With this shift to being a more inclusive country, it is important for the business sector at large to view opportunities to provide for, and engage with, this demographic beyond profitability and toward social investment.
As May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), there are some lessons on inclusion worth sharing. While the primary support for the LGBTQ+ community in Botswana has come from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) since the birth of their human rights battles in 1999, much of the funding has come from outside of the country. This lack of local financing further reinforced perceptions that the community was the responsibility of those outside of Botswana. What went unnoticed is the economic impact that this community, much like many marginalised communities, has on matters of national concern.
While statistics from Botswana are not yet known, 2019 research published by Business Insider declared: “The economic cost of homophobia in sub-Saharan Africa could be up to USD 4.9 billion.” This cost unfolds through under-employment, over-representation in unemployment, and social insecurity, among other concerns.
With the global landscape of diversity and inclusion positions proliferating, it is incumbent on non-criminalising countries to fast-track their inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons as a matter of social responsibilities and economic intelligence. The so-called ‘Pink Rand’ in South Africa, a term that not only represents “the spending power of the LGBTI community but their influence across social circles and constructs as both a social grouping and economic segment”, according to The Other Foundation, is the closest regional reference for Botswana.
Their 2015 report valued the Pink Rand “between R53 billion and R204 billion”. Providing context for these statistics, PwC framed it thus: “The big four banks in South Africa recorded profits amounting to R72,3 billion in 2015,” clearly outshone by the potential this demographic has.
The resolution of the contentious relationship between social perceptions of LGBTQ+ people in Botswana and their lived realities has been a point of commentary from former president Festus Mogae and incumbent president Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi. President Masisi’s recent vow to ensure the enjoyment of dignified living for LGBTQ+ people in Botswana should serve as an incentive to the business community. Inclusion assists in countering bottom line losses caused by factors such as mental health, housing instabilities, early loss of life, social ills and lack of motivation that have plagued the LGBTQ+ community.
Knowing that people will spend where they feel comfortable and seen – a lesson evident in the Black business support initiatives by African Americans – it is smarter for Botswana to work toward inclusion than not to. The currency of inclusion, from staffing to service provision, can go a long way toward boosting a business’ bottom line and the fostering of greater national prosperity.