The Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry announced through its apparatus Brand Botswana that it was launching a campaign under the hash tag #pushabw. The campaign is aimed to promote local produce and local companies. The ultimate goal of the campaign is to grow local industries, create jobs, help eradicate poverty and boost the economy. Commendable right? Well for those who often traverse the social media platforms would have noticed the mixed reaction that met the news. In the fray of the debate was the Honourable Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry. As the custodian of the campaign one would on the face of it find it fitting to be there.
The #pushabw campaign highlights of the many problems that beleaguer us as a country. These problems are now so entrenched in how we conduct ourselves one won’t be wrong to christen it “culture”. Duplicity of efforts is so entrenched within government apparatus the tax payer losses millions yearly on it. We can go all day listing duplicated efforts all differentiated by a clever play in semantics. The disease has since spread to the private sector. That however is not my focus for the moment save to state that it kills the local economy. One can wonder why we have Botswana Development Corporation, Local Enterprise Authority, Botswana Investment and Trade Centre, Special economic Zones Authority and SPEDU among others. A close inspection indicate that a duplication of duties does exist between these entities with slight and subtle differences.
When the #pushabw campaign was launched, ironically, there was a more grassroots and organic campaign already gaining traction in social media platforms. The thing is that it had nothing to do with government but was spearheaded by private individuals. Under the twitter handle @bwslice, private individuals took the initiative to promote local products and companies. The uproar was primarily on why didn’t Brand Botswana not engage this platform that had already gained organic traction than appropriate and or duplicate the noble efforts by @bwslice. The Minister at the defence of her underlings stated that the owners of the platform were engaged at conception stage and the Ministry has once before cancelled their initiative to give way for a privately-owned platform. Great news, right? I call B.S on that for a simple reason; This is a culture that is so endemic within government apparatus.
As the debate raged on it became apparent that the engagement that the Honourable Minister was referring to was in no way meaningful. There was nothing in black and white. Basically, as always, the wanted to exploit creative genius of @bwslice at no cost to them I would assume. There can be no reason why Brand Botswana would not channel funds to an organic platform after government has splashed millions on washed out has-beens like Ja-Rule to sell local products. As always, Batswana are not worthy of being given business. I do not for second buy the Minister’s lazy excuse. If there is anything to learn about marketing in the digital age, it is that people react positively to organic initiatives than those that seem forced up their throats. The Ministry’s intentions may have been modest but equally has a terrible stench to it. What it reeks of I don’t know but it stinks.
Moving on, one also wonders what is the difference between the #pushabw campaign and the Buy Botswana that some of us grew up to? There is no clear explanation so far how this new campaign deals with the deficits of the previous campaign. All that is evident is that the is a lack of creativity and innovation within the Ministry or government apparatus. Where there is creativity and or innovative ideas outside government, government operatives always go out of their way to frustrate these efforts. One would recall that over the years there has been outcry by people seeking funding from government apparatus having their proposals shot only to resurface as ‘original’ ideas by someone within that apparatus or someone connected to them.
The #pushabw and @bwslice is just an example of a bigger systematic cultural problem within government apparatus. Instead of offering support to locals they frustrate them or offer lip service to offering support. As a country we can do better and should demand better from our government.