The Vice President, Lt Gen Mompati Merafhe addressed the media on 4 May 2010, on Government’s poverty eradication drive, noting that “this goal is not only morally right, it is also pivotal for growing the economy and ensuring the future of Botswana is viable and sustainable.” Poverty eradication is one of the government flagship programmes that were identified by His Excellency the President in his 2009 inaugural address.
Government’s objective is to assist the destitute to graduate to sustainable livelihoods within the shortest time frame. Those in sustainable livelihoods will be assisted to graduate into mainstream economy and wealth creation. Government programmes will be continuously reviewed to ensure that they are aligned to the goal of eradication of poverty. New programmes will be rolled out to ensure that a robust framework is in place to lead to poverty eradication and diversification of the economy. To date Botswana has done relatively well in the alleviation of poverty. Statistics show that over the years poverty has reduced significantly from 59% in 1985/86 to 46% in 2002/03. Indications are that the rate declined further to an estimated 23% in 2009.
These statistics do not however take into consideration the numerous social interventions the Government has taken to protect its citizens. These interventions include relatively free education and health services; provision of food at schools; programmes for orphans and the destitute; rehabilitation of people with disabilities; subsidised SHHA scheme; and a variety of subsidies for the agricultural sector.
Amongst other interventions, ISPAAD, was developed to contribute to the country’s food security whilst at the same time helping Batswana to have sustainable livelihoods. The youth have been specifically targeted to participate in Government’s programmes as Government views them as the future and hence empowering them will ensure that they perform exceptionally in the future.
Furthermore, the six hubs have been established to provide a platform in the Government drive to diversify the economy; these are the agriculture, education, health, innovation, diamond and transport. Government together with its development partners will invest billions in the hub projects over the coming years, and the hubs will provide opportunities for entrepreneurs and employment for Batswana.
The hubs will also require individuals with highly specialised skills during their rollout and operation; hence, Batswana should gear themselves for the opportunities that would be provided.
With regard to infrastructural readiness, significant strides have been made by Government to ensure that quality infrastructure is presented as an enabler for sustainable development.
Past experience has shown that Botswana had been successful in economic diversification initiatives, i.e. Oodi weavers, Kora arts, Gantsi craft, Shakawe baskets, Lobatse teddy bears, and Botswana baskets which were sold at the famous Harrods stores in the 1980’s.They collapsed because there was no sustainability factor built into them, thus Government intends to ensure that viable and sustainable enterprises are built based on value chains.
The current success of Thamaga Pottery shows that government interventions have a positive impact. Thamaga Pottery recently executed an order of about P450 000 for Botswana Police Services following a directive of Government for the Ministries and Departments to by craft and pottery from locals. Based on the products on display at the just ended trade fair for SMMEs, it is clear that Batswana can produce goods that can penetrate the global markets; what they need are innovative interventions by Government and its development partners to assist.
Government will ensure that the directives aimed at using Botswana’s purchasing power to diversify the economy are implemented through effective tracking. Geographical profiling of poverty will be mapped and tracked regularly to measure impact of interventions and programmes, and Members of Parliament and Councillors will be engaged in the development of, and participation in the use of, monitoring tools.
Alcoholism, the spread of HIV and mindset remain major challenges to poverty eradication, and it is only through true partnership as citizens that we can achieve the goal of poverty eradication and diversification of the economy, hence the concept ‘people centred development’. ‘People Centred’ development is about motivating the individual to have the desire to take part and contribute to their own personal development and that of their country. It is about the genuine empowerment of every Motswana. It is efficacy at its best.