Visit to Botswana – Africa expansion
Expanding a global organisation into new markets is never an easy business transaction. It requires robust risk assessments and sound planning and to ensure all stakeholders are on the same page. VMA South Africa launched in May 2015, and by January 2016 additional regional markets were being explored, primarily looking at opportunities in Botswana and Nigeria.
Like all emerging markets at present, Botswana is not growing at the record rates experienced in the first half of the 2000’s. In fact, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Botswana contracted 3.7% in the third quarter of 2015 over the previous quarter. GDP Growth Rate in Botswana averaged 1.15% from 1994 until 2015, reaching an all-time high of 13.4% in the second quarter of 1997 and a record low of -14.4% in the first quarter of 2009.
Forecast growth for the first six months of 2016 is 1.61%, which is in fact similar to the growth rates in neighbouring South Africa, where we are based.
Visiting and engaging stakeholders in a new marketplace is always an exciting experience. I landed at lunch time on a Tuesday, to have a few one-on-one afternoon meetings. This was followed by a presentation of the VMA South Africa communication research at the University of Botswana on the Wednesday morning. With 20 senior communicators in attendance, the session ran over by an hour, as they were all engaging in constructive conversations around the future of their profession, their skills development needs, and the marketplace in general.
In contrast to Botswana’s impressive economic growth, good governance and prudent macroeconomic and fiscal management, the country faces high levels of poverty and inequality.
While poverty rates declined from 50% at independence to just over 19% today, significant pockets of poverty remain, especially in rural areas.
As the country continues to evolve and the communication landscape modernises to cutting-edge needs, the skills shortage pattern picked up in the SA Survey, is believed to be equally reflected in the Botswana market. For this reason, training and skills development are a top priority for local communicators.
Moreover, this trend within communication is not limited to this profession. Education expenditure is among the highest in the world, at around 9% of GDP and includes the provision of nearly universal and free primary education. Despite this, the country has achieved the skilled workforce it would like to see emerge in order to meet the needs of a diversifying economy.
VMA will continue to engage the Botswana market around skills and recruitment, as we continue to further explore other markets, like Nigeria. Parallel to this, we are steadfastly increasing our South Africa footprint and have already opened our Cape Town office in early January 2016.
By Daniel Munslow
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