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Businesses urged to embrace diversity in age, gender, and ethnicity

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The International Business Report conducted by Grant Thornton indicates that there is a need for diversity in businesses in age, gender and ethnicity. The report indicates that in Botswana, 58 percent of businesses believe ethnic diversity is important to their success, while 40 percent of businesses in other countries believe ethnicity is important for their growth, and 14 percent are taking action to improve the diversity of their senior teams According to the report, many businesses globally are missing out on opportunities because of a lack of diversity in senior leadership teams. “This means that a business does not necessarily reflect the markets or communities in which they operate, and it could be holding them back,” states the report. About 2 500 business leaders in 35 countries were captured in this report.

“We find that businesses are, for the most part, not ethnically or gender diverse. Age diverse teams are more common, although it is far from the norm to have a senior team member who is under 35 years old” reads the report. Grant Thornton Botswana Partner, Anjaya Suresh said diversity of thought gives businesses a competitive edge, and thus businesses need to embrace diversity in age, gender and ethnicity in their work force especially at senior management level, and look for ways to become inclusive organisations. “A diverse workforce is a reflection of a changing world and marketplace, and organisations should thrive to reflect the markets or communities in which they operate within their business model. There are many challenges in managing a diverse workforce that requires strategic planning beyond simply acknowledging differences in people,” she said.

She said strategic planning involves recognising the value of differences, combating discrimination, and promoting inclusiveness. “It is pleasing to note that African business leaders are at the forefront in acknowledging the importance of diversity, and I encourage local business leaders to grasp the opportunity to promote the growth of businesses and our community at large through diversification,” said Suresh. The report also indicates that in 2017, globally one in four senior roles are now held by women but only 25 percent, parity between men and women at executive level is still a long way off. In terms of age 51 percent majority of businesses think an age diverse team is important, which appears to reflect the composition of senior teams, while Botswana reflects a significantly higher belief in the importance of age diversity at 72 percent. Suresh highlighted that there is still a gap between perceived importance of age diversity and plans to improve it.

“Only 16 percent of businesses globally, and 12 percent of businesses in Botswana are taking action to extend their age range,” she said, adding that 26 percent of senior teams, globally, include an individual who is older than 64 years old, while 24 percent have a senior member who is aged 35 or younger. In Botswana, 10 percent of senior teams include an individual who is older than 64 years old, and 72 percent have a senior member who is aged 35 or younger. She explained that businesses should check for gaps in their perspective and consider expanding the skill set of senior teams by reaching out to different age groups who may bring a different generational perspective to key business issues like digitalisation and automation.

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‘Manufacturing holds key to economic growth’

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Barclays bank’s economist Naledi Madala has urged the country to consider manufacturing, as a key tailwind to drive the economy and reduce inequality.

She was speaking at a gathering organised by the bank which focused on economic outlook for 2019. “We should not make a mistake of leapfrogging without manufacturing,” said Madala, lamenting that the country’s diversification remains a pipeline dream, as the diamond is still the economy’s mainstay. She bemoaned that mining activities in the country could not spring forward diversification, though non-mining GDP has been steady over the years.

“Extractive industries are not good stepping stones for diversification, the sector does not prepare us for the next step,” said Madala at the Barclays’ Economic Outlook Forum Review 2019. The economist further noted that government should confront head-on challenges of productivity and competitiveness to attract the much needed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Though diversification efforts continue to hit a brick wall, Madala said the country should expect increased activities in the mining sector hinged to ramp up in coal production in the year ahead.

She also implored government to consider a welcoming attitude towards foreign investors and generous tax incentives to businesses that set up in the country. Madala is also upbeat that the use of public private partnership model could also help diversify the economy coupled with privitisation. “Privitisation will offer opportunities for growth, through the renewed optimism from government, as business confidence has improved,” said Madala.

She implored the government and the business community to access what is going to drive and hinder growth highlighting that key headwinds to growth are income inequality, diversification challenge and productivity, among others. “The pace of poverty reduction has slowed down, while income inequality goes up,” said Madala

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MINISTER BEWAILS BAD REPAYMENT BY YOUTH

Keikantse Lesemela

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Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tshekedi Khama has told parliament his ministry continues to face challenges on the repayment of Youth Development Fund (YDF) loans.

Recently presenting the budget to Parliament, Khama said this financial year the ministry has received a total of 2582 YDF applications and approved 983of them to the value of P98 million. He said the programme attracts a high level of interest from youth but the ministry is only limited to funding a maximum of 1200 youth projects annually due to budget limitations.

“However the greatest challenge for the Fund is the repayment of the loan component by the majority of the youth businesses. The youth have advanced number of challenges for this including high rentals for operating spaces, low market access owing to tight competition and limited production capacities,” said Tshekedi, adding that they continue to pursue beneficiaries to repay the loans.

Out of the 919 businesses funded 1058 jobs have been created. The minister highlighted that disbursements of funds will continue to be undertaken until the end of the financial year. “The YDF is currently under review in line with the pronouncement made by the President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi in the State of the Nation Address, to improve beneficiaries through training, and encourage consortia and cooperatives,” said Tshekedi.

The ministry assists YDF beneficiaries in marketing their products and services through fairs and exhibitions. The ministry also runs entrepreneurship-training seminars for youth and in the past year 3692 young people were trained. Over 600 youth businesses attended fairs and exhibitions to market their products and services. Currently the ministry is collaborating with Local Enterprise Authority (LEA), First National Bank Botswana and Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) on training in entrepreneurship development and mentorship of YDF beneficiaries.

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