Friday 22 January 2010

1st, 2nd or 3rd?

This might seem like a ridiculous question but where would you want to finish in a race? I can’t imagine anyone saying they’d want to come second or third, can you? Surely everyone wants to come first?

So why, as a nation, do we accept not coming first?

I’m not talking about sport, that’s obvious. Although we’re a fairly large country if you measure us in square kilometres, we have a very small population so it’s always going to be a bit harder to excel in sports. Countries with bigger populations are more likely to breed those occasional freaks of nature who can run faster than a horse or who can lift huge weights. It’s always going to be less likely for a country with a small populations such as ours to produce these creatures.

I’m not talking either about our economy. Despite our efforts to diversify we’re never going to be China or the USA. We’ll always need to concentrate on a fairly small number of industries, that’s just our fate. The challenge is to find those industries that can keep us afloat.

No, what I’m talking about is our mindset. Our expectations, our image of ourselves as a nation. I mean how we present ourselves to our customers and to the rest of the world. Do we want to be seen as a first world country or something less than that?

Before anyone gets technical and points out that we are a “developing” nation and cannot be seen in the same category as the USA, much of Europe or Japan, yes, I know that, of course I do. Clearly we still have a long way to go as a nation. We still have people living in poverty, yes, I know. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about how we perceive ourselves and how we are led to perceive our nation.

I think we can decide whether we want to be seen as a nation that delivers 1st world service. I truly believe it’s up to us to decide how we want to be perceived. I don’t want to sound like one of those ghastly, New Age, “The Secret”-reading loons who think that you can make good things happen just by thinking about them, but I DO think confidence shows itself, both in people and in nations.

So how can we do it? Well, I think we can begin by forcing our suppliers to do it for us. Better still we can tell suppliers when they are behaving like we’re a third-world basket-case nation.

For example, why do we accept out of date technology? Why do we accept suppliers selling us devices that are out-dated and almost obsolete elsewhere in the world? For instance, Orange Botswana still offer the Apple iPhone 3G for sale. Almost everywhere else in the world cellphone providers offer the much improved iPhone 3GS. The 3GS was launched by Apple in June last year and is available by now all over the world. Everywhere, that is, except Botswana.

Bizarrely, Apple themselves seem to think that it should be available here. In an official announcement Apple said that the 3GS would be launched in Botswana on 9th August last year. There’s even an Apple web site that talks about the 3GS specifically in connection with Botswana. Look closely at this web address:

See the “bw” in the middle? That page announces itself as follows:
“Apple (Botswana) – iPhone – View all the features of the new iPhone 3GS”
So why don’t Orange know anything about this? A cynic might suggest that they are just trying to clear the stocks of the older models but if this is the case why don’t they do what every other cellphone provider in the world does and offer both models? Even Apple still offer the older model but at a much cheaper price. The irony is that according to rumours on the Internet an even newer iPhone will be released in a few months. Will Orange still be selling the oldest model then do you think?

Yes, I know this is just one example and I don’t mean to pick on Orange more than anyone else but I do think it’s a good example of us being seen as a sleepy backwater of the world. Not by the world, but by our suppliers who I often suspect think they can get away with lower standards than they would be forced to deliver in other countries.

Let me stress again that it’s not just Orange who I think are letting us down. It’s almost all the technology service providers but also supermarkets and restaurants. They seem to think that just because we have a small population they can give us bottom-of-the-range choices. I fully understand why they have to give us a slightly more limited set of choices but why must they just be the crappier ones?

I think that can be our collective, national, New Year’s Resolution. Let’s stop accepting third-rate choices. Let’s demand to be treated like a first world nation by suppliers. Let’s only accept 1st world quality service. Let’s also be practical. In a year when there will be football fans from around the world in the Region, don’t they deserve the same level of service as much as we do?

This week’s stars
  • Everyone, yet again, at the Ramotswa border post for showing that even without high-technology, decent buildings and fancy facilities service can still be delivered with a smile and a laugh.

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