By Thapediso Gabaisewe
The process of job creation is not necessarily limited to hiring someone in an office, or availing a corporate job post for them. Empowering them for self-employment or creating sustainable business opportunities for them counts as job creation too. So when we set out to create jobs for the youth, we need to remember this fact.
The government has announced its plans to fuel its fleet in private filling stations (according to some local news papers), this move sounds exciting and creates a sense of hope for the unemployed and budding entrepreneurs, but my question is who will benefit more from this development? Our greatest struggle at the moment is unemployment, so it is only right to question how a mere Motswana is going to benefit from the 350 million market share which will be created by this development.
I am not talking about benefitting as petrol attendant, cashier or any other job position since these are just the shorter end of the stick. I am more interested in how could they possibly own the business so that they are able to benefit in the long term as shareholders and other significant positions. Remember that these are people whose earnings do not qualify for loans in financial intuitions and some are just young fellows who do not even own business land rights. If we keep them in the same job position and earnings, are we not fuelling more financial inequalities?
Establishing fuel stations might be a lucrative business to venture into but considering the capital and asset requirements associated with establishing and maintaining it, it is already evident that only a few individuals will benefit from the privatisation initiative. It has been reported that over 60 percent of all fuel stations in Botswana are owned by three or four families. Does this mean that those who are going to benefit most are the rich? Of course and that is why the rich keep getting richer, while the poor get poorer.
The poor get bread crumbs which only enable them to work from hand to mouth, while the rich are availed with opportunities which allow them to expand their territories and grow their empires. Before this privatisation was announced publicly, fuel stations were already mushrooming strategically in every corner of the city. No wonder most people have concluded that a select few knew about the privatisation, even before it was announced to the public. Ironically once all these filling stations were built and set-up, then the policy was announced and approved to favour them.
All these are speculations which people have made regarding the matter, but how one dispute can or argue against the raised concerns when they seem to complete the puzzle so well. Announcing the privatization in the media seems to be just a curtain which was thrown over the public’s eyes to make it seem like a fair and open opportunity for all when indeed it is only reserved for the rich minority. The question is who were these people who knew about this deal before hand and who was the source?
It’s obvious. The source and most probably the owners of the mushroomed filling stations are top officials with a deeper interest in getting this cake, as opposed to making conducive environments for the minority to flourish. Truth is that they are in a better position and stand a greater chance of benefitting from the stake through connections and influencing the policy that will pull the rope to their side.
Considering the fact that a majority of our population is merely living from hand, to mouth can we be more open minded regarding this arrangement of fuelling government fleets in private filling stations. Unemployment is a national issue which can no longer be ignored. Is it not wiser to shift the policy and say with the 350 million market, the government is going to identify unemployed people who graduated from the programs such as Botswana National’s Service, Internship Program, and Graduate Volunteer scheme who have failed to secure permanent jobs . Group them in to tens—if these 10 people come from different families that will mean that ten families have been empowered) as compared to only a few families who own petrol stations. Identify good locations for setting the business. Give it to the unemployed.
Giving someone money or a market such as this does not automatically make them successful entrepreneurs. The youth have been associated with running their businesses to the ground and not using grants for their intended use, but this narrative needs to change. The only way that we can change this narrative is by first training these young people on how to run the filling stations, more like franchises. To ensure that this business runs well, council districts or any organisation can be introduced in this business as shareholders. To ensure that there is proper running and investment of the business. Just to also ensure that government is not duped.
This not an “atlhama ke go jese” scheme, it is shifting the policy to assist the less privilege. It has to be strict how they benefit as shareholders.
Of course it will take some time to identify suitable youth and arrange the business logistics, but why should it be a quick thing to do? This quick return syndrome can be a thorn at times. Most companies with high revenues were not build on a day they took a long time to be where they are. Patience and investment is what we need to do away with this unemployment that we are currently facing.
Mr Gabaisewe is a local author of a book called “The Key to Employment and a Rich African Economy” The book is sold at exclusive books aiport juction and at Botswana book centre main mall. Price: P165. 00