President of Botswana Confederation of Commerce Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM), Lekwalo Mosienyane, has said there is need to create an enabling business environment in the country if the private sector is to create jobs and for entrepreneurs to invest their capital in the country. Mosienyane was speaking at the High Level Consultative Council (HLCC) meeting chaired by President Ian Khama at the Gaborone International Convention Center last week.Though he applauded what he said is a healthy financial position of the country, he said BOCCIM remains cognisant of the challenges at the heart of local enterprise’s competitiveness. “The issues of work and residence permits, water and electricity still haunt many businesses and casts uncertainty on shareholders’ expected return on investment. Recently, BOCCIM conducted a survey on work and resident permits, with input from the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs. This report will assist in our engagement with relevant authorities to come to common ground on the issues,” he said.He further said “Until businesses are assured that their operations will not be disrupted by water, electricity and even skills shortage, many investors will not commit or risk their capital investing in our country. Recent closures of some of the business operations here as well as curtailed expansion plans should tell us a lot as to where we are heading as an economy. Our focus today should be on how to turn around this turn of events.”
Mosienyane said the relocation of diamond aggregation and sales from London to Gaborone and the subsequent establishment of the cutting and polishing plants in Botswana brought a lot of excitement in the country, and that any structural problems that could be undermining the economic viability of this sector should be addressed swiftly. He expressed concern that the sector lost one plant resulting in about 300 job losses.
The BOCCIM President reminded the delegation that at the Maun National Business Conference they discussed the idea of sending Batswana to work in cutting and polishing plants in other parts of the world “and thereby learn from the best and brightest.” He advised that there is need to tap funding from the training levy and pursue this path with vigour.
President Khama highlighted that Government continues to work on improving the doing business climate in the country. With regards to work and residence permits, he said he has repeatedly advised the HLCC that if there are delays in the issuance of requisite work and residence permits, the private sector should approach the relevant line Ministries who understand the nature of their business operations to advocate their cases with the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs to speed up the issuance of permits. “Those who possess skills that can add value to our economy are certainly welcome,” he said.
“Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) includes the attraction of skills that are scarce in this country. The role of FDI will remain critical in all sectors in view of among others, job creation and the transfer of intellectual capital. We therefore need to ensure that Botswana becomes one of the top destinations in Africa for global investors, particularly taking advantage of the Baseline Profitability Index which ranked Botswana the best destination in the world for foreign investors in May 2014,” Khama said.