FRANCISTOWN: For the poor majority of Batswana, citizen economic empowerment is a matter of life or death hence their initial excitement about programmes like the Youth Development Fund, the Financial Assistance Programme (FAP), Kickstart, and Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA).
Besides giving dignity to the people by uplifting them economically, citizen economic empowerment gives them the satisfaction of playing their patriotic duty of participating in the economic development of their country. Many Batswana are however worried that the goals of economic empowerment will remain an empty slogan until all stakeholders, especially the government, take practical steps forward including radical ones such as enacting further regulations to protect Batswana from foreigners as well as chain stores and making sure that the existing laws favouring empowerment are executed to the letter. Buti Billy, councillor and past immediate Francistown mayor, opines that while it is important to go out as a country and look for foreign direct investments(FDIs), it is critical to make a paradigm shift and instead of looking outward, we should look inward for the development of our country. The citizens themselves should be supported to develop their own country. For their part, Happy Moipolai and Ndapiwa Mothetho observe that no business of substance in Francistown belong to Batswana. The problem with Batswana with respect to business, according to the two women, is lack of skills in business management. They would be happy if the school curriculum could include business studies right from primary school to promote a culture of business among Batswana. The fact that some young Batswana entrepreneurs use business money to lead extravagant
Public Relations Officer for the Francistown City Council, Priscilla Gulubane, says while takeaways are reserved for Batswana, the truth is that the majority of the restaurants in Francistown, which are run by foreigners, also operate illegally as takeaways. Some Batswana sell their licences to foreigners to run business reserved for Batswana. Quizzed about this, the PRO disclosed that council makes monthly inspections and that action is taken against those found flouting the law. Nor can we go very far if those mandated to actualise this noble agenda are possessed by greed, jealousy, ignorance and pettiness.
Those in government department mandated to spearhead the empowerment agenda should be trained to serve diligently and with etiquette and honesty. Allegations that too many government officials at CEDA steal customers' business plans for their own use or for the use of their relatives or even for sale, are most frightening, to say the least. Equally unsettling are the allegations that these officials receive bribes for them to process the application forms.
The officials should also be committed and free from jealousy and any form of complex. A young Motswana professional caterer who had been looking for a place to run a restaurant finally located a disused and somewhat dilapidated building. After obtaining permission from the owner, he says, he involved council.