Only Batswana Can Save Batswana-Lippe

The decorated corporate executive acknowledges that COVID-19 is a challenge like no other but also sees as a growth opportunity for businesses in the health sector.

The ongoing pandemic has resulted in several disruptions to economic activity and health services and has altered social interactivity across the world. The collective delusions that are resultant include the unending debate on the timing about which one is the right or perfect vaccine to adopt as a country.

While epidemic hysteria is mounting and the mass psychogenic illness is on a rampant, some few thought leaders like the celebrated executive leader who over the years was recognized as the best CEO that Botswana has ever had, MRI Botswana Managing Director Thapelo Lippe, shared his views on economic recovery, current government administration, managing the pandemic, and the country’s economic status.

Speaking of the new challenge of leading a medical institution during a worldwide pandemic, this what Lippe said: “It’s like working in any other company. My purpose is to grow the company. I got into a moving ship and I have to steer it in the right direction.”

While MRI is a pre-hospital Emergency Medical Service (EMS) business, it also offers customised contact centre services to private companies, parastatals and government departments, including a number of healthcare and social service counselling services to the community. These services have greatly given the company a competitive edge to provide prime health services to patients during the COVID-19 lockdowns and curfews.

Delivery of medicines and engaging with patients over the call centre has helped minimise movement and the spread of COVID-19 while customer satisfaction grew. However, for Lippe the storm has just begun and captain is confident because he has shored cyclones before. He was the CEO instrumental in the revolutionary growth path that implemented the privatisation to listing the stocks of Botswana Telecommunications Corporation.

He believes this is a good challenge that he faces, especially for medical institutions because this is the most important time for them to prove how capable and effective they are in handling the toughest situations. In Lippe’s view, the government has managed the COVID- 19 pandemic “very well” with steps such the COVID- 19 Relief Fund which played a major role, especially last year.

“This administration has done its best to manage the COVID-19 pandemic,” he told The Botswana Gazette. “Despite being new in office, they used every resource they could. Mind you, most of the services they worked on are very expensive. Our government is guilty only of not blowing its own horn for the good work they have done so far. It’s also in our hands to make the situation better as you can see the government has done its best. We have to abide by the COVID-19 protocols. Let’s stop crowding unnecessarily and stop looking up to the government to make the situation better. It starts with you by doing the right thing.

“Batswana have an amazing consumer purchasing appetite. We have all the latest cars that you can think of in this country. We use the most advanced gadgets and engage in luxury activities. Yet only a few Batswana are property moguls. Where are Batswana in this space? We have buying power but we are using it in the wrong space. We should be focusing on property ownership or setting up private industrial plants that will create employment and wealth for us. The government has provided everything for us. It’s time we stood on our own.”

He holds the view that the government has spoiled Batswana since independence by providing free services like education, health and access to funds that should be used wisely. Lippe argues that the best recovery plan for Batswana is to stop looking to the government for help. “We have opportunities of getting funds from various agencies such as CEDA and LEA,” he said. “We have access to funds that we can use to establish opportunities. We have never had any civil strife. We don’t know what others have experienced. We need more exposure. Batswana have to wake up before we get into an abyss. We do not know how COVID-19 will end things. We all need to have financial backup.”
He disagrees with the popular view that foreigners are given all the opportunities and says the reality is the other way round. The point, he argued, is that foreigners see opportunities that we Batswana do not see. Things would be different if Batswana had a different mindset. Poor implementation is one of the weaknesses that he identified and urged people to see the opportunities surrounding them, to implement them, to fail and to continue until they reach their destination.

Regarding current market issues, Lippe said it was high time markets such as the tourism and hotel industry, which have been relying mostly on international tourists, worked on attracting domestic travel as a means of reviving the sector.

Since his appointment as the MRI Managing Director Lippe has worked on several projects that have grown the medical institution, the latest being the setting up of COVID-19 testing centres in different parts of the country. He is hailed as one of the best CEOs to ever emerge in the country after he led his former paymaster, BTC, to its best-ever performance. He is aware that all eyes are on him to see how he will change the game at MRI and the whole medical industry in the advent of COVID-19. Lippe is a decorated corporate gladiator who finds himself facing what is perhaps his most difficult problem in the relentless COVID-19, a faceless leviathan that has been sinking economies and taking human lives across the world.

“This is a growth opportunity for most medical institutions to prove their worth as we all play a major role in preserving lives at the national and regional levels,” he said at one point.