Lessons from Botswana – Cooperation, Creativity & Contrasts (May 2014)
We had a lovely week away returning in time to vote in South Africa’s fifth democratic elections.
It had a special significance for me. In 1994 when I voted I was pregnant with my second child. And yesterday my son voted for the first time.
Our time away was spent exploring Gaberone and enjoying good food, wine and conversation, with old and new friends. On our way back from Botswana we spent two nights in The Marico.
I love experiencing new places and observing people and nature. It energises me and gets me thinking of the lessons to be learnt. I had so many thoughts that I am going to share some of them with you today.
Cooperation, Creativity & Contrasts
On our first day we visited the Three Dikgosi Monument. Our guide gave us a lesson in Botswana’s history. How I interpreted it was:
The path from British Protectorate to independent Republic was a long one. There were a number of attempts by Britain and South Africa to “take over” but the three main chiefs peacefully but determinedly worked to maintain a level of independence for the country.
They had a shared vision and they cooperated with each other. They listened and watched closely so as to pick up and act on each political shift that threatened the area’s status. And when they realised more action was needed they travelled to Britain seeking an audience with the government.
The government tried to fob them off but they had cultivated friendships in England. These friends assisted them to travel around the country drumming up support for their cause until the government was pressured into meeting with them. This began a process that would eventually lead to independence in 1966. That visit was a very well run PR campaign!
It sounds as though these three chiefs demonstrated excellent leadership.
Even the decision as to where the capital should be seems to have been solved in a mature manner. The original main place was Lobatse but being in a small bowl between the hills it was thought to be too small for a capital so Gaberone, 70km to the north, was chosen.
Gaberone is a very dry city, especially at the moment after a couple of years of drought. On the edge of town is a lovely small game reserve without natural water. But someone has come up with a creative solution. The reserve is integrated with the sewerage system. Underground pipes bring the sewer water to open ponds that apart from a slight smell, are just like small dams. We saw some lovely birds there, including an African Purple Swamphen.
A few blocks from where my friend lives we saw a strange sight – on the dusty sidewalk, a beautifully decorated table and chairs, under an awning, set for a celebration. Gwen explained that it belongs to a local lady, an event planner, who changes the colours and themes every week. What a wonderful example of creative advertising.
We also visited the brickfields down by the river where people hand make clay bricks and bake them in a homemade, communal kiln. I am sorry I didn’t take a photo. It was like a scene out of biblical times. And yet a couple of kilometres away was the neat, clean CBD with amazing, modern buildings.
For me these contrasts and the different ways of doing business are part of the “colour of Africa”. Something which is hard to explain. One needs to spend time in Africa to experience it. And then as my husband says, “Africa gets under your skin and it’s very difficult to leave.”
Next month, thoughts from The Marico.
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Quote of the Day
“The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.” ~ Bertrand Russel
My Little Black Book
Our host in Gaberone was Gwen Watkins, owner of a communications consultancy that operates across Southern Africa. Amongst her many PR talents is that of training event planners. Our holiday was like a well run event from the accommodation, to the food and beverages, to the guided tours. Gwen certainly walks the talk.
Apart from writing and editing she also offers practical, short courses that cover such fields as ‘Creating and implementing PR strategy for SMEs’, ‘Creating and managing practical & profitable events’, ‘Writing for internal & external stakeholders’, ‘Perfect PA events’ and others. www.freelancers.co.za