SPTC works on making Phikwe ‘BCL-proof’

Thinking ahead: Modimana says reworking the business ecosystem will help the town’s recovery PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
Thinking ahead: Modimana says reworking the business ecosystem will help the town’s recovery PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES

SELEBI PHIKWE: Amidst hopes of an economic recovery in Selebi-Phikwe, the town council is stepping up efforts to rebuild the local economy into a healthy and diversified one.

It has been five years since the BCL Group was placed under provisional liquidation by the High Court due to its non-profitability, rendering thousands of workers jobless in the process.

The BCL Group operated BCL Mine in Selebi-Phikwe and Tati Nickel Mining Company (TNMC) in Francistown. The economic prosperity of Selebi-Phikwe to a larger extent hinged on the operation of the mine. This week the town mayor, Lucas Modimana told Mmegi that the council’s priorities for the economic recovery of Selebi-Phikwe are both short and long-term and will be aimed at ensuring that the town is not entirely reliant on mining activities like in the past. He pointed out that the economic revival strategies feature a detailed intervention plan that sets out the key projects and programmes. “We want to build a resilient economy that will not only be anchored by the mine, which is anticipated to open soon.

We have learnt our lessons (from relying on mining activities) from the BCL closure five years ago,” Modimana said. By facilitating the economic revival of the town, Modimana said the council wants to get rid of the perception that its role is only limited to offering safety nets to support the economically disadvantaged or those who have been struggling since the closure of BCL. One of the projects that the Selebi-Phikwe Town Council (SPTC) is spearheading in a bid to contribute to the revival of the economy of the town is a mushroom production business run by 10 former BCL employees.


Nerve centre: The Selebi Phikwe Town Council headquarters PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
Nerve centre: The Selebi Phikwe Town Council headquarters PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES

The project, which started more than six months ago, was funded to the tune of P90,000 by BCL through the liquidator. The former employees produce mushrooms from four large rooms, with production from each room earning them an estimated P4,000 a month. It is anticipated that sales will rise as there is an intention to scale up production soon. “They supply several supermarkets in the Phikwe area with their produce. The project is bankable. Soon the 10 former BCL employees will start capacitating other residents in the town so that they venture into mushroom production,” Modimana said with optimism. BCL, through the liquidator, has also funded a Tswana chicken-rearing project, to the value of P200,000, something which Modimana is positive will turn the town into the biggest producer of organic chickens.

The project has just taken off. The demand for organic chickens has been soaring in recent years. Close to 100 people have been trained by the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources to be part of the chicken rearing programme, the mayor explained. One of the interim measures introduced to cushion the town’s economy from total collapse is the procurement of goods by the council and other government entities from businesses operating in Selebi-Phikwe. “Many jobs have been sustained through direct procurement of goods from businesses in the town. Some council maintenance projects around town are also not given to companies. Former BCL artisans group themselves and are given such tenders to execute them in line with their skills.

The approach is better than giving individual companies the tender, who then pay paltry salaries.” During the interview, Modimana explained that SPTC is also preparing Phikwe businesses and residents to benefit from the citrus farm being developed near the town. Production at the farm is expected to start in 2025, with 800 hectares of citrus and 400 hectares of other fruits and vegetables. The citrus farm and commercial farming, in general, are considered to be among the key initiatives that can help drive the long-term recovery of the town. “We have been working collaboratively with key partners such as the Local Enterprise Authority to capacitate them (residents and businesses) in terms of how they can benefit from the citrus farm. “The farm will, among others, need 80 trucks per day during harvest to take some produce to Durban and Cape Town in South Africa.

It is important for us to help ready residents and businesses to capitalise on opportunities that will be brought by the citrus farm,” he said, adding that the council is also capacitating residents to benefit from the reopening of the mine by PNR Botswana because not all of them will be absorbed for employment. The mayor is deeply worried by farms surrounding Selebi Phikwe that are not utilised. For this reason, he says the council will soon open talks with owners of the unused farms, with a view of encouraging them to lease them to commercial farmers. The government has taken a deliberate step to restrict the importation of some selected vegetable commodities with effect from January 2022.

This will be reviewed seasonally in two-year periodic intervals. Modimana believes that this policy allows Selebi-Phikwe to ramp up and diversify its horticultural produce, which is why he finds it necessary for the council to encourage farmers to lease their unused land to commercial farmers. “We also have 65 industrial plots, which are available to investors at any time. Investors can use the plots to build commercial warehouses or factories. We have been vigorously marketing the plots and we hope that they will find suitors soon,” the mayor added. With the financial support that SPTC gets from the government dwindling, Modimana says the council has since resolved to establish a company, which will be used as an investment vehicle to raise funds for the local authority. The funds raised will ultimately be used for projects meant to boost the economic recovery of the town. “Plans to form the company are underway. We have submitted the documents to CIPA,” he concluded.

Editor's Comment
A step in the right direction

That is indeed a welcome development, especially looking at the fact that the manual way of doing things is slowly disappearing and competency in the use of computers and other digital gadgets has become a must.The simple way of looking at it is just an example that almost all companies have gone completely digital and school leavers will be better placed after leaving school, because they will already be familiar with the use of computers.The...

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