FRANCISTOWN: Residents of Francistown and its outskirts are holding their collective breath ahead of President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s debut address at this year’s address of the biennial National Business Conference (NBC) organised by Business Botswana (BB).
There is a heavy bout of optimism that Masisi’s address and the outcomes of the conference might spark an economic revival of the city that has been on a decline. Official proceedings of the two-day conference start on Monday at Adansonia Hotel.The conference themed ‘Breakthrough a High-Income Botswana - The Role of the Private Sector in Charting the Path’ will bring together senior government officials and business leaders and other influential stakeholders to come up with fresh ideas meant to make local businesses internationally competitive.
Masisi will feature in a session titled ‘His Excellency: A Conversation with the President’, which will be his main address. The session will provide an opportunity for the business sector to hear the President’s thoughts on the growth of business in Botswana.
It is anticipated that during the session, Masisi will also offer an amplified view about how the city’s economy can be revived going forward.
Loss of jobs and population drift has been prevalent since the closure of the Tati Nickel Mining Company (TNMC) in October 2016, just a month after the close of NBC.
Since then, the city has failed to find solutions that can enable it to create a good quality of life and new opportunities for its residents and business owners respectively.
Investors and some residents have been shunning the city, as it is increasingly perceived as unattractive.
The high vacancy rate of some residential and commercial properties around the city, which is estimated to be around 40% as sourced from Willy Kathurima’s Ashan Kunda highlighted that the city’s economy is shrinking.
The recent closure of the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) abattoir in the city has also amplified its economic woes.
“We hope that his (Masisi’s) participation at the conference will offer notable practical benefits in relation to improving the economy of Francistown.
“Masisi as the head of state knows the current economic challenges of Francistown. We
Muzila added this week that she hopes that other deliberations at the conference will offer solutions aimed at addressing the growing loss of jobs and population (to other areas particularly Gaborone) in the city.
“I think the national business conference is the most appropriate platform that can come up with initiatives that can help the economy of Francistown to come out of the doldrums.”
Former Francistown mayor and economic commentator Iqbal Ibrahim also assumed that a lot of positives will come out of Masisi’s address.
“Masisi has been making positive business statements since he took over power. It is not far-fetched for one to assume that something positive might come out of his address with regards to reviving the economy of the city. I hope that his speech will mark a positive start for the revival of the Francistown economy. The economy is on a serious decline and it is easy to tell,” he said.
Key business stakeholders such as BB have in the recent past said that there is renewed hope for economic recovery under the leadership of Masisi.
Trade minister Bogolo Kenewendo will feature at the conference where she will address delegates on Botswana’s road map towards inducing a private sector-led growth through a favourable policy.
Other speakers will include economist, Xavier Furtado who will give a perspective of the World Bank on ‘Building a stronger human capital base that can contribute to Botswana’s economic competitiveness’.
One of the highlights of the event will be a presentation by Professor Catherine Duggan who will share insight as to how Botswana can build its international competitiveness.
Duggan is a professor of Management and Political Economy and vice dean for Strategy and Research at the African Leadership University.