to at least 40% of GDP and shrink unemployment from 20% to less than 10%, augment manufacturing output to 20% of GDP, and make Botswana a transport hub for the 345 million strong SADC market. What we have set out to do within six (6) years in Government: (attract at least P100 billion in Domestic and FDI, reduce the import Bill from 71 billion to 23 billion, position Agriculture as one of the top 4 contributors to GDP, ensure every Motswana has access to land for home ownership and productive use, improve our Global Competitiveness Index ranking from 5th to 1st in Africa, and from 90th to 40th in the world)
How did China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea make it (over 50 years) and of late Ethopia, Vietnam, India, Cambodia, Azerbaijan, Myanmar, Uzbekistan, Turkmanesitan (last twenty years)?
This is the story of Outperformers and how they created robust economies. They Created large companies and facilitated their investment abroad. Characterized by; (Nimbler, faster decisions, more innovative and new products/services, Prioritizing investments outside their homes). For example: Ethiopian Airlines bought 49% of Malawian Airlines, 45% of Zambian Airlines, and negotiated to start ASKY airlines of Togo and Guinea Airlines of Guinea. Annual revenues of US$2.7 billion and US $233 million.
This large firms have generated tremendous SME activity. The contribution of Small, Micro to Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be raised to above 60% in the same period, which will significantly protect the country’s balance of payment against the current over dependency on its neighbours. Our conviction is that the economy of Botswana if well run, should be able to create surplus employment and business opportunities for Batswana and fellow members of the SADC region.
These aspirations will be delivered through a suite of interrelated economic agendas of: Citizen Economic Empowerment, Economic Diversification and Integration and Building National Capacity and Capabilities.
We will lead in the diamond and mineral value chains . In AP, we understand the global trends in the diamond industry and we are aware that synthetics are the future of the industry due to their superiority in industrial applications.
We are aware of the opportunity cost of poor decision making that have characterised the government of the Republic of Botswana in all diamond mining rights deals. It defy logic and common-sense that Botswana declined to have stake in the flagship Karowe Mine and rejected the offer to buy the 45% stake in De Beers from the Oppenheimer family. Those are historical monumental mistakes that will continue to deny future generations their right to benefit from Botswana’s mineral wealth.
Botswana needs a faithful partner, who will help to mine and deplete its natural diamond resources and continue to walk together into the future of the diamond industry: a partner in mineral exploration, a partner in mining, sale and distribution of natural diamonds, a partner manufacturing, sales and distribution of jewellery, a partner in technology development, a partner in synthetic diamond industry.
Botswana shall feed herself and the world. Major production push: Botswana’s food production potential is among the least exploited in the region due to numerous reasons including suboptimal land use policy; allocation, utilisation, poor technology development and uptake. AP is committed to re-position agriculture as a commercial enterprise in Botswana.
Strategic infrastructure. We will also invest in strategic transport hubs to significantly enhance container, road, airline, and railway traffic in Botswana. This will in turn ignite a whole new portfolio of sectors including airline and rail fleet maintenance firms.
With these same investments we will build an infrastructure to modernise and digitise the economy and make broadband universally, and affordably available to businesses and individuals, with high speed internet of 30 to 100 mbps available to most businesses and homes and at least 60% of our population proficient in digital skills. This alone should give stimulate new entire business models particularly in the creative sectors, but it will also stimulate investment in ICT, digital businesses with such outcomes in the delivery of government and non-government services as greater access to quality health-care, education and financial services. It has been discovered that for every 1% in internet penetration, productivity rises by 1% and GDP output rises by 0.15% for a percent increase in cellular-based internet penetration. And so our digitisation plans give us an opportunity to add another P1.50 billion to P3 billion per year to our GDP.
A firm idea behind these major strategic investments is also to transform the burden of being landlocked into a geo-logistical advantage, providing an indispensable transport and logistics hub for trans-African and oceanic air, road and rail traffic for people and goods. This logistics hub could form a cluster that services millions of transit and tourist visitors as well as millions of tonnes of goods (in addition to serving the more than 345 million people of the Southern African region).
We will aggressively pursue the manufacturing of processed foods, meats, leather products, medicines, drinks, scents, chemicals, high fashion products, solar products, processed or refined minerals, mining machinery, smart transformation, smart transportation, chemicals, automobile parts, vehicles, aircraft parts, toys, electronic gadgets, “green products” and products inspired by our national research and development programme. Manufacturing should reach 20% of GDP within 6 years.
Effective and clean Government .We have already spoken at length about the absolute need for a clean government and what it takes. There is no substitute to a collective of capable men and women of integrity.
We will act to establish a body and mechanism within the confines of the law to set in motion a comprehensive review and public engagement for a new constitution crafted to offer our nation a government system that is inclusive. The new Botswana envisages a constitution with checks and balances particularly versus the executive or Presidency, a constitution with mechanisms to bring in more women and other disadvantaged groups such as people living with disabilities into various political and nonpolitical roles of authority. The new Botswana constitution offers independent and legislative branch oversight institutions, an empowered Parliament that is completely independent of and separate from the executive.
We have had occasion before in Parliament to state that the remuneration gap of the public and private sector is too wide, certainly by international standards and a once and for all increase of 15% especially for to the lower bands will boost moral.
We believe in building an economy that ensures that all citizens are in well paying jobs. This is achieved mainly by building an economy structured in that way. There are no minimum wages in Singapore, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switserland and Iceland but average salaries for instance are US 2500 (Sweden), US$ 4000 (Singapore) and similar amounts in the rest. How did they achieve this? They built economies that are structured in way that is well-paying and their unions enjoy good symbiotic relations in governance to ensure there are always win wins.
This is the new Botswana
*An address by Leader of the Alliance for Progressives, Ndaba Gaolathe, Gaborone