- Business community expresses confidence - Don’t be afraid to think big – Mutasa

This week’s high-level engagement between Government and the private sector at the16th National Business Conference is expected to clear the path in the country’s step-by-step roadmap towards an accelerated transformation to a High-Income economy.

Business Botswana President, Gobusamang Keebine said at the Francistown conference that for Botswana to achieve the High-Income status, it is important that all stakeholders first understand what it means.

According to the World Bank, a High-Income economy is one with a GDP per capita income of US$12 696, and Botswana’s GDP per capita was reported in 2020 to be at around US$6 243.

“We are halfway through the process to attaining our goal, and we are gunning for 2036, as per the national vision,” Keebine told delegates at the Conference that was held under the theme, ‘Roadmap to High-Income, Accelerating Transformation.’

He said while government is the overseer of this national vision, it is not for government alone to achieve it but for everyone to play a part.

“We therefore need to define how we move the country to a High-Income economy. This move must be deliberate, inclusive and collective because every earning makes a difference,” Keebine said. He said in addition, it is important to take heed of the Presidential clarion call of the Reset Agenda by combining innovation, and export approaches into a framework for income growth.

“We need to refocus on the aspect of privatisation of state-owned enterprises which continue to elude our grasp despite having been in the national agenda for many years,” Keebine said.

He is convinced that President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Reset Agenda imperatives of digitisation, knowledge economy, as well as export strategies are critical to the Forth Industrial Revolution.

It is for this reason that the leader of the chamber of commerce and the voice of business is confident that they are on the right track to support the journey to a High-Income economy. They have embarked on a digitisation drive with initiatives and partnerships designed to ensure that the private sector is not left behind in digitisation.

“Business Botswana has developed the Market Intelligence Information System (MIIS) and continues to grow its functionalities and use, as well as adding other platforms and tools for use by the private sector especially SMEs,” he said, adding that this initiative has grown into the digitisation of the private sector.

The Business Botswana Digitisation Drive include providing and promoting access to accurate comprehensive timely and relevant information about customers, identified markets, as well as access for various programmes that assist entrepreneurs to find financial opportunities, business events and technological innovations for businesses. It is also to build a local e-directory of local products and service to make it easy to search and connect with local businesses.

Currently, the e-directory has over 5 000 companies. The platform also promotes and creates awareness of doing business digitally especially e-commerce usage by SMEs including the informal unbanked and underbanked entities.

It also promotes connectivity and linkages with domestic and international markets between Botswana businesses and buyers.

In addition, some of the initiatives that Business Botswana has embarked on include content building tools for SMEs and digital agribusiness platforms, among others.

The institution has also developed an online digital profiles for more than 100 women businesses specifically those in the Botswana’s natural products space, such as locally produced foods and cosmetics to promote their export and partnership with Trade Forward Southern Africa, a regional organisation that supports growth in trade, improves gender equality in the trade arena, and alleviates poverty across Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and South Africa.

According to Keebine, the Business Botswana’s Digitisation Drive is meant to accelerate current initiatives including, informal sector recovery strategy, national e-commerce strategy, national e-export initiative, private sector recover plan, among others.

He added that Botswana needs to identify products and services that are in demand and focus on them collectively. For example, Botswana’s solar potential that can produce electricity for other countries is one area that the country must pursue.

However, adding that creation of new sources and demand would also require modern and more agile institutions and critical mass of highly-skilled people.

He believes that as Botswana pursues her objective to move from a Middle to a High-Income country, there is need to consider different growth fundamentals and different policy choices, as well as factors associated with a

High-Income country, including economic structure that has capability of a fast transformation from a subsistence agriculture to industrialisation and commercialisation.

There is need to increase exports and decrease inequality and dependency ratios through inclusive trade in commodities. “We also need to reflect on the effectiveness of the different growth strategies. Our strategies need to leverage export opportunities and innovation platforms,” he said.

According to Keebine, Botswana has international trade agreements that offer the private sector huge buying markets than what is available in the domestic market.

For instance, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which will offer Botswana the world’s largest market for goods and services of almost 1.3 billion people. To position Botswana to take advantage of the trade agreements in place, there is need to understand the types of goods traded in the African market as they are different from the ones Africans trade with from the rest of the world.

“There is a hope that regional trade will boost trade and production of goods with high value, and positioning Botswana to benefit from this is to leverage Botswana’s unique selling point, its geographical position, its solar power capability, its road network and invest in the development of value chains that support agriculture, commodities including clean energy,” he said.

The NBC headline speaker, Group CEO of Masarawa Group, Shingai Mutasa also expressed confidence in Botswana to achieve the Vision 2036 aspiration of attaining a High-Income economy.

He said Botswana has the necessary competence and capacity to attain the goals as the political class has already laid the necessary policies and initiatives towards this. He noted however, that several things are central to the attainment of 2036 including, the need to invest in capacitating Botswana’s human capital.

In addition, the Zimbabwean tycoon believes that core to the attainment of the goal is infrastructure development. “This must be built to address where Botswana wants to be in the future and not just for addressing current needs,” he said.

Botswana’s business community and its people also need to believe in the country, and their own potential. “Botswana’s business leaders must not be afraid to think big. Let us dream the impossible as we have the intellect and capacity to execute,” he told delegates.

The mogul who has investments locally in hospitality through Cresta Hotels and in financial services sector through Botswana Insurance Company, Legal Guard and GrandRe added that Botswana must realise that she is not alone but is a part of a great continent.

“African nations need to invest more into ourselves,” he said, adding that it is for this reason that his investments are focussed on the continent.

He added that with the potential that Botswana has, the country should be the financial hub of the continent as it has the requisite infrastructure, global ratings, unparalleled fintech expertise, and enabling macro environment.