Are foreign owned businesses safe?

I was absolutely flabbergasted when I read in the ‘Voice Money’ section (page 2A) of your February the 9th Edition. The article is titled “Government Reserves More Business Sectors for Locals”.

According to the words of Francistown East M.P. Hon. Buti Billy, the reserved activities and I quote, include: “Hair salons, Car dealers and selling of Import vehicles (commonly known as Fong Kongs), Bars, restaurants, filling stations and Public Transport and Haulage”

The article further quotes: “For those foreigners already in these lines of business, which have now been reserved for Batswana, they will be allowed to trade TILL THE END OF THEIR TRADE LICENCES thereafter they would have to make way for locals”. Wow! You can’t be serious. On other business related article about rentals just visit equipment rentals chicago il.

I would like to question ‘my M.P.’ yes though I live in his constituency, I have not met with him nor have had any official meeting with him since his election to Parliament, I am therefore responding in the media.

This issue raises more questions than answers; for a start, does the existing Trade Act allow you not to renew a licence in a situation such as this, where overnight it is decided to do so.

Is it possible, as far as my limited legal knowledge goes, for a law to be made retroactive? In a situation such as this they complied with then law and were legally granted a licence, now overnight you ‘change’ the law and want to ‘cancel’ their licences.

I may be drawing a wrong conclusion, but experience has shown me that many of the people who make the rules, regulations and laws that govern businesses have little or no practical hands on experience in running a commercial undertaking, hence they make decisions on shall I say, a knee jerk reaction that sends wrong signals to the business community.

This raises the question which business that is owned and run by foreigners is now ‘safe’ in Botswana?

All the South African brand names that have opened country wide here in Botswana will now be in jitters because this has created uncertainty.

I won’t be surprised if some are already considering limiting their Botswana operations and investing and establishing elsewhere.

Through my efforts to get investors into Botswana I have made contacts with many foreign investors.

But regrettably because our actions belie our words they are very suspicious of investing in Botswana because of inconsistencies in the business climate.

Amongst the plethora of problems they raise are the uncertainty of permits and their renewals.

Many business owners when they apply for a new or a renewal of their permits go through an interminable process, in many cases the renewal being rejected; no reason, no questions no answers.

Sometimes the owner gets the permit but his wife’s papers are rejected, and the list goes on and on from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Who will be willing to invest in such a climate where there is such uncertainty and inconsistency? No serious investor would do so.

Mr Hon MP, have you ever run a business, if you have then you will know the challenges of doing business.

Yes you are in a fortunate position where your monthly cheque is paid to your account without fail every month, boom and its there.

Therefore you do not understand the problems of business.

The Ministry tries to encourage foreign investors to come here, they may show an interest in investing here but the first thing they do is to test the investment climate here in Botswana.

They will talk to existing business owners – and I can guarantee you that the negative responses they get about the inconsistencies of doing business from them will change their attitudes towards investing here. That’s the honest truth, face it.

Hon. MP I ask you forthrightly, do you know that business in Francistown is on a serious downward spiral.

Many businesses are considering shutting down and even relocation to the ‘new’ Zimbabwe because with the new Government the investment climate is bound to be more positive.

Francistown has always had a large volume of retail business customers from Zimbabwe doing their shopping here – this is now down to a trickle, ask most businesses.

What is going to happen is that businesses will be shutting down leading to more unemployed people in Francistown.

With the mines having shutdown in our district we rely solely on the retail business sector to drive our economy.

Think about it, most businesses are run and located in your Francistown East constituency and with these actions against business we will have vacant and empty premises, landlords will lose their income, worse still your constituents stand to lose their jobs.

Our beloved Francistown is now inching its way to becoming a ‘ghost’ town with vacant premises, both commercial and residential, and most of all, unemployment on the rise.

Do you really want us to live up to the vile namesake of ‘Ghetto’?

I suggest that you call regular constituency meetings to hear the views of the community because every time I walk through town I am accosted by residents asking what is happening to our beloved city.

Most want me to promote and push for positive changes because they see our city declining into the doldrums.

I can make the above observations with confidence because I have been in ‘public’ life for over 44 years now which included being a councillor for 20 years, 10 years of which as the deputy mayor and 7 years as the Mayor.

I was also the Vice President and then President of BOCCIM (the forerunner of Business Botswana) from 1991 to 2007.

To this day I remain an active promoter of Botswana as an investment destination to the world out there because I have had many opportunities, including accompanying Minsters of Trade and their officials to many conferences (including two WTO conferences) and many other trade delegations that promoted Botswana as an investment destination.

I further suggest that the Hon. MP to call an open meeting with the business community of Francistown to listen to their problems so that he can attempt to allay their uncertainty and fears otherwise this will kill the vibrancy that we had over the years and this will spell the doom for our beloved city.

Francistown was the ‘first town’ in Bechuanaland / Botswana so let us always think and ensure: Francistown remains ‘First.’

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