Failure by the Francistown investors to attend events has cast doubts on their commitment to the development of the city in which they are doing business. For instance, when only a few of them showed up at a meeting called by the mayor, Sylvia Muzila recently, she could not hide her disappointment. Two weeks later, an official of the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) told this publication before a stakeholders meeting in Francistown, that the local business community was apathetic regarding meetings.
But a business pioneer in Francistown who ran a cinema for several years before going into the property sector defended the business community. “I have never ever been invited to any business meeting by either the Francistown City Council (FCC) or Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC). I have always held the development of Francistown as a priority,” said former mayor of Francistown, Iqbal Ebrahim who has also served as president of Botswana Confederation of Commerce and Industry (BOCCIM) which now trades as Business Botswana.Likewise, Austin Mbakile, who runs numerous businesses in Francistown, is emphatic that he has never been invited to a meeting by the local authority. “Ask those who claim to have invited me to state the forum they used to reach me,” said Mbakile.
Another long-time businessman in the retail business in Francistown, Muhammed Imtiaz Ali, often reads about meetings in the papers concerning the business community when the meetings have long passed. “I never get invited to meetings by the Francistown City Council,” explained Ali.Executive Director of BITC, Reginald Selelo, said that his company relies on advertisements and invitation letters to invite stakeholders in the business community to meetings. He was however baffled that some key business people in Francistown say they never receive invitations from BITC. “Perhaps we should cross-check our list of contact numbers and addresses for the Francistown businessmen and women. We certainly need to do more in terms of looking at other ways to reach more people,” said Selelo.
Muzila expressed hope that her council and the local business community will find each other for the benefit of Francistown. “I am new in this office but the feedback I got from the captains of industry here is that FCC never invited them to any meetings in the past. We intend to work with them more closely going forward. The challenge now is to identify a more inclusive and reliable way of communicating with them. Some of the things we intend to do as FCC in terms of development can actually be done better by the business community itself,” said Muzila.