Professor Alinah K. Segobye

CEO | Human Resource Development Council of Botswana

“Innovation involves bringing together ideas, research, development, financing, and commercialization. 

“It looks good when it has a positive impact on people’s lives. In Botswana, which has been driven mainly by the diamond mining sector, innovation means ensuring that key value chain beneficiaries are the communities in and around where the resources come from, and that these technical solutions are sustainable and won’t bring negative impacts on the environment and livelihoods.”

Key Points

  • The Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) in Botswana was established to address challenges in the education and training sector to align it with labour market needs, provide policy advice, manage training funds, promote industry partnerships for skills development, and coordinate the implementation of the National Human Resource Development Strategy.
  • Botswana faces high unemployment rates, a mono-economy dependent on the diamond mining sector, and limited access to markets for small and medium enterprises. The government is working to address these challenges through developing sectors such as financial services, digitalization of education, and attracting foreign direct investment.
  • The HRDC is actively working to promote innovation and address Botswana’s challenges by facilitating for skills development programs targeting youth unemployment, providing entrepreneurship skills and artisanal training, and producing knowledge products like foresight research to anticipate future job demands and industry changes.
  • Botswana is working to incorporate indigenous knowledge into development by supporting young people in using inherited land for agribusiness and tourism, promoting indigenous skills in the tourism market, and fostering the use of indigenous products and languages in creative industries.

AfricaLive: Could you introduce the goals of the HRDC and explain how you fit into the development ecosystem in Botswana, working alongside the government and the education sector?

Prof. Alinah Segobye: The HRDC was conceptualized almost 20 years ago to address challenges emerging in the management of the higher education sector in Botswana. At the time, Botswana had one national university, the University of Botswana, but there was a shift in the education ecosystem with new private service providers entering. It became clear that one university would not meet all the needs in terms of intake and access.

The government developed a second university, the Botswana University of Science and Technology, but with new private players, issues of quality assurance, employability, and access arose. The government, through what was then the Tertiary Education Act and the Vocational Training Act created the Tertiary Education Council and the Botswana Training Authority to oversee quality assurance and ensure a resource base for education and training.

The HRDC was established in 2014 through the Human Resource Development Act of 2013. The Act basically continued the Tertiary Education Council under a new name and an expanded mandate which now covered all levels of education and training. The HRDC was established to address four key pillars:

  1. Provide policy advice to the government on education and skills development. 
  2. Implement the National Human Resource Development Strategy.
  3. Coordinate training through promotion of industry and stakeholder partnerships through development of sector plans.
  4. Provide financial advice and oversee the management education and training funds.

We also look at ways to address the challenge of youth unemployment by utilizing resources to develop programs targeting young people, providing them with entrepreneurship skills and artisanal training. In the context of policy advisory, we produce knowledge products like foresight research to anticipate future job demands and those that will be phased out of the industry.


AfricaLive: What do you see as the most critical challenges facing Botswana in terms of human resource development?

Prof. Alinah Segobye: The biggest challenge currently facing the country is unemployment, with a youth unemployment rate above 30%, including both secondary school and postgraduate graduates. There are problems of people without jobs and ironically jobs without people, pointing to misalignment between supply and demand of labour. It’s crucial that we explore alternative pathways to ensure the Government can address employability.

Another major challenge is Botswana’s mono-economy, largely dependent on the diamond mining sector. In the past, we exported raw diamonds without beneficiation, but recently, the government has negotiated with investors to house some of the manufacturing value chain in Botswana, creating job opportunities for young people. However, the job market remains narrow.

The government has created safety nets and financial services to ensure young people have access to capital, such as the Chema Chema fund, similar to Kenya’s Hustler Fund. The focus is on small and medium enterprises, with agencies like the HRDC and the Local Enterprise Authority supporting young people in developing and scaling their businesses. Access to markets remains a challenge, but the government is exploring continental trading partnerships and attracting foreign direct investment.

A transformative investment has been the digitalization of the education sector during and post-COVID, ensuring all young people have access to technology, including electrification and Wi-Fi in villages.


AfricaLive: How can we ensure that the human is placed at the center of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the use of emerging technologies in Africa?

Prof. Alinah Segobye: We have been a bit shy of adopting technology, but we’ve seen young people rapidly take up technology and innovative solutions to their everyday problems. We cannot stay with our heads buried in the sand; we have to move with the rapidity of change.

Young people are becoming globalised through online media platforms, using digital skills to promote themselves in creative industries like fashion, food, film, and photography. In Botswana, the government has made technology affordable and accessible by providing devices, smart boards and Wi-Fi in villages and schools.

While job losses have occurred in sectors like financial services due to automation, the HRDC works with other agencies to retool and reskill the human resource. Young people are diversifying into areas like agribusiness, food processing, artificial intelligence and drone technology for crop and wildlife management.

The use of new technologies has also been beneficial in public health, with telemedicine enabling doctors in Botswana to work globally without moving, and in education, with online learning programs making education more accessible and inclusive.


AfricaLive: What does the term “innovation” mean to you, and what does it mean within the context of Botswana as a nation?

Prof. Alinah Segobye: Innovation is a broad term that can mean anything from the discovery of new technologies to putting them to good work to transform people’s livelihoods. It has to have a social and economic impact on people’s lives.

Innovation involves bringing together ideas, research, development, financing, and commercialisation. It looks good when it has a positive impact on people’s lives. In Botswana, which has been driven mainly by the diamond mining sector, innovation means ensuring that key value chain beneficiaries are the communities in and around where the resources come from, and that these technical solutions are sustainable and won’t bring negative impacts on the environment and livelihoods.

It’s important that whatever innovation we are developing is done ethically and sustainably so that it can continue benefiting communities positively. This is especially critical when dealing with challenges like access to clean water and safe birth technologies, which can transform the lives of women and children.


AfricaLive: How are you looking to incorporate indigenous knowledge into your development, and how can education systems, skills development systems, and universities work with indigenous knowledge?

Prof. Alinah Segobye: In terms of land management, Botswana has an interesting system where people have access to both rural agrarian land and urban land. The government has ensured that young people who have inherited land can use it as capital for agribusiness and tourism. They can have a traditional cattle post on part of the land and develop the other part into cultural villages or eco-villages.

Community-based natural resource management has also been important, especially in the Okavango Delta, where indigenous skills like mokoro poling are being brought into the tourism market. We’ve seen young people venture into using indigenous products like leather and the palm tree to make products that are now going into a more global space through online marketing platforms.

There has been an explosion of new talent and creativity, taking what has been the traditional marketplace and moving it into a global export platform. In the music scene, young people have used indigenous languages to create new music genres like Amapiano, gaining global visibility.

In the culinary world, Botswana chefs are promoting the country’s cuisine globally. Young entrepreneurs are manufacturing beauty products for black skin that are entering global markets. They are becoming boundary less in their innovation, enterprising, and partnering to ensure their products reach beyond Botswana’s borders.


AfricaLive: How confident are you in the future for Botswana?

Prof. Alinah Segobye: I’m extremely excited and confident because, like other African countries, Botswana has a very youthful population. The younger generation is less inhibited in their use of technology and are willing to take risks in experimental areas of their lives. They are breaking barriers that were there before in terms of access to new knowledge, innovative technologies, and markets.

They are able to hybridize what they know and create new fusions that are becoming beneficial. For example, the fusion between music, clothing, and film allows young artists to move between different workspaces. They can hold multiple jobs as DJs, fashion designers, voiceover artists, filmmakers, and product developers, multiplying their skills and income opportunities.

However, their biggest challenge is protecting their products, as there are many perils that make them extremely vulnerable. We need a regulatory framework to ensure they can continue protecting their resources and knowledge.


AfricaLive: What is a priority next step for Botswana’s development?

Prof. Alinah Segobye: What is still missing is bringing these new pockets of innovation and opportunity to more global stages and awareness. As a country, we don’t market ourselves enough compared to our neighbours like Zimbabwe, Namibia, or Kenya. We need to use our good global footprint aggressively to market the country.

Many people you travel with don’t really know much about Botswana. Investing more in our own branding and promotion beyond our borders through digital platforms is crucial to get access to more partnerships, support, and resource partners for young Batswana.

Potential funders don’t know much about Botswana, so pitching beyond our own borders to attract impact financiers is critical to ensure our young people have access to partnerships and markets. Our biggest challenge will remain markets, products and services competitiveness in the global stage; products can be developed, but getting them to scale and to market is going to be an issue compared to countries with bigger populations like South Africa.

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