In recognition of the impact brought about by the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) on the economic landscape globally, and narrowing the negative effects down to Botswana, also taking into consideration the efforts by the local organizations to resuscitate the economy; Business Botswana has come up with a plan to resurrect the slowly dying economy.
Formed in 1971, Business Botswana (BB) is a private sector organization functioning as a chamber of commerce, employer organization, and business representative body. Its mission is to serve as the unified voice of businesses, to enhance the business environment and build the vitality and competitiveness of private sector in Botswana. The membership of the organization caters for all businesses, starting from Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) to large/macro enterprises.
The proposed mitigations which are currently being executed and some soon to be implemented include the following;
Opening of non-essential services businesses in phases: businesses including restaurants, shops, bottle stores to operate at restricted times. Businesses which can operate from home to continue with that kind of arrangement.
Government to enforce local procurement: Government to encourage it’s sectors like parastatals, local government offices, and other governmental entities to try as much as possible to support local businesses so that they can get back on their feet.
Opening of schools to be phased: Schools to be opened for few hours per day for classroom learning only. No sporting or extra-curricular activities or assemblies.
Establishment of Economic recovery & stimulus package subcommittees: Subcommittees that will encompass of all relevant stakeholders like BB, economic experts, creative arts, informal sector, world bank etc. to be formed. The subcommittees will report to the COVID-19 presidential task team. The mandate of the subcommittees will be to draw a detailed recovery and long term recovery plan and robust stimulus packages.
SECTOR BASED PROPOSALS
Design consultants: Consultants to continue being awarded new projects that could be prioritized in the short term. Working in shifts to be implemented, this is to cater for proper social distancing, while some, where possible will work from home. There would be usage of technological means like virtual meetings, sending of information digitally, sharing design stages and reports digitally, preparation invoices and payments electronically. Visits to sites for progress valuations to be limited.
Contractors: Bearing in mind that they employ multitudes of workers, the proposal suggests that all existing work resume except those that had been recommended for termination prior COVID-19. However minimum personnel should be engaged, handling of material on site should be coordinated- COVID-19 health measures be observed and Occupational Health, Safety & Environment officers should be employed as a matter of necessity. Where applicable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be used.
Creative arts & Media: The creative and arts sector industry body to be formed. This body will promote and appropriately fund the arts and creative and its advancement in Botswana. The board will cover for performing arts, virtual arts, literature and books.
Leveraging Public Private Community Partnerships (PPCPs) to grow Arts and Culture into social enterprises and turn Gaborone into a creative capital. This modernization has the effects of introducing new technologies with an economic role including the fully technology-based arts of film, recorded music, television, radio and electronic publishing. Any growth of the creative industries in Botswana will have to articulate both of these systems and design a careful synergy between them that compromise neither Botswana’s tradition nor its modernity. Through this Botswana can be turned into a Global Gateway into SADC and SADC’s Gateway into the world.
BB proposes taxation of foreign OTTs (Facebook, Apple, Google, YouTube and LinkedIn etc.) this revenue would be used to fund local content production, broadcast media, film, sport, arts and culture development.
In addition, BB suggests that creative industries, just like education, sports, and charity should be exempted or given a break from paying income tax as they have been hardly hit. Furthermore, Legal Aid Botswana should offer free legal services or contract templates for artists.
BB is of the view that a coherent strategy and government support funding should be set up to revive the fashion design, textiles and clothing sub sector in Botswana. Also, there should be investment in cultural fashion events to promote culture through cultural garments and accessories on both local and international platforms such as fashion expose, exhibitions, cultural festivals etc. Furthermore, BB believes there is a need to invest in lifestyle fashion events such as fashion weeks through funding to create employment and exchange of knowledge through cross culture and commerce trade exchange.
There should be a policy and law reform that would ensure deeper and more meaningful use of local products, content and local job creation across all media and the broader economy.
BB further emphasizes that there should system put in place to monitor payments and settlement delays standards, especially on government departments and parastatals.
It is also proposed that in light of the decimation of advertising revenues for Botswana’s news media organizations, there should be temporary measures to cushion news media organizations. The measures involve; giving organizations tax breaks, zero rating of value added tax (VAT) and Ad valorem exercise on newsprint and ink for Newspaper printing purposes, zero rating of inputs for news journalism organizations i.e. software, computers, cameras, recording equipment and accessories. In addition, there should be postponement or waiver of the licensing fees payable by news media organizations to Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) for twenty-four (24) to thirty-six (36) months.
Formulation of legislation to compel digital platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay for the reuse and exploitation of Botswana News from various sources. Government of Botswana should instruct the Competition Authority to do a study and develop a code compelling digital platform to share advertising revenue that is from news related content with the News Media.
Formation of Community radio stations which would enable communities’ freed opportunities to hear of developments and other important issues affecting their lives. Community radio stations will allow for broadcasting in languages other than English and Setswana. The Botswana Broadcasting policy allows for community radio stations; therefore, the Government of Botswana should instruct BOCRA to develop guidelines and run a tender for the establishment of community radio stations as a matter of urgency.