The lack of pro-activeness and timely implementation of policies in Africa holds back the development of its economy.
Former president of Botswana Festus Mogae made these remarks in an interview with The Villager during his two-day visit in the capital last week.
African countries, he said, have the tendency to meet during summits and make decisions over its development, alright. However, the moment they go back to their countries, they relax “as if development will take care of itself”.
Decisions and drafted policies need to be implemented and monitored for progress to reach the set goals, he said. “Most importantly, political commitments and of the leaders have a big role in the matter.”
As such, Mogae stressed on African economies being much stronger against the big western powers united, only if they take seriously co-operation and unity in their business operations going forward. Otherwise, fighting as loners make each country weaker, considering the various resources within the continent and often sought-after by western countries.
Narrowing it to Namibia and Botswana, Mogae highlighted the histories of both countries and their similarities in various aspects, such as culture, language, geographical positions, economies and small populations, which through dual co-operation, would foster business growth.
Although both countries have rather stable economies and record respectable annual growths of about 4%, all is not well and certain aspects such as unemployment, education and healthcare are becoming worrisome issues.
According to the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA)’s recent labour force survey, the unemployment rate has risen from 27.4 to 29.6%. This is an increase NSA’s statistician-general, John Steytler, attributed to the drought that ravaged Namibia in 2013. The drought, Steytler said, had severe direct and indirect economic implications, with global economic fragility and knock-on effect on Namibia.
The education sector might still need to be restructured to effectively respond to job-creation, as youth unemployment gets out of hand in both countries, Mogae stressed. In this sector, he suggested, it is necessary to encourage the movements of students and educators from both countries in the different educational institutions.
“Studying in different countries allows students to undergo different experiences, which prepare them for further ventures. That also goes for educators; it is understandable that each country wants to keep its maximum local educators but there is no harm in having a mixed set of educators and students as it enriches the country’s set of skills and capabilities,” Mogae said.
Tourism is another sector that can benefit from the movement of people, as Swakopmund, Mogae noted, has slowly become a favourite destination of the Bastwana people.
On shared visions and interests, he pointed out the critical shortage of electricity both countries face as one of the dilemmas that are better dealt with together in joint projects, such as putting up a power station, which would be easier erected if both counties joined funds.
However, he added, such issues cannot be dealt with overnight, as there is rather a need to set up short and long-term solutions and investment is key in most cases.
“Setting up joint projects would allow both countries to share the funds, which are most of the time pretty scarce. Thereafter, applying for loans from World Bank would be much easier if forces are joined, to finalise the payment of such projects,” Mogae suggested, further emphasising the need for more collaboration on certain projects, such as the Kalahari Railway, which both countries signed a bilateral agreement on last month.
Kalahari Railway will be a 1500km-long railway line. It will connect Botswana and Namibia’s Atlantic coast through the vast semi-arid, sandy savannah of the Kalahari Desert from Botswana to Namibia. With the benefit of connecting land-locked Botswana to Namibia’s Port of Walvis Bay, the railway will unlock the value of coal mining and power generation in the region. The project, which is expected to cost N$100b, would open doors to more opportunities within the Sadc region and the African continent at large.
As a parting shot, Mogae said constant negotiations, as well as monitoring of big joint projects would be key elements in the finalisation of the project, for anticipated country-to-country economic growth.