Botswana Seeks to Escape Middle Income Trap

Francistown — The private sector has been urged to re-position itself to assist the country escape the middle income trap.

This refers to a situation where countries that have attained a certain level of development find it difficult to make the leap required to become advanced economies.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi made the call during a question and answer session dubbed, Conversation with the President at the just ended 15th National Business Conference. The biennial gathering was held under the theme: Breakthrough to a high income Botswana, The role of the private sector in charting the way.

President Masisi explained that government was doing its part through enrolling more students on technical courses and encouraging the use of information technology in the delivery of services.

In addition, he highlighted that while government was addressing the problem of skills mismatch, the private sector should also play its part in this regard. As a way of positioning the country's transition to a high income status, President Masisi also explained that global partners were going to be key in this objective as evidenced by the P340 million grant from China for key infrastructural projects that facilitate business innovation.

In this regard, President Masisi highlighted that government was also looking at increasing the number of science and engineering graduates and attaching them in innovative organisations in developed economies.

Furthermore, President Masisi noted that a high income status would only come about when Botswana improved her productivity levels, the quality of education, innovation, developed the financial sector and diversified her economy away from diamonds.

"I urge the private sector to up its game with regards to efforts aimed at economic diversification," he added.

Government, President Masisi explained, wanted to play a catalytic role to reboot its institutions, the private sector and civil society as these would be key ingredients to shrug of sluggish growth and facilitate the transition to high-income levels.

Botswana, he asserted, wanted to move away from resource-driven growth to growth based on high productivity, innovation emanating from business disruption.

In this pursuit, he added that the youth dividend would play a critical role in transforming the economy.

Consequently, he pleaded with the private sector to give young people a platform to implement their innovative ideas.

President Masisi further said while political goals were long term, most of the economy's needs were immediate.

"I want us to spend more energy exploring new ideas and content that is in demand in the knowledge economy," he said.

In order to assist Botswana to transition to a high income status, President Masisi said he was going to demand periodic accountability on targets that government had set.

He said if a high income status was to be attained, a deliberate decision had to be taken to identify and promote talent domestically, regionally and internationally.

However, he warned that as the country dreamt, it had to be realistic on what it could achieve and avoid biting more than it could chew. This, President Masisi highlighted, required the country to focus on areas where it had a competitive advantage.

The education system, he asserted, required to be improved so that it was world-class and was geared towards critical thinking and problem solving.

Going forward, President Masisi explained that there was need to project into future jobs by mapping skills that would be needed for a knowledge based economy.

On other issues, he explained that government wanted to grow the tourism industry by grouping new tourism operators.

This, the President said, would allow them to go into the market as an aggressive collective, owing to the fact that the country was small.

President Masisi also informed the private sector that all these initiatives would be guided by the National Development Plan 11 which was skewed towards areas where the country was competitive.

Meanwhile, Debswana managing director, Mr Balisi Bonyongo highlighted that Botswana became an upper middle income economy in 1991 after starting diamond mining in the 1970s.

Mr Bonyongo noted that diamond revenue growth put the country in this category where it was now stuck. However, he quipped that diamonds would not take Botswana out of the upper middle income level, saying it called for innovative thinking and divesrisfication of exports away from the extractive resources.

"Lets chart the future into 2036. Do we believe that high income status is attainable, if we do our actions should show," he said rhetorically.

The Debswana managing director highlighted that there was need to create a collective mindset and act on it.

Economic breakthrough and transition, he maintained, would not come through talking about past successes while productivity was plummeting. He also urged delegates to make an assessment and come up with ways of improving the country's work ethics while innovating.

He also urged both government and the private sector to make tough choices to attain Vision 2036.

Mr Bonyongo challenged technocrats and business leaders to identify things that they needed to stop doing in order for the country to attain a high income status.

He also urged them to identify those positive traits that needed to be carried forward. "Stop throwing money at things that don't work for the economy," he opined..

Source : BOPA

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