The challenge of increasing Productivity in Botswana
The Bank of Botswana economic briefing delivered by the governor Linah Mohohlo recently added to many of previous negative reports on the state of productivity in the country.
A quick desk top research on Botswana’s productivity shows a past report on the country’s productivity authored by Daniel Kitaw. In this report Kitaw highlighted a number of factors that the country lacked, which as result impeded the efficiency with which the country’s inputs are used to produce and deliver goods and services. Kitaw note in the report that the commitment and active involvement of government, private sector and universities in activities intended to increase productivity, termed as triple helix, is a missing element in Botswana.
“The proper functioning of the linkage includes (i) preparing suitably trained graduates to meet the manpower needs of industry; (ii) practice- and application-oriented training; (iii) “industry attachment” (internship) for students; and (iv) collaboration with industry and development agencies,” highlights the report.
It should be mentioned in that regard that efforts have been evidenced to promote the linkages. For example, government ran the national internship program for almost seven years before it made the decision to discontinue placement of interns in the private sector therefore restricting it to the public sector, parastatals and NGO’s.
The program aimed to address concerns raised by industry that the country’s graduates did not meet its needs. The solution, availed in the form of this program was to present graduates with opportunities to access workplace learning. Government spent about P92 million on the program every year. It was reported that more than 10 000 interns had been placed in various organisations with an estimated 700 companies that absorbed the graduates. It is seemingly clear however that the program failed to impact meaningfully to the skills mismatch that the industry lamented on. It extends the conclusion that the existence of the skills mismatch and unavailability of a solution to address it means that ‘suitably trained graduates to meet the manpower needs of industry’ remains a challenge.
The issue of unsuitable graduates brings the education offered by tertiary institutions into question. It remains incomprehensible that Botswana commits a significant budget to education but derives minimal value from the considerable investment. The Central Bank figures indicated that in comparison to a few countries, Botswana’s percentage share of government spending in Education ranked the highest at 9.6 percent. South Africa, Namibia and Singapore spent 5.2 percent, 8.3 percent and 3 percent respectively. The education provided has often been criticised that ‘Students are poorly equipped in terms of skills and competencies to take up employment and create their own employment opportunities due to lack of relevance of curriculum to real life,’ as was stated in 2009 in the national human resource development strategy.
“After about twenty years (1991–2011), Botswana is still in the awareness stage, an early stage of implementing its productivity improvement program. The awareness stage focused on positive work attitude, teamwork, and recognition for companies and individuals. The measures taken in the awareness stage included but were not limited to education of the public; information dissemination and training; strengthening company identification; promotion of labor-management joint consultation; promotion of productivity in the public sector; and formation of the National Productivity Council (NPC). Awareness alone is not a sufficient condition for productivity improvement,” cites the report by Katiw.
Initiatives by government to tackle the issue of productivity date back to years when Sir Ketumile Masire was President of Botswana. According to the report mentioned above, Botswana benchmarked from the productivity movement of Singapore to establish her productivity development. In addition to establishing the Botswana National Productivity Centre, the Labour Market Observatory (LMO) system was later introduced under the International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s Decent Work country programme for Botswana. The LMO system is designed to link demand and supply for skills in the country in an endeavour to produce the right skills for the economy and to make Batswana, particularly women and, the youth, more employable.
Botswana, as outlined from the national Human Resource Development Strategy envisions that by 2022 it will be universally accepted that the quality, productivity and motivation of its people will be Botswana’s single greatest and most valuable resource. The challenge however remains that the uptake of awareness of productivity into behaviours that promote productivity is not progressing as it is expected.