2022-03-10 13:01:25

This article is the fourth and final article in a series that analyzes Botswana’s competitiveness by observing four critical areas, known as factors, considered key in promoting a nation’s overall competitiveness.

These four factors are economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency, and infrastructure.

The analysis emanates from a partnership between the Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC) and the Institute for Management Development (IMD), which resulted in Botswana’s inclusion in the 2021 IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook. This article focuses on Botswana’s competitiveness with respect to the infrastructure factor.

According to the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, the infrastructure factor assesses the extent to which tangible and intangible assets that are available in the economy meet the needs of businesses. The factor considers aspects that encompass physical infrastructure, technological infrastructure, scientific infrastructure, health, and the human capital quality. Botswana’s rank in the infrastructure factor is 63rd out of the 64 economies included in the 2021 IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, with a competitiveness score of 14.1 out of 100, see Figure 1. Unfortunately, this is Botswana’s worst performing factor and, hence, national efforts to promote competitiveness should prioritise this area. With respect to the other factors, Botswana ranks 62nd on economic performance, 42nd in the government efficiency ,and 61st in the business efficiency factor. The country’s overall competitiveness rank is 61st out of the 64 economies, with a competitiveness index score of 38.9 out of 100.

When observing the various components (sub factors) under the infrastructure factor, Botswana ranked 63rd in basic infrastructure, 62nd in technology infrastructure, 64th in scientific infrastructure, 52nd in health and environment, and 52nd in the education quality sub factor, as shown in Figure 2.

With regards to the infrastructure factor, Botswana performed well in terms of public investments in education (1st), quality of secondary education (27th) and mobile telephone costs (17th). Though Botswana’s investment in education is the best in the 64 countries, it is worth undertaking an evaluation to establish whether this is being channeled in appropriate initiatives that provide value for money.

The major challenges the country faces under the infrastructure factor are outlined in Table 1 with the most pronounced being the development and application of technology (64th). It should be noted that the lack of sustained creation of breakthrough technologies in Botswana’s private sector has also been noted by the Global Competitiveness Reports. These reports reveal that Botswana’s ICT access and use are far from universal. Research shows that low technology transfers and adoption in African countries, like Botswana, is mostly associated with the lack of awareness and exposure, lack of qualified personnel and inadequate financial support. Another prominent weakness is the inadequate communication technology (63rd). This low rank is attained irrespective of the recent expansions of the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) infrastructure. The recent expansion resulted in additional 2,202 Fibre-to-the-Premises connections nation-wide, bringing the total number of connections to 5,953.

Table 1: Botswana’s Infrastructure Factor Weaknesses

Weakness Rank
Development & Application of Technology 64
Development & Application of Technology 63
Digital/Technological Skills 63
Life Expectancy at Birth 62
Patent Applications per Capita 63
Internet Bandwidth Speed 63
High Technology Exports (%) 63
Source: IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, 2021.

Botswana also ranks poorly in terms of internet broad bandwidth speed (63rd). According to the Speedtest Global index, in 2021 Botswana ranked 170 out of 181 countries with an average speed of 10.85 Mbps for fixed broadband connections. While the rank for mobile connections was 85 out of 137 countries with an average speed of 27.3 Mbps. Given that the ERTP advocates for selling Botswana as the destination with the fastest and most affordable internet in Africa, immense work needs to be urgently undertaken in this regard. The best ranked African countries are South Africa for mobile internet connections, with an average speed of 53.28 Mbps, and Ghana for fixed broadband connections, with an average speed of 44.60 Mbps. Though Botswana’s internet speed is way below that of the leading countries in Africa, there was a substantial reduction in mobile broadband prices in 2020. The 2021 Budget Speech states that mobile providers reduced mobile broadband prices by 55 percent while increasing volumes of data bundles by up to 200 percent.

The ERTP and the Post Retreat Speech both acknowledge the urgent need for digital transition in Botswana. Botswana can benefit from benchmarking against a country like Estonia which transformed itself to one of the most digitally advanced nations within a decade. Estonia started the process by declaring internet access a human right and then worked effortlessly to ensure its universal access. Lessons Botswana can draw from this country’s early stages of digital transition, include ensuring that every classroom has a computer and access to internet. Enabling cabinet and parliament to become paperless would also go a long way in attaining leadership buy in which would further aid the transition. Government should also urgently accelerate the implementation of the e-Govermnent programme to improve efficiency of service delivery.

In conclusion, the rankings and results from this factor emphasize the urgent need to fast-track digital transition if Botswana is to realise its dream of being the destination with the fastest and most affordable internet in Africa. While investing in ICT infrastructure is a step in the right direction, different elements of the broadband ecosystems, such as coverage, internet speed and digital literacy, should all be given equal attention. The country also needs to expand investments in research and development to enhance the capabilities of the private sector, especially with regards to the development of technologies. This would enable the private sector to stay ahead of markets trends and strengthen their relevance.