Gaborone is no longer that little outpost of the 1960s, it is a world class city in its own right.
Gaborone is no longer that little outpost of the 1960s, it is a world class city in its own right.
Truth Well Told (TWT)

Our Diaspora Must Be Incentivised to Help Move Our Economy Forward

Botswana should be made to be as attractive to our diaspora as the rest of the world is to them. We need them here to help us move forward, says Lesang Magang.

By Lesang Magang

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Ours is an age where ICT (Information and Communication Technology) is practically and routinely used to generate, disseminate and receive information. ICT simply is no longer a casual buzzword bordering on the cliché: it is a way of life in that human work, play, and interaction patterns are fundamentally affected by systems for processing and distributing information.

Examples of ICT include software applications and operating systems, web-based information and applications, electronic textbooks, instructional software, email, chat, and distance learning programs and this is just a sneak peek into the full spectrum.

It goes without saying that our lives in the highly digitised world of our day are intertwined with ICT and to a point where millennials may wonder how possible it was for people who came along in bygone eras – the “old guards” in their cynical parlance – to negotiate the labyrinthine terrains of life without cellphones, whatsapp, the Internet, and precious other assistive technologies.

In this piece, I intend to address myself to the centrality of dividend-yielding dissemination of educational or some such crucial piece of information. Has Botswana’s educational system and paradigm lived up to this billing? The Paramountcy of Information Dissemination - Why is information dissemination so critical in every walk of life, in every field of human endeavour?

The reasons abound. They include the need to improve the knowledge base of the target audience so that they can tap into that in the decision-making process; to inculcate, explain or promote a concept, process or principle; to elicit some feedback to input into the ultimate programme of action; to validate a theory or prognosis; and to make it easy for a group of individuals to share knowledge and routes of communication.

In short, information dissemination is about equipping people with the proper tools of analysis; deepening awareness; prompting informed responses; and helping cement the spirit of collaboration.

To what extent is Botswana making this a reality amongst its own people? The Fourth Industrial Revolution The epoch in which we presently are goes by several names, some of which we have hitherto alluded to, such as the Information Age or the Age of Experience. Another is the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). It is from the 41R premise that our modus operandi as a government springs from. One pundit aptly situates 41R in this sequence: “The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanise production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century.” Another pundit couches 4IR in these terms: “Previous industrial revolutions liberated humankind from animal power, made mass production possible and brought digital capabilities to billions of people.

This Fourth Industrial Revolution is, however, fundamentally different. It is characterised by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.” 4IR is a technological revolution which is not so much a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution as the arrival of a fourth, complementing one. In its scale, scope and complexity, 41R will fundamentally, if not phenomenally, alter the way we live, work, and relate with one another. 4IR is not restricted to productive, economic, or commercial processes: its starting place is actually the classroom, from kindergarten all the way to the very pinnacles of academia. Government on 4IR Track 4IR is fairly accentuated in BDP’s 2019 Manifesto. The watchwords in this connection are digital economy and digital strategy geared toward bringing about a palpably knowledge-based society.

Government undertakes to get aboard the E-bandwagon with resoluteness and expedition. It is determined to intensify e-Government, which has not really taken off despite having been long mooted, and make a reality of E-health, E-agriculture, E-business, and the like.

A commitment has been expressed to fund digital entrepreneurs and R&D and to make computer use and Internet utilisation regular and familiar as opposed to being a thing only well-heeled and specially trained people can fiddle with. In a technically sophisticated world where automated processes are now the in-thing, we all should strive to be like South Korea, which is hailed as the most operationally efficient economy on Earth.

The priority is to register great advances toward the near wholesale digitisation of the economy in the next 5 to 10 years, during which Batswana will be trained and re-tooled to enable them rise to the digital occasion and ipso facto help to dramatically transform the economy. In the process, research in relation to robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), nanotechnology, and bio-technology, amongst other things, will be instituted and be escalated to a level where each becomes a byword for our economy.

Government envisages a state of affairs where there will practically be no queue or hustling for anything; instead, every service will be transacted electronically, instantaneously, and therefore efficiently in the grand scheme of things. That may sound a shade utopian, but where there’s a will, there’s always a way.

Let’s Track Our Intellectual Ambassadors Botswana has over the years made great leaps in uplifting its people educationally. We now have four public universities, namely UB and BUIST – the archetypal ones – and Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) and Botswana Open University – the upgraded ones.

Private universities have also sprang up and made their mark, and I am here talking about Limkokwing, Ba Isago, Botho, ABM University College, and Gaborone University College of Law and Professional Studies (GUS). But the question we must pose is this one: are these institutions of professedly superlative education churning up graduates with skills critical to the needs of the Botswana economy? Are people being educated not only to pad up national literacy figures quantitatively but even crucially so qualitatively? To what extent is the mismatch between qualifications and economically central competences?

In Botswana, we continue to have a dire shortage of doctors, chartered accountants, engineers, geologists, physicists, chemists, IT geeks, financial managers, etc., nearly 55 years since the Union Jack was lowered for good. At the high school level, standards are not excellent but neither are they well below par. Batswana pursuing degree studies in Western citadels of learning under the high achievers programme are said to perform phenomenally, with the result that they almost invariably land highly lucrative jobs in these same countries at the expense of their own motherland.

It is a paradox that whilst Government spends gargantuan sums of money to educate some of its gifted citizenry, it’s foreign governments who reap where they did not at all sow and it all boils down to our neglecting to keep tabs on these educational envoys of ours. If Government is to recoup its investment in its people in this connection, it is imperative that OP, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of Higher Education and Skills Development maintain a comprehensive database on the progress, tenure, and whereabouts of the students it has sent abroad. This should include their fixed line and mobile numbers, and email and physical addresses. In countries where Botswana is represented at the diplomatic level, such as China, the US, Britain, Australia, and South Africa, for instance, embassy personnel can be counted upon to ably and meticulously perform such a function.

It is not enough to simply introduce E-books and E-libraries as is the strategic blueprint: we need the requisite expertise from our own people. If we are to develop the electric car and a host of such innovative products, those engineering scientists we sent abroad for training and who have now found a home in those same countries have to be lured back by hook and crook.

Exactly how do we do this? What “buy-back” incentives should we dangle before them? Look at India India has the largest diaspora in the world. There are about 18 million Indians living outside India, with about 4.5 million of these in the US alone; 3.1 million in the United Arab Emirates; and 8 million in the Middle East as a whole.

The US readily recognises and acknowledges Indian entrepreneurship in the country as a fundamental engine of economic growth. In much of the latter half of the 20th century, India experienced a sizeable haemorrhage of highly skilled human resources, more so scientists, engineers, doctors and IT wizards, to the more economically advanced countries. By the turn of the century, however, India was talking about brain gain as opposed to brain drain.

The Indian Government recognised that if its highly experienced sons and daughters with their highly varied skills set were wooed back to their motherland, they would play a pivotal role in its social and economic development through supporting or facilitating knowledge transfer from abroad. Returnees, it was rightly believed, were bearers of newly acquired skills and innovative and entrepreneurial attitudes.

As recently as 2003, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was harping on the importance of enticing his people back to India. “We want your ideas,” he said to an audience of Indian nationals in a prominent foreign country. “We do not want your riches; we want the richness of your experiences.” In reversing the brain drain, India did not do anything magical: all it did was create an environment that was highly conducive to investment and employment and do its utmost to match or approximate the conditions of service obtainable in destination countries. In the event, about 10 percent of expatriate Indians eager to exploit the new growth opportunities already available or emerging in their home country beat a path back home, with cities such as Bengaluru and Hyderabad becoming hubs for skilled returnees.

As I write, India has a huge reservoir of manpower, with a talent surplus projected to hit 1.1 million in financial services; 1.3 million in technology, media, and telecommunications; and 2.44 million in manufacturing in the next 12 years.

Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the United States on the other hand face a talent shortage that will see them collectively lose $1.876 trillion in annual revenues over the same time period.

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