What is FDI?

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Our nation is infested with foreigners who are so rich, they can get a million pula a month. When I first heard the word Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), I was excited about people who will empower our nation and give us skills that are unimaginable looking at all the large corporations they owned. The sad part is that most of them were brought into our country under the false pretence of FDI. In Botswana the investment comes from the government into the foreigners; they own all the large corporations and the government gives them all the major tenders.

Companies that are non-citizen owned run industries like tourism, agriculture, mining, manufacturing, education and construction amongst others.  The sad part is that the skills transfer that you would think would emanate from this kind of relationship with ‘expert’ professionals coming into the nation seem not to exist. All that is happening is that the government is funding projects that leave Batswana exploited in all aspects; Batswana are hired at rock bottom wages, no training is given to the local workers, poor return on investment of the government with equally poor results of projects, money poured into projects exits the country and benefits only a hand full of Batswana.

We can look at all of the governments efforts to bring foreign direct investments; it is very funny how it works. They call foreigners, after that they give them money to hire Batswana who do all the work for peanuts while the foreigner gets all the profit. In construction it is guaranteed that the Chinese will get the large projects that have hundreds of millions and billions budgets. The glass factory had a massive cash slash on a fake foreign company, because we are desperate to make foreigners rich in our own land.

In 2006 government took up major projects that were supposed to make our economy shape up to take on 2010 by storm. We are still feeling the ripple shock from hiring Chinese contractors; airports are not in the international condition that we wanted, stadia are falling apart, police stations are falling apart, schools are coming down, Morupule B is failing, BUIST is still not operating. Now if you look at the initial costs of all these projects and the economic impact of the delays and project overrun cost you would wonder, was it worth it to go for foreign constructors?

The government has little or no confidence in Batswana to the extent that most farms or large commercial agricultural land is owned by white farmers. I do not know how true it is that some farms where occupied before independence. Some of the farms were demarcated around the times of the second administration while some farms where taken from Batswana to be given to farmers with expertise. We have farms all over the country  but still  import food. These pieces of lands were converted into farm blocks in parliament and decisions were taken by the leadership to give foreigners preference. After giving away all the land now we have a BMC that is held to ransom by Ghanzi farmers, who want independence to sell their beef to the EU market without the government owned company.

Our tertiary education sector leaves much to be desired, we have Indians running things and can even teach us foreign courses and give us certificates. They hire our neighbours and a few young graduates to lecture to our next generation of leaders. Now tell me why we are pumping money into mediocre tertiary education that cannot even compete with UB standards let alone international standards. In all these institutions combined across the whole country a single faculty at UB has more people with Masters, PhDs and Professors. Students are being taught how to be professionals by lecturers that do not even research and use old methods when the whole world is using new ways to solve problems. It is a shame that the government is looking for quantity and not quality that an institution just needs an agreement with a foreign university for it to have access to the lion’s share of the government’s budget.

The government through its investment arm BDC cannot even make a mining company, at least one local company that could mine the nation’s resources. I do not know why the government keeps saying that we need foreigners’ expertise, while most of these mines are run by Batswana men and women who are able to pioneer the mining industry. We have miners who turn any mine around. Sadly we do not even get all the jobs from our minerals; most of the jobs are lost as we export raw materials. Government is proud that new mines are about to spring up in this country that no Motswana has stake in.

I had hoped that we would have learnt a lesson with diamonds. Botswana has enough money to explore and survey for minerals across the country without any need for a foreign company. All the equipment that is needed the government can buy. All the manpower that is needed the government has. The one thing that lack is the capacity to THINK! For a nation with such a small population and a lot of mineral wealth the government is doing a good job at giving away our money to foreigners. After all these minerals are finished, since the government has went all out to ensure that we have holes all over the country, we will be having no minerals and foreigners will be gone.

Tourism has been exhausted in the media. I think we all know by now that wilderness safari owns half of the Okavango and Chobe area. Most of resorts are owned by foreign owners who like all other capitalists pay Batswana peanuts while they rake in US dollars, pounds and euros. Recently I saw in the media that Choppies and Sefalana where fighting for market dominance. Can I remind the government once again that it is them that reserved the general dealers and bars for Batswana? Almost 99% of all the general dealers across the country have closed down because the government has now decided that the foreign owned food chains should outclass our general dealers. Our money is going to people who get a million a month, making billions in profits and giving their workers less than one thousand.

We have been baptised with this foreign direct investment preaching for a long time that we believe if a Motswana opens a shop next to a Chinese or Indian they sell low quality than these two. I am not xenophobic nor do I hate foreigners making money in our country, I just do not get why the government goes out of  its way to find foreigners to give our money to when we can do the same thing they are doing or even  better. I think it is time this nation took citizen empowerment seriously. It is not going to be a two minute process but government has to have a long term commitment to empower Batswana to take on the world in business. The government has for a long time expressed that local companies (construction and otherwise) do not provide quality, they have to be baptised with the new gospel of empowering Batswana no matter the cost. If our investment arm with all the economic expertise can pour money into a fake Chinese company, they should invest in local business no matter how many times it fails until our companies rise to international standards. All successful businessmen will tell you that your company can fall many times; it is the number of times you rise that will determine your success in the end. I want Citizen Economic Empowerment, CEE.

Kenneth Keeme Nelson