- Experts call on govt to invest in manufacturing
The experts noted that Botswana has a chance of growing its GDP by focusing on developing various industries and escape from the upper-middle income bracket where it has been trapped.
The Chief Trade Negotiator at the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, Phazha Butale noted: “We need industrial development because without it, the country will not be able to attain an export-led economy.” Butale said the past two years have seen the economy contract due to the effects of COVID-19, hence the call for structural reforms by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Peggy Serame. Harsh lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic mean that the country should also move to self-sufficiency in food as other essentials, he added.
Butale noted that Botswana’s failure to industrialise has resulted in it being outward looking in most cases. As an example, the coronavirus pandemic exposed the country to the stark reality that “we could have easily run out of food in six months”. The trade negotiator said this is because Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) did not have enough reserves to sustain the nation beyond for prolonged period of time.
He identified infrastructure development as another way through which Botswana could revitalise its economy. He gave an example of prosperous countries like Singapore that placed infrastructural development at the core of their developmental agenda. Butale noted that when a country industrialises, there is market integration which in turn opens up trade. In simple economic terms, he added, market integration is a scenario whereby different markets for a particular product become one.
He commended the government for its efforts to offer incentives to companies that set up in the Selibe-Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) and Special Economic Zones (SEZs). “There is an opportunity to grow new markets,” Butale said, adding that the Citizen Economic Empowerment (CEE) initiative is also instrumental in unlocking opportunities for growth. Also participating in the seminar, the Regional Manager of Pharma Vision, Samuel Muzonzini, said a manufacturing sector is essential to industrial development.
Muzonzini said Pharma Vision, which is a pharmaceutical company based in Phakalane, manufactures and sells ARVs in Botswana. “Africa is the next big thing when it comes to manufacturing,” he said. In response to a question about the feasibility of manufacturing in Botswana, he replied in the affirmative, saying it leads to economic growth, job creation, affordable drugs and a healthier workforce.
However, he pleaded with banks to offer funding for pharmaceuticals. “It is difficult to get funding from banks but we appreciate FNBB for the role they are playing in the pharmaceutical space,” he said. However, Muzonzini said the scarcity of human capital is an area that needs to addressed by the University of Botswana, which is now training pharmacists. All the expert concurred that Botswana should invest in Research and Development in order to attain its envisaged higher income status economic transformation.