Botswana needs more finance professionals

aat comment

As Botswana celebrates nearly half a century of independence, it is more important than ever for the economy to diversify and develop skills in a greater variety of areas, with financial skills being crucial to sustained success.  

As Botswana celebrated its 49th year of independence last week, financial and political leaders spoke of the need to diversify the economy and reduce Botswana’s dependence on mining.

President Ian Khama said that while inflation had been kept under control, growth had been less than expected and that this was in part due to downturns elsewhere in the world that have had a negative impact on mineral revenues, particularly diamonds, but also commodities such as copper. Meanwhile, Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Vincent Seretse, has called for initiatives that will boost local business and enable the diversification of Botswana’s economy.

According to Allan Ramsay, President of AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians), which – in association with the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) – is Botswana’s leading qualification and professional body for vocational accountants, finance skills will play a key role in driving the diversification of the economy.

“Analysts globally are preparing for a time when Botswana’s economy will rely on greater skills development outside the area of mining, looking to boost local business.”

“If this is to succeed and we are to build a bright economic future, there will be an enormous demand for skills in the field of finance and accounting. It is only through a solid body of qualified finance professionals that growth can truly be supported in all other areas,” Ramsay said.

“One of the reasons that entrepreneurship flounders is because of a lack of financial skills as well as a lack of access to finance.”

Botswana has enjoyed sustained growth in the 49 years of its independence, averaging at about 10% per annum over the first 30 years of independence. At the start of the 21st century, however, growth stagnated until the early 2010s, when the country recovered from the global economic downturn and registered a GDP growth above the 6-7% target.

Deputy CEO of the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) Thapelo Tsheole, told the GSB Business Review that Botswana is well-managed and should take advantage of the opportunities provided by its advantages, including easy investment and having the highest credit rating in Africa.

Nonetheless, the unemployment rate remains high, hovering at around 19 percent. Entrepreneurship rates are also low: the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report notes that Botswana’s youth entrepreneurship rates are the second-lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa. According to the research, one of the reasons that entrepreneurship flounders is because of a lack of financial skills as well as a lack of access to finance.

“The bottom line is, there are two major advantages to gaining financial skills and knowledge.”

“Firstly, an accounting qualification offers an opportunity for people of all ages to gain practical skills that will help progress their careers in finance, as well as supporting the local economy. Secondly, gaining skills in this area will assist entrepreneurs in managing their own businesses and making the most of their earnings in order to gain financial independence,” Ramsay said.

But he said there was still a critical shortage of financial skills in the country. According to a study by the Tertiary Education Council, Botswana has traditionally depended on imported foreign skilled personnel in the technical areas of, among others, medicine, engineering and technology, accounting and business, [and] finance.

“As the Botswana government seeks to move the economy to the next level, it is crucial that it turns this situation around and increases its investment in these business-critical skills,” he said.

Ramsay was speaking ahead of the annual AAT Achievement Awards to be held in Gaborone on Friday where recently qualified accounting technicians will celebrate their completion of the AAT qualification.

“Last February, finance minister Kenneth Matambo admitted that the country’s unemployment rate represented an underutilisation of Botswana’s human capital, and he is not wrong.”

“Botswana is rich in human capital and potential, with the right skills and support the country will succeed in diversifying the economy and thus allow the country to continue on its post-independence growth trajectory,” he said.

Follow the AAT Achievement Awards Ceremony in Botswana as it unravels on our twitter page @YourAAT tonight.

AAT Comment offers news and opinion on the world of business and finance from the Association of Accounting Technicians.

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