Simbi Phiri, a renowned Pan-Africanist businessman and construction industry magnate, has described Botswana as the beacon of hope and source of inspiration for the continent whose growth trajectory should be emulated by the other countries.
He says the milestone of Botswana’s 50 years of independence and sovereignty gives the nation the opportunity to both glance back and leap forward into the future with pride.
Phiri is chairman of Khato Civils (Pty) Ltd and South Zambezi (Pty) Ltd, two of Africa’s leading companies in the construction, engineering and infrastructure development sector. Khato Civils (Pty) Ltd is a South African-based design and construction company involved in the development of large-scale infrastructure. South Zambezi (Pty) Ltd is a civil and structural engineering company.
“Botswana’s economy has done well over the years. This demonstrates continued investor confidence in the government of Botswana and the major strides taken to strengthen results and delivery to the people. This is also testament to Botswana’s structural economic fundamentals, which underscores the resilience of the country’s economy, especially when one considers the challenges faced by other countries in the region since the global financial crisis of 2009,” says Phiri.
Speaking to Mail & Guardian Africa, Phiri notes that unlike many African countries Botswana inherited an empty shell in terms of infrastructure development when it gained independence from Britain in 1966.
“There was less than 3km of tarred road in Botswana at independence. That was a far cry from the thousands of kilometres of high quality road infrastructure that has been developed in the successive years. This has helped Botswana preside over a strong investment record in infrastructure development. The country is also a worthy example to emulate in terms of investment in the water and sanitation sectors, and in ensuring increased rural access to power,” says Phiri.
“It is through hard work, unity of purpose and resilience of the people of Botswana that the country is often cited as a shining example of stability and impressive economic growth. As Africa’s longest standing democracy, political stability is a key stimulus to draw investors and visitors to Botswana.”
Phiri also notes that Botswana is one of the most secure and safe countries in Africa and compares well worldwide for low crime rates and maintaining the rule of law. He adds that Botswana’s strategic location at the heart of the Southern African region, supported by the government’s ongoing commitment in pursuing pro-business and pragmatic policies, continues to be the catalyst in making the country the gateway to the region and an attractive destination for global businesses to set up their regional business hubs.
Asked what his message to the government and people of Botswana would be in the wake of the commemoration of 50 years of independence and sovereignty, Phiri says:
“On behalf of both Khato Civils and South Zambezi, I would like to pay tribute to His Excellency President Ian Khama for being a visionary leader who has worked to ensure the growth of the country. We would also like to congratulate the people of Botswana for their hard work and patriotic contribution to making the country the success story of Africa that it has continued to be since independence. The Batswana feel a great pride in their history and government and share a strong sense of national identity. It is the people that have ensured that Botswana‘s development trajectory has been on the up and up since independence in 1996.”
Phiri adds that the people of Botswana should continue to improve on the governance and economic principles that have seen the country succeed in pulling itself out of having little infrastructure and building the foundation for a strong democracy. He notes that much progress has been achieved in ensuring ease of doing business in the country, and adds that he is impressed by the commitment to remove all remaining barriers and make it easy for investors to set up shop.
“Botswana truly is a progressive and democratic state,” he says.