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Why we must industrialise now

Our country has been paraded as one of the countries in Africa which have grown their economies from nothing to something.

However, the advent of Corona has shown us that we are just another poor African country. Nothing exceptional about us. At the drop of a hat, government ran out of ideas and revenue. The first instinct became to tax citizens more and more. As well, it is now proven that the depleting mineral resources and tourism sector can never make us a high income country. The solution then is for us to industrialise today. We cannot create enough jobs and grow this economy well enough by taxing citizens out of their senses as this government is doing.

In similar vein, drawing up an austerity budget as a way of reducing government expenditure with the goal of saving the economy is the same as rubbing chicken pox hoping that it is a remedy: the Minister of Finance must visit a book written by Mark Blyth on the history of a dangerous idea. It has been proven for the previous 55 years and time immemorial that taxes and levies alone, can never raise sufficient capital for the state. The government must push for industrialisation and citizen economic empowerment with prominence given to indigenous black Africans and guard against narrow nationalism. By so doing, we will be affirming the words of Julius Nyerere when he said, “nationalism that is not Pan-Africanistic is dangerous and reactionary”.

At the center of our struggle is the land issue, which you and I must both agree that as the children of Africa we must have equal share and access to the land. We cannot be treated like we are step children in our own home by foreigners. The state must be the custodian of the land; the land is the mines, mineral resources beneath the soil and the food from our farms. With the land, we will be able to setup state owned banks and retail stores which will not be after profit alone for foreign interests but also to service our people. At the moment, we are dying of simple diseases which I believe can be cured easily when our people own and control pharmaceutical companies as they will invest in indigenous herbs and medicines. It is time for African solutions for African problems. We must formulate an African driven industrial policy and our government must dictate the pace, content and form of decisive industrialisation with export capacity with priority being given to the black Africans.

While pursuing the decisive industrialisation, we must jealously protect infant industries through subsidies and any other progressive means to help them compete. Locally, we must reduce our importation bill as we are creating hundreds and thousands of jobs for Europeans while our people remain unemployed and exposed to harsh poverty conditions: All the minerals mined and produced in our country must be processed into finished goods to ensure that sustainable jobs are created. We can sell semi-processed goods to other African countries or even setup factories across the continent, by so doing, we will create jobs for our brothers and sisters. In their current form, special economic zones, collectively are

not capacitated enough: the state must refine and pump money into them so that they can grow and serve their purpose to our people.

No other country has decisively grown its economy without industrialisation except for a few countries that export oil. Majority of the high-income countries have taken the industrialisation route as there is no shortcut to economic transformation. It is about time that Botswana stops being directionless and unscientific when it comes to developing our economy; radical and decisive industrialisation is our ticket to being a world developed country. Great attention must be paid to countries which after World War two, developed into high income economies and those that followed after them. As a nation, we must observe how China has developed over the past years to where it is at the moment.

Decisive action must be taken into formulating a manufacturing policy in full form with export capacity: all these progressive policies must be implemented as they will revive and permanently boost Botswana’s economy. We are talking, permanent and sustainable jobs for our people, the masses. By so doing, there will be a huge cut in our import bill and the millions saved will be injected into capacitating state owned enterprises and factories across the country. The industries must be built in the most rural areas and other places where the multitudes that reside in most of our cities and towns come from as a way of depopulating those areas.

State owned companies must be capacitated in such a way that they will be multinational corporations- China has done the same. Kromberg and Schubert produces electrical wire harness systems for premium cars and this shows that we already have the know-how to build cars as we are already involved in producing their key components. The time is now for us to use borrowed technology and produce cars with the investment and protection from the state. Japan has done the same with Toyota, South Korea with Honda and Hyundai and India with Tata. Not only must we be limited to the building of auto-mobiles, we must also compete in the production of household electronic appliances and gadgets; phones and drones. Our people must be equipped with the skills and knowledge in the field of technology and science so they can be able to compete globally.

Industrialisation will determine our country’s trade, monetary, fiscal and foreign policies: once we do it in the correct way, it will lead us to the long awaited continental integration. The country will appreciate the need for state led and owned energy security: we will use both renewable and non-renewable energy so to stabilise energy supply in our country. These barren policies which are being imposed on us by the capitalists will not develop and stabilise our country as we make reference to the economic development history. We must produce goods and services which are globally consumed. Until then, we shall forever dream of being a high-income country.


*Thabang Thomas Kopelo is the Tonota College of Education Student Representative Council secretary general

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