The Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association would like to commend the Botswana Government on this bold and deliberate effort to stimulate economic activity through the Economic Stimulus Package. Having the manufacturing sector amongst those sectors that the Government has singled out to directly benefit from the stimulus is a much welcome development.
With reduced demand for local goods and services as well as rising unemployment, the stimulus package could not have come at a more opportune time for our sector and the economy.
Although we do not have details on the breakdown of the funds and how they will be distributed amongst the selected sectors, as an industry, we are ready to play our part through our various sub-sectors. The ESP is a solid platform for the private sector to create meaningful employment opportunities for Batswana.
In order for us to create meaningful employment, we must first consider the fact that the current challenging economic conditions have placed even those existing jobs under threat. There is a need to engage industry on current challenges relating to ease of doing business that might preclude the success of the ESP and the joint efforts in creation of jobs. We must begin by addressing any and all impediments that are a threat to the commercial sustainability of our industries, particularly in the non-mining sectors.
Once we have addressed these challenges and made efforts to avoid job losses and potential shut-downs of operations under existential threat, we would have paved the way for unhindered efforts in creating new jobs. This will result in a more meaningful contribution to the economy and draw us closer to diversification and industrialisation.
We must state, however that the challenges resulting from water and power shortages have resulted in a reduction in production and have placed the local manufacturing sector under pressure. This includes the pressure of retaining current employment figures. These elements must be robustly addressed through innovative solutions that will see increased productivity in the long term.
Manufacturing is a labour intensive sector, contributing largely to the employment of youth as well as women in Botswana. BEMA members currently employ over 12,000 people and with the right legislative framework, policy direction and investment climate, we are confident that we can double these figures within the next 5 years. For this to be a reality, we must understand our position on the regional landscape and unapologetically give priority to local industry in our procurement decisions both as the private and the public sector. The ESP is meant to stimulate the Botswana economy and it is therefore critical to consider at all times once the programme is in place that we can only achieve success by supporting and prioritising local support. Emphasis is on local procurement efforts and this must be understood across the board.
We expect to see benefits across the various economic sectors at a vertical level where the growth of the construction sector for instance is directly linked to the growth of the manufacturing sector through efficient local procurement policies and structures. The Economic Diversification Drive is well placed to ensure that this is monitored and achieved. One of the challenges in implementing local preference schemes is the reaction and practical adherence to these directives and policies by regulatory authorities and Government institutions. Institutions must be willing to do what is necessary and required in order to support local preference programmes.
BEMA had already begun a dialogue with various Government institutions on the importance of effective local preference mechanisms. We have engaged and continue to work hand-in-hand with the PPADB, MTI (EDD), BITC and BOBS amongst others. Furthermore, we have established a relationship with the Botswana Chamber of Mines to find practical ways that will enable the private sector to supply the mines with local products and services.
In conclusion, we are optimistic about the ESP and its potential to enable the private sector to grow exponentially. We are excited and encouraged by the opportunities that lie ahead and our members are geared and ready to deliver quality products and services to the nation. One of the greatest opportunities for growth lie in export development and this is one of BEMA’s key focal areas beyond satisfying the local market.