Gaborone — President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has pledged to make relevant investments in the youth population in order to reap demographic dividends.
Speaking at Botswana's first Youth Entrepreneurship Fireside Chat and Town Hall forum themed: Unlocking Youth Entrepreneurship through the Knowledge-based Economy April 23, Dr Masisi said investing in youth had a lot of potential for the country's economic development.
The President shared the platform with Econet Group founder and chairperson Mr Strive Masiyiwa who has initiated the forums to inspire and encourage entrepreneurship among Africa's youth in areas such as ICT, agriculture and education.
Dr Masisi lamented that the youth, who constituted 60 per cent of the population, were the most affected by unemployment and poverty.
"The welfare of our young people is very dear to my heart, as they are the future leaders of this country.
I have strong confidence that it is young people who will bring about innovation and creativity to stimulate and transform our economy.
It is you who will change us. It is you who must change us and it is you that we look to for a brighter future," he said.
He said addressing youth unemployment required robust and innovative strategies by government.
President Masisi said government was working tirelessly to lure investors to the country and create a conducive business environment critical in the growth and diversification of Botswana's economy.
"For example, in June 2019, the government will launch an Online Business Registration system for the first time which will see a dramatic decrease in the turnaround time of business registration," he said.
Through the system, Dr Masisi said government would create opportunities for young people to realise their dreams.
Furthermore, President Masisi said government would actively engage with private sector players to identify specific training to enhance the country's global competitiveness in different sectors.
He also informed the youth that to enable the development of a private sector led ICT industry, an enabling environment, including digital access and regulatory framework, would be improved.
"I would also like to assure you that my government is committed to the development of the national ICT infrastructure to enable and facilitate the provision of online services, applications, and content," he said.
He said government spent around P2 billion annually on tuition fees and allowances as it considered knowledge a tradable commodity which could be used to transform the economy.
"We are also committed to the knowledge-based economy which will contribute, in no small measure, to our concerted efforts of diversifying our economy, thus creating employment for the youth, as indeed they will create employment for themselves and others," he said.
The President encouraged tertiary institutions to offer industry needs specific, futuristic and viable programmes.
He further advised the institutions to move away from domesticating knowledge to globalising it in order to increase graduates' competitiveness.
He said, "young people are the heartbeat of this nation, they are the pulse and the conscience of Botswana and they are key to innovation that will transform this country and its people."
For his part, Dr Masiyiwa encouraged youth to believe in themselves and know they were also capable of producing companies with the potential to go global.
Urging the youth not to be afraid to start thinking of their entrepreneurial ideas and pursuing them, he explained that entrepreneurship was all about providing solutions to everyday challenges.
Dr Masiyiwa revealed that he would soon fulfill the promise he made to the Botswana government to make Mascom Wireless, which he owns, a public company.
As soon as the company completed its acquisition of MTN shares, he said, Mascom shares would become available to ordinary Batswana.
He encouraged the youth to take advantage of the opportunity and become shareholders.
Dr Masiyiwa advised the youth to wait for the full prospectus of the company, as he planned to complete the listing by October, subject to all necessary regulatory approvals.
He said he had also suggested to Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund to sell some of its shares directly to its members.
Speaking at the same event, Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Mr Patrick Ralotsia, said the forum created a meaningful platform for the youth, as it ignited mindset change and the knowledge that government alone could not create jobs for them.
He said what the youth learnt from the forum would go a long way in inspiring them to become entrepreneurs.
Also in attendance was First Lady Neo Masisi and other cabinet ministers.
Source : BOPA