Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic Business Botswana has taken an active role in representing the employers’ community and advocating for the interests of the nearly 19,000 businesses operating in Botswana.
Among its major contributions, it developed a “COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Plan for the Private Sector” with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Botswana.
Released in June 2020, it considers Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to “Build Back Better and become the proactive driving force in creating an economy that is more dynamic, divers, inclusive, ecologically friendly and resilient”. In doing so, the plan foresees a number of transformations, namely:
- A more inclusive private sector, with particular emphasis on the participation of youth and women
- An economy with technology, in particular digital technologies, as its backbone, as part of the fourth industrial revolution
- A diversified economy, with strengthening local value and supply chains
- A greener economy, capitalising on opportunities to recycle and to utilise renewable energy
- A commercially independent agriculture sector capable of self-reliance.
The recovery plan analyses the economic situation pre-Covid and the impact of Covid-19 on the private sector, based on a survey of members of Business Botswana. Overall, companies reported sharp declines in revenue (98%) and significant cashflow problems (81%), with sectors more impacted than others like hotel and restaurants.
It also provides an overview of the Government’s interventions, both on the social and economic plans. Companies made wide use of the wage subsidy, that was intended to avoid retrenchments and keep employees on their payrolls (50% of the basic salary).
The plan presents a series of recommendations, on the short and long run, such as extending the wage subsidy relief scheme or establishing a contributory unemployment insurance fund, whereby both workers and employers contribute, or continue the revision of labour law, to better fit the new reality of work. The latter should deal with reviewing areas that have been sources of discomfort as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic.
It finally presents its five strategic goals:
- “Saving firms and minimising the impacts of COVID-19 on the economy to lay the foundation for a speedy recovery
- A globally competitive high-performance private sector to build a competitive high growth, inclusive, sustainable and resilient economy
- Using Infrastructure and Construction to achieve Transformation and Citizen Economic Empowerment Goals
- Efficiency Enhancing Public Sector Reforms to help fast-trek recovery
- Globally Competitive Human Capital for a Competitive Economy”
A project manager will be responsible of unrolling the implementation phase, guided by a steering Committee consisting of private sector, government, development partners and civil society representatives and supported by a monitoring and evaluation team.
In addition to the policy contribution though the recovery plan, Business Botswana is highly involved in tripartite discussions at the national level and was one of the signatories of the tripartite High-Level Consultative Council public statement in March 2020. The statement dealt with measures aiming at ensuring job security, business continuity and health and safety in the workplace.
However, the High-Level Consultative Council halted its biannual meetings due to gathering restrictions, and Business Botswana is requesting the government to restore this precious forum for dialogue. Mr Normal Moleele, Chief Executive Officer of Business Botswana, commented that “instead of the Council, the different sectors are keeping a direct dialogue with parent ministries to discuss Covid-19 support measures, but this certainly impedes the social partners and the government to have an overview of the economic and social situation. We hope the meetings of the High-Level Consultative Council will be restored as soon as possible”.