Q: Firstly, I would like to congratulate you on your recent election as president of the OACPS Business Forum. How did this come about?
A: The Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), formerly known as the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, is an organisation created by the Georgetown Agreement in 1975. It is composed of 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific States with all of them, save Cuba, signatories to the Cotonou Agreement, also known as the ACP-EC Partnership Agreement, which binds them to the European Union. There are 48 countries from sub-Saharan Africa, 16 from the Caribbean and 15 from the Pacific.
Less than two years since the coming into force of the Revised Georgetown Agreement, which is the Constitutive Act of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, the OACPS Business Forum was officially launched on 21 January 2022 during a meeting organised by the OACPS Secretariat. This meeting also endorsed the 12 candidates (two per region) as initial Board Members of the OACPS Business Forum.
On 9 February 2022, I was elected as President with five Vice Presidents as office bearers. This is such an immense privilege and we are in a unique position to be the voice of the OACPS private sector, particularly the over 50 million registered Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the OACPS.
Q: Tell us about the mandate of the OACPS Business Forum?
A: OACPS leaders have always recognised the crucial socio-economic role played by our private sector, and in particular our micro, small and medium sized enterprises, in fostering the sustainable development of our countries by providing decent jobs, creating wealth, generating government revenue, and driving foreign exchange. However, until today we have been unable to formalise the platform through which OACPS political leaders could engage with the private sector in a constructive manner through an open and inclusive public-private sector dialogue. Finally, the OACPS Business Forum is established.
Our mandate is to promote dialogue and collaboration between OACPS governments, regional integration institutions and the private sector at national, regional and continental levels within and between the six OACPS regions.
We aim to contribute to formulation and implementation of private sector development policies, among others, in the areas of value chain development, enterprise financing, policy/investment climate reforms and regional investment, trade, access to finance and industrial policy harmonisation.
Our mandate is also to promote knowledge sharing and information dissemination on private sector development issues, including exchange of best practices between and within the six OACPS region.
Q: What does your role as Chairperson of the OACPS Business Forum entail?
A: As the newly elected President of the OACPS Business Forum, the responsibility for the successful development and operations of this new organ rests on our shoulders. We recognise the need for the private sector to demonstrate that the creation of wealth is only sustainable if there are long-term responsible approaches to prosperity.
Q: How do you intend to use your new role to help BEMA develop a stronger manufacturing and export industry in Botswana?
The Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association exists to serve the needs of manufacturers and exporting business in Botswana. We aim or continue to find better ways of enhancing the sector, keeping in mind the potential and value addition contribution it harbours. A platform such as the OACPS Business Forum create a chance to interact with six regions and 79 countries. One can only imagine the level of expertise at this platform. As an organisation, we intend to explore best practices that other representatives from their respective countries have put in place in order to better serve their sector, considering the fact that there are many success stories in their nations. It would also be opportune to explore opportunities for our members as well as the sector at large, exploring areas or subsectors that Botswana entities can leverage or collaborate on, with the other regions in terms of value chains, joint ventures, partnering and so on. We see the OACPS as a key platform to learn and implement from while serving our role effectively
Q: Can you tell us about the state of the manufacturing and xxport industry in Botswana and its position as compared to the rest of Africa?
A: Botswana currently has a population of 2.3 million and therefore has a small but growing manufacturing sector. The country is dominated largely by the minerals sector which has the largest share of GDP, accompanied by agriculture and tourism. There are efforts to ensure diversification, considering the fact that employment levels in the country would rise if new factories are established or currently existing entities are given support. The economic goals of the country are to ensure that manufacturing attains a sizable contribution to GDP and is well positioned to leverage on the existing international trade agreements
Q: What projects and programmes will you be involved in as the chair of the OACPS Business Forum?
A: The OACPS Business Forum Board is working towards organising its first Business Summit to feed into the private sector recommendations at the OACPS Summit of Heads of State and Government (gathering of policymakers) in December 2022 in Angola. We are currently in discussions to create specific working committees to address urgent areas of concern and priorities, particularly women empowerment, which is a passion of mine. It is still early days, and we shall keep the media abreast of our initiatives.