The chance that some of these companies could be closing down or forced to slash prices just brings a smile to my face hence my liking for Choppies. Now, BCP Councillor at Kweneng District Council, Banks Ndebele started a debate at council on how Choppies is crippling small businesses owned by Batswana and from it appears councilors from all political divide agreed with him on this. The lesson Choppies must take from this is that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.
I am not anti-competition and I love the idea of mega supermarkets even at the most remote of places in this country. Batswana deserve fresh products at affordable prices; they deserve to shop at places where prices are not ridiculously high simply because one’s little general dealer is the only one open of two near them in a village. As well, managerial expertise is important in running business and those who own general dealers must learn to innovate and grow: if you have been running a small general dealer for the past 20 years and you are failing to grow despite opportunities for growth (if Choppies enters then there is an opportunity for a bigger supermarket) then it is only a law of nature that you die. After all, your business at that size feeds just your own family and impoverishes the rest of the villagers. In that sense, a small general dealer can be a great exploiter of others, a worse exploiter since its products leave the same customers with very little change on them to spend on other things, moreover, the general dealer’s failure to provide a wider range of goods also means customers are limited to a few lines of goods. This is why I still do not pity the Lucky 7 store and others. They simply were not imaginative enough; why did they not come up with better chain stores all these years?
Still, Choppies must learn. And this is the problem with local businesses: they measure success solely on the basis of profits made and tax paid. What they all conveniently forget (not that they will acknowledge this) is that they operate in an environment to which they must contribute more in order to continue to enjoy great goodwill. They forget that within their midst are ‘others’ whom they must take responsibility for. Well, often they will sponsor some charity for an amount that is insignificant to them anyway: absolute hoodwinking of the public into believing business plough back to the communities within which they operate.
In this part of the world, businesses do not realize that corporate social responsibility in its current format is not sustainable: buying wheel chairs for 20 disabled people and get media exposure appears a great way to be seen but does very little. Businesses should have a fair sense of justice and fairness. A sense of fair trading with all involved should be seen in all local companies. An extension of setho/botho if you like should be an element that forms part of a success story in a Botswana business.
I still do not see why someone whose labour leads to high profits must be paid peanuts because they do not have a degree or some other such paper! In my thinking, a person who is responsible for bringing in millions of revenue must be handsomely rewarded regardless of what they do: this is justice. I actually think business people tend to abuse capitalism, capitalism recognizes success, and in capitalists terms factors that bring in the money must be cherished. This also means workers must be cherished. Human greed however always takes over our better sense of judgment.
Now, Choppies at its success rate should also be able to provide housing for most of its employees. A block of flats for the girls who earn 800 per month would go a long way in helping them: let’s face it; if they earn that much, what do they spend on rent, food, transport, clothes and their kids? If a company can afford to provide accommodation so it should do. The mines are a great example of this. Why can’t other companies voluntarily do these things? And in their fail to self regulate, they end up at the mercy of new regimes that are hostile to their trading ways. A new government sometimes comes into power, and it appears a likelihood all in Botswana should gear up for in the next couple of decades, and radicalizes things: companies that knew how to self check and exercise the power they have responsibly often survive better.
Next, Choppies or any other company must never be allowed to trade with itself. When a company produces a good part of what it needs to sell then such a company cut costs but fails to provide linkages for others. This stifles economic activity and this is where much criticism aimed at Choppies is coming from. Choppies must build on the great tradition of buying from local produces-this need not come in the form of legislation. It is something they should voluntarily do as it will buy them more goodwill than sponsoring a soccer tournament will ever do.
Let’s support the growth of Choppies as a local supermarket. At the same time, Choppies must do more for our people. Failure to do this will see Choppies increasingly being targeted for reprisals by politicians. The debate at Kweneng Sub Disctrict Council is a welcome one; one that must extend to other business entities.