Proposals for Business-friendly Immigration Reform in Botswana
It is widely accepted that immigration plays an important role in economic growth and prosperity. Immigration enables countries to attract skills and experience that might otherwise not be available, and also to attract investors and entrepreneurs, and thereby to raise economic growth and incomes.
This applies as much to Botswana as to other countries. Botswana's key economic challenges are diversifying the economy through the establishment of new economic activities; promoting entrepreneurship and innovation; promoting new export activities and the penetration of regional and international markets; and engaging with globalization, including the global labor market. Immigration is most often thought of in terms of its ability to relieve skills shortages, but it has a more extensive impact than this. In particular immigration can support diversification by attracting entrepreneurs who will invest in new economic activities, and who can help to develop international markets for goods and services.
It is widely felt that Botswana's current immigration system is not consistent with the needs of an outward-looking, modern, flexible and efficient economy. An inadequate supply of skilled labor, and the problems imposed by the immigration system, are consistently identified by the private sector as one of the most important constraints to economic growth and diversification in Botswana. It limits the ability of firms to access scarce skills, which is crucial given the shortage of certain skills nationally; restricts Botswana's participation in the global labor market; raises the cost of labor and undermines competitiveness; provides a major obstacle to inward investment and discourages FDI; presents an adverse image to the rest of the world; and hinders diversification and limits employment creation and economic growth.
The existing immigration system has been in place for nearly 50 years without any fundamental changes. Given the obstacles to economic growth that have resulted, it is essential that the immigration system is subject to a thorough reform to make it business-friendly and supportive of diversification. Indeed, Botswana faces a key choice in the way it manages immigration: between being inward looking, protectionist and isolationist in terms of labor skills, business and other opportunities, on the one hand, and attracting skills, and adding to its business, entrepreneurial, professional capacity by opening its doors to those who can contribute. This paper presents proposals for how the immigration system can be reformed to make it supportive of economic growth and diversification objectives. The focus will be on the movement of skilled manpower, investors and others who can make a positive economic contribution to the country. The underlying assumption is that, properly managed, economic migration (inward immigration) will be highly beneficial to the economy, and indeed is essential if Botswana is to successfully diversify the economy. The paper makes proposals for reforms that will make the immigration system objective, transparent, accountable and business-friendly.