The private sector has long been recognised as a driver of economic growth in policy statements and documents from governments in the region. In some instances this is where the level of engagement stops. Businesses are expected to largely fend for themselves while paying taxes and adhering to the rules and regulations put in place by governments. Most Southern African countries have progressed beyond this to a level where there is a structured set of interactions between the state and private sector organisations on policy issues of mutual interest. These have been more or less successful in each country depending on a range of factors, including the support from government leaders of the process and the capacity of business associations to ensure that the platforms provided are used to best effect on behalf of their members.
Botswana has shown itself to be one country that has real commitment to the development of its private sector and to ensuring that there is an environment that is supportive of business. In 2013 the Private Sector Development Programme was launched under the leadership of Business Botswana (then the Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower or BOCCIM) and the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), with support from the European Union and the Brussels-based Centre for Development and Enterprise. Significant work had already been done in the preparation of the Private Sector Development Strategy, which proceeds on the premise that Botswana urgently needs to diversify its economy away from reliance on primary produce processing, into higher value added manufacturing and tertiary sectors.
The challenges in this regard have been acknowledged by the Botswana government, which in response has initiated a high level, comprehensive, policy reform process. This includes the cluster development process, which draws its inspiration from the Porter report of 2012 and is being coordinated by the National Strategy Office, and within this the Doing Business Project, led by the MTI with strong support from the World Bank.
These initiatives combined present an ambitious programme to improve the business environment in Botswana across a range of different areas for both domestic firms and foreign investors. The keys to success will be in the provision of leadership at the highest political level; the ongoing cooperation between the government and non-state actors, especially the private sector; and enhanced coordination among the many actors who are already pursing complementary projects, such as the implementation of a single window for companies registration and the move to a fully electronic land register.
Tutwa Consulting was asked to assist in the design of a series of interventions towards implementation of the Private Sector Development Strategy during the first half of this year. The focus of our research was on four priority areas:
- Registration and tax compliance costs.
- Foreign investment support.
- Labour laws and productivity.
- Import and export procedures.
We looked at these issues through the lens of the challenges currently faced by businesses in Botswana, particularly small, medium and micro enterprises. Our recommendations were aimed at strengthening the capacity of the private sector and its representative organisations to advocate for improvements in all of the priority areas as well as on a number of cross-cutting issues.
Our recommendations included the following:
- Research and the development of policy positions for consideration by Business Botswana and its members on selected issues, such as revision of the National Trade Policy and labour laws as well as the anticipated new legislation on investment.
- Support to private sector organisations and development partners for awareness building among the business community on changes in the regulatory environment. This could involve planning workshops and development of written information for distribution and publication, in consultation with the implementing partners.
- Facilitation of a dialogue between Business Botswana and the BNPC on the provision of productivity services for the private sector.
- Design and support of a pilot mechanism to resolve a key non-tariff barrier with a trade partner in the region.
The Private Sector Development Programme and the Doing Business Project present Botswana with an opportunity to pursue sustainable initiatives that could have a long-lasting impact on the economic opportunities provided in that country. The activities designed encourage the greater flow of information among all stakeholders and reinforce the necessity for effective platforms of engagement between the state and business.