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Parastatals urged to appoint competent Board members

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Botswana Accountancy Oversight Authority (BAOA) Chief Executive Officer, Duncan Majinda, says Board members who do not have the right skills and balance result in a poor Board that lacks experience to take parastatals to another level.

Majinda expressed this on Monday this week, when speaking at the Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) seminar, meant to foster the participation and collaboration between various stakeholders and promote Corporate Governance. He said parastatals should take the private sector route in order to be productive.

He worries that parastatals take an organisation with lots of ex-officio members, and do not consider whether people have the right skills to run the corporation. Majinda says the private sector have the nomination board that looks at the skills required and make decisions on the right people for the board, in contrast to parastatals, which do not have nomination boards because they are determined by the ministries.

“The other problem is advertising board positions which in most cases the relevant people do not apply, and from ministry the cabinet decides on the Board and this is where we miss it,” he says adding that compared with private sector there is a gap in parastatals. Majinda cited that Board fees are also a challenge with parastatals. “The Board fees for the private sector are huge.

They are paid about P10, 000 a meeting, but for parastatals the Board fees are so low. As a result good Board with skills would not want to go to parastatals unless they want to volunteer. They will go to the private sector which pays a lot,” says Majinda.

He says that parastatals also do not do well with Board evaluations, they are done because they are required to do them. They don’t use them for the purpose for which they are meant. “Evaluations for the board and to look at the individual member’s contributions and see how effective they are then decide whether their term should be renewed is crucial; but parastatals do not do that.

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Botswana Railways hit by fuel theft

The MidweekSun Admin

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Botswana Railways CEO, Louis Makwinja

Botswana Railways lost fuel business due to continuous incidents of stolen fuel from the tanks and delays mainly at Mafikeng, in the north Western side of South Africa.

Botswana Railways Chief Executive Officer Leonard Makwinja said, during 2017/2018, their biggest failure was in this area. “Our biggest failure in this aspect was on imports, transporting of fuel from South Africa proved to be a challenge.

There have been incidents of fuel loss on tankers, sometimes a delay in Mafikeng when trains changed and when it arrives in Botswana the tank would be half empty, “said Makwinja. He said this was worsened by allegations that road transportation was cheaper. Currently, they have employed a fuel consultant to look into the whole fuel transportation. “We believe a solution will be found soon.”

The BR Chief explained they heavily rely on the relationship with Transnet to successfully execute its freight mandate. Most of the imports through rail come from South Africa and the main export through rail which is salt and soda ash is transported from Botash to Mafikeng. “Going onwards we have to depend on Transnet for connections to the respective destinations. Our strategic plan going forward is to improve our services to the oil companies so that we are more reliable, timely and profitable.”

During the period, Makwinja said they had to focus on cost containment. The main cost drivers are staff cost, fuel and maintenance of the locomotives. In his statement on Botswana Railways 2018 annual report, Makwinja said the organization’s performance was subdued due to lack of capacity to meet the demand. “In terms of tonnage, our target was 2 million tons but we only achieved 1, 5 million tons. This adverse variance can be attributed to a number of factors including lack of sufficient locomotives and practicing conservative business initiatives and marketing,” he said.

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Calls to improve crop yields with technology

Keikantse Lesemela

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Greenhouse Technologies managing director, Amanda Masire has urged entrepreneurs to venture into agriculture as it is a lucrative business and more beneficial to the national economic development, despite climate change challenges.

Speaking to Business Trends, Masire said there is a need for more training and knowledge on modern agriculture technologies for the country to have sustainable food production. “I am passionate about agriculture and food production. I want to help my country to produce food for itself and reduce dependency on imports. I have learnt that despite all the challenges of climate change, we can still produce our own food through the use of modern technologies,” said Masire.

Masire is an agri-business developer, specializing in horticulture, beekeeping and fish farming. She currently operates Greenhouse Farmers Academy offering training and mentorship on horticulture farming. “Agriculture is the most lucrative business that young people should be looking into. Currently, we depend much on South Africa. We should rise up and develop the sector because as Batswana we have rich land that we are not utilising.” Her services include horticulture starter kit, which includes business plans, lessons, fertilisers and all equipments necessary for a particular horticulture project.

She is currently working with the Ministry of Agriculture Development and Food Security to develop the ISPAAD Program. She said government would embrace modern farming technologies to improve food production. “Most Batswana have lands which they are currently not ploughing because of climate change conditions while the government gives out fertilizers and seeds every year to subsistence farmers yet there is no yield. I have come up with solutions, which include testing soil and supplying lime treatment to reduce acidity. This will help improve crop yield when adopted with other technologies,” she said.

Speaking during Stanbic Lionness Lean In Africa, Masire said with the challenges in the agriculture sector, Batswana should stop looking much into the problems and getting discouraged but should rather think of solutions. “Government is trying but we individuals also need to be innovative and assist government in improving food security. Young people should take opportunity of the agri-business market and reduce unemployment,” said Masire.

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