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Diamonds and beef have served Botswana well over the past 20 years, driving economic growth that has consistently outpaced the Asian Tigers and generated abundant resources for infrastructure development.
Botswana's robust economy, supported by long-standing political stability, an excellent public education system and good basic services, makes this a unique country on the continent—the Switzerland of Africa.
For some time now, however, government has realised that Botswana cannot rely indefinitely on only two economic pillars—diamond mining and cattle farming—for future prosperity. Diversification is crucial for the country to sustain growth and create high-value jobs for its 1.8 million citizens.
Apart from diversifying in terms of economic activity, Botswana's policymakers acknowledge the need to strengthen the role of the private sector by attracting new investment and privatising or transforming state-owned entities. Against this backdrop, Accenture's decision to establish a dedicated operation in the capital city of Gaborone in April 2005 was well timed. The Botswana market is receptive to Accenture's services, which enable high performance through innovative solutions and global experience in resources, financial services, information technology and business process outsourcing (BPO) projects—all key elements of government's economic diversification strategy.
Our core team in Gaborone consists of consultants with strong backgrounds in engineering, accounting and business. All of us are Botswana citizens, ensuring local skills and insight, which is an important factor in doing business in Africa. Although our team on the ground is small, we are a global firm in every sense of the word. Essentially, we have gone to market as the local representative of a global team of more than 190,000 people who help our clients become high-performance businesses and governments.
Already, the Botswana group is contributing to the country's economic diversification strategy. For the past year and a half, even before the operation was formally established, a multinational Accenture team has been working with the Botswana International Financial Services Centre (BIFSC), created by government in 2003 to develop Botswana as a world-class hub for the delivery of cross-border financial and information and communication technology-enabled services to international clients.
Our involvement with the BIFSC so far has focused on BPO and call centre hosting, a major global strength for Accenture. As a starting point in developing Botswana's BPO and call centre capabilities, we have completed a preliminary feasibility study that analyses Botswana's comparative competitive advantages. It also identifies focus areas to address so that the BIFSC can move forward in developing Botswana's potential in the international market.
Further opportunities are opening up in the resources and utilities markets, especially in mining, telecommunications and power generation. Botswana is under pressure to increase its own power generation capacity given constraints on traditional sources of electricity. Currently, the Botswana Power Corporation. imports as much as 70 percent of the country's power from South Africa, whose ability to export has diminished. This has underlined the need to upgrade Botswana coal plants and streamline power production processes. Accenture is well positioned to assist, having worked extensively with Eskom, Africa's largest power utility.
In the financial services sector, change is imminent. Despite its population of only 1.8 million, Botswana has as many as 12 banks, including three international banks, two South African-based institutions and several government-affiliated banks. There are strong indications that the banking sector is ripe for consolidation and, at the same time, an increasing emphasis on improved customer service, systems integration and back-office processes. Again, Accenture can draw heavily on the expertise gained elsewhere, including Nigeria, where we are working on a number of banking services projects.
The government sector remains an important player in the Botswana economy, due to its 50 percent ownership of the diamond mining industry—the largest producer in the world—and facilitating role in infrastructure development and basic services.
Significant resources are also to be invested in improving the efficiency of service delivery to citizens and business. This includes the computerisation of several national registration functions, streamlining the tax system and generally improving the business processes and customer service of government agencies.
Yet again, Accenture is ideally placed to contribute, having worked with South African government agencies such as the Department of Home Affairs and South African Revenue Services, as well as with municipalities such as the Cities of Tshwane and Cape Town.
As a newcomer to a market traditionally dominated by the consulting divisions of audit firms, Accenture faces a challenge in creating brand awareness and competing with established players. I am confident that, by using local skills and retaining the very best of Accenture's global skills, we will make a powerful impression on Botswana's economic landscape and contribute to creating the high-performance economy to which the country aspires.
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