Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) in partnership with SADC Development Finance Resource Centre (SADC DFRC) has this week brought together stakeholders for a two day empowerment training course on the Public Private Partnerships (PPPs).
Through Business Botswana, formerly BOCCIM, the government of Botswana positively embraced the call in establishing PPPs policy framework in 2009. This was anchored and enabled by a fully-fledged coordinating unit within the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.
Business Botswana President, Lekwalo Mosienyane officiating at the opening of the training programme this Wednesday, admitted that, while PPPs are always reflected in different forums as the way to go for Botswana, “very little has been achieved on the ground owing to a number of challenges particularly availability of necessary capacity.” He said this therefore calls for a renewed discussion by relevant parties, to establish interventions required to accelerate the adoption and utilization of PPPs in public infrastructure project delivery in Botswana.
The training programme started on Wednesday and ended on Thursday and it was to establish their benefits to Botswana if well implemented, as well as the opportunity costs that arise out of the prolonged delay in implementation of the policy framework.
Botswana’s pension industry is highly liquid, with funds in excess of P 60billion. The fact that more than 70 percent of these funds are currently invested abroad points to some subdued ability to create investment opportunities for this money to flow back and stimulate the domestic economy.
The creation of such opportunities is enabled by the level of appetite by government to partner public funds with private funds in delivering social and economic public infrastructure projects. With regard to such investments, Mosienyane indicates that, “there is need to establish the level of appetite, but in saying so, I can assure you that the private sector is ready, we just need government to commit to facilitate us.”
On the government’s side, when recently launching the new SADC DFRC head office in Gaborone, Finance Minister, Kenneth Matambo is reported to have indicated that the government is fully committed. Matambo has since indicated that implementation of these PPPs will need technical support from experienced partners such as the SADC DFRC to establish the PPP office. However, all is still not lost, as BITC Chief Executive Officer, Letsebe Sejoe, says at the end of the training programme government and its agencies would have gained an in-depth and technical knowledge of PPPs in order to develop policy frameworks and manage various elements of the projects.
“Participants can understand and apply the PPP concepts they have learned in their respective environments – break the glass ceiling and adopt this instrument,” he said. At a British High Commission sponsored PPPs seminar, earlier this year, the chairperson of UK PPP advisory board, John Davie was of the view that Botswana was not ready for this and that the public still needed to fully understand the PPPs.
PPPs, he said are about better procurement, better strategic planning, public sector reforms as well as sharing of risks between the parties. “The government needs to explain the PPPs policy to the public. It seems like citizens do not understand its benefits but rather see the involvement of the private sector as a profit motive coming in government service delivery. In order for people to back it, it needs to be discussed and understood”. He went on to add that, Botswana needs to implement mechanisms for citizen participation to ensure citizen consultation, transparency and community representation on key decisions.
World Bank studies have shown that infrastructure is responsible for driving more than 50 percent of the improvement in economic growth for the of sub-Saharan Africa region, in recent times. It has been proven that its potential impact on the performance of the regional economy is substantial. Sub-Saharan Africa’s infrastructure development increasingly lags behind those of other developing regions. It has further proved that, Sub-Saharan Africa’s infrastructure services are twice as expensive as elsewhere, reflecting public inefficiencies and possibly lack of economies of scale from the absence of regional integration of projects
Power is by far sub-Saharan Africa’s largest infrastructure challenge, with 30 countries regularly unable to meet domestic demand and facing power shortages. Sub-Saharan Africa’s infrastructure requires an investment of $93 billion a year, and approximately 33 percent of this is for maintenance alone.