The Bitcoin Revolution is upon us!
“Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity,” Mark Zuckerberg
The Biblical story of David and Goliath played itself out in Zimbabwe in 1998 when a fledgling, intelligent and ambitious telecoms engineer took on the colossal might of government monopoly and repression to bring the mobile phone revolution to the country. Born in what was Southern Rhodesia in 1961, the enterprising man’s cosmopolitan family had succumbed to the bright lights effect of the socio-economic and technologically advanced infrastructure of industrialized Europe earlier in his life only to return home to the newly independent Zimbabwe in 1984.
Educated in Scotland and trained at the University of Wales where he obtained his degree in electrical and electronic engineering (Cum Laude) he took a job with the state-owned telephone company upon his return to his native country. He however soon grew frustrated with the bureaucracy and excesses of Zimbabwe’s post-colonial ruling elite and formed his own engineering company. His battles with the Zimbabwean government began when he was denied a license for the country's first mobile phone operation. The intense legal battles that ensured went all the way up to the country’s supreme court before he could ultimately connect his first subscribers in 1998.
Financially wounded by the bruising fight with the state, the determined and highly ambitious entrepreneur sought to expand his business into neighbouring Botswana whose flourishing economy, democratic credentials, peace and stability appealed to investors at the time. The West had imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe for its failed land reform programme and recurring political flareups. Once the breadbasket of Africa, with an impressive human development index (HDI), effective health care system, the country was now teetering on the brink of political unrest and economic collapse.
Out of pocket, our modern-day industrious David, initiated what could perhaps be counted amongst the country’s first major crowdfunding (motshelo) initiative to establish Botswana’s first mobile phone service provider. The establishment of this cutting-edge technology was however not easy, very few gave him a chance, many could not grasp the inordinate disruptive power of the mobile technology and its imminent evolution from a two-way pager to a GPS navigation device, web browser, hand held game console, and its continued surge into spheres of mobile computing and wireless networking.
At the time the public was accustomed to the landline, fax machine and postal services for long distance social and business communication. Skeptics poured scorn on the investment and business opportunities presented by the emerging wireless communication technology. Our protagonist’s business proposal was called a scam, farfetched and something only possible in a science fiction movie. Compounding public resentment to the brilliant business idea was the fact that it was championed by a Zimbabwean. A man whose country was ravaged by economic sanctions. The low regard with which Zimbabwe was viewed owing to public perception of its, ‘despotic government, moribund economy and high crime rate among its citizens,’ did not help.
Notwithstanding what seemed like a hard sell, those that were bold enough to take the risk and invested the asking price of P24 thousand in 1998 received handsome dividends of P7 million each five years later. The man who initiated all this, risked it all to ensure his fellow Africans benefitted form the technological advances that swept across the world at the time was none other than, Strive Masiyiwa and the company that ushered mobile communication services to Botswana in 1998 is Mascom, derived from Masiyiwa Communications.
History is replete with stories like this one. In 2004, 20-year-old Mark Zuckerberg invited five of his friends to his dormitory at Harvard University to discuss a business opportunity. It is said only two showed up and invested, and shortly after that Facebook was launched. Today, Facebook is a household name and Mark’s estimated net worth is US$61.4 billion while his partners Dustin Moskovitz and Eduardo Saverin command a net worth of US$9.8 billion and US$9.1 billion respectively.
Reflecting on the windfall Facebook presented him and his two co-founders, as well as the missed opportunity for the friends that failed to show up at the dormitory meeting and take up the business proposal, Mark would say, “Nothing is more expensive than a closed mind, and a missed opportunity. ‘Thinking about it’ for too long can cost you a whole lot of money and time. Taking action now can earn you a whole lot, its your choice, your life, its up to you to make the decision today…”
Fast forward to 2018. Today the world stands at the cusp of radical and rapid technological changes brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The advent of these nascent technologies has witnessed the evolution of the internet from the internet of information to the internet of value. In its initial state, the internet transmitted information through emails but the technology has since evolved and is entering its second era where it now transmits value and assets through digitization.
Like the first generation of the internet, the second era of the internet signals the emergence of technological breakthroughs that promise to disrupt business models and transform industries through the elimination of middlemen and intermediaries in the exchange of money, intellectual property and other rights and assets.
The World Bank states that the breadth and depth of these rapid and profound technological changes heralds the transformation of entire systems of production, management and governance. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution is marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics; artificial intelligence (AI); nanotechnology; quantum computing; biotechnology; the Internet of Things (IoT); 3D printing; autonomous vehicles; blockchain; smart contracts and even technology in our bodies, allowing more people to participate in the economy, create wealth, and improve the state of the world.”
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Grit divests from Letlole La Rona
Grit Services Limited, a member of the pan African real estate group, London Stock Exchange listed Grit Real Estate Income Group is divesting from Letlole La Rona Limited (LLR), a local real estate company established by government investment arm Botswana Development Corporation over a decade ago.
The Board of Directors of Letlole La Rona Limited this week announced in a statement to Unitholders that Grit Services Limited (‘Grit’) has informed them of its intention to exit its investment in the company.
Grit has been a material shareholder in LLR since 2019. On 07 March 2023, Grit sold 6 421 000 linked units, representing 2.29% of the Company’s total securities in issue, at a market value of BWP 22 537 710.
This trade follows previous sales of 6.79% in December 2022, as communicated to Unitholders on 10 January 2023, as well as a further sale of 4.78% (representing 13 347 068 linked units) on 24 February 2023 to various shareholders.
In aggregate, Grit has sold 13.9% shareholding in the Letlole La Rona between December 2022 and March 2023, resulting in current shareholding of 11.25% in the Company.
Letlole La Rona said in the statement that the exit process will take place in an orderly manner so as to maintain stability of the Company’s share price.
The statement explained that Grit’s sale of its entire shareholding in LLR is in line with its decision to exit investments where it does not have majority control, or where it has significant exposure to currencies other than US dollar, Euro or hard-currency-pegged revenue streams.
“Grit has announced similar decisions pertaining to certain of its hospitality assets in Mauritius recently. The Company would like to advise Unitholders that it remains focused on long-term value delivery to all stakeholders” LLR said
In July last year as part of their Go-to-Africa strategy Letlole La Rona acquired an initial 30% equity stake in Orbit Africa Logistics, with an option to increase this investment to 50%. OAL is a special purpose vehicle incorporated in Mauritius, owning an industrial asset in a prime industrial node in Nairobi, Kenya.
The co-investment was done alongside a wholly owned subsidiary of London listed Grit. The Orbit facility is situated on a prime industrial site on Mombasa Road, the principal route south of Nairobi center, serving the main industrial node, the port of Mombasa and the industrial town of Athi River and is strategically located 11 kilometers south of the international airport and 9.6 kilometers from the Inland Container Depot.
Grit shareholding in Letlole La Rona was seen as strategic for LLR, for the company to leverage on Grit’s already existing continental presence and expand its wings beyond Botswana borders as already delivered by Kenya transaction.
Media reports have however suggested that LLR and Grit have since late last year had fundamental disagreements on how to go about the Go-to-Africa strategy amongst other things, fuelled by alleged Botswana government interference on the affairs of LLR.
Government through LLR founding shareholder – Botswana Development Corporation has a controlling stake of around 40 percent in the company. Government is the sole shareholder of Botswana Development Corporation.
Letlole La Rona recently released their financial results for the six months ended December 2022, revenue increased by 4% to P50.2 million from P48.4 million in the prior comparative six months, whilst operating profit was up 8% to P36.5 million. Profit before tax of P49.7 million was reported, an increase of 8% on the prior comparative six months.
“We are encouraged by the strong results, notwithstanding a challenging economic environment. Our performance was mainly underpinned by annual lease escalations, our quality tenant base and below average market vacancy levels, especially in our warehouse portfolio,” Kamogelo Mowaneng, Letlole La Rona Chief Executive Officer commented.
LLR reported a weighted average lease expiry period of 3.3 years and escalation rates averaging 6.8% per annum for the period ended 31 December 2022.Its investment portfolio value increased by 14% year-on-year to close the period at P1.4 billion, mainly driven by the acquisition of a 30% stake in OAL in July 2022.
The Company also recorded a significant increase in other income, predominantly due to foreign exchange gains on the OAL shareholder loan. “We continue to explore pipeline opportunities locally, and regionally in line with our Go-to-Africa strategy and our interest remains on value-accretive investments,” Mowaneng said.
An interim distribution of 9.11 thebe per linked unit was declared on the 6th of February 2023 for the half-year period to 31 December 2022, comprising of a dividend of 0.05 thebe and debenture interest of 9.06 thebe per linked unit which will be paid to linked unit holders registered in the books of the Company at the close of business on 24 February 2023.
Stargems Group establishes Training Center in BW
Internationally-acclaimed diamond manufacturing company StarGems Group has established the Stargems Diamond Training Center which will be providing specialized training in diamond manufacturing and evaluation.
The Stargems Diamond Training Institute is located at the Stargems Group Botswana Unit in Gaborone.
“In accordance with the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) which holds the principle that through education and skills development as well as the strategic alignment between national ambitions and individual capabilities, Botswana will become a prosperous, productive and innovative nation due to the quality and efficacy of its citizenry. The Training Centre will provide a range of modules in theory and in practice; from rough diamond evaluation to diamond grading and polishing for Batswana, at no cost for eight weeks. The internationally- recognized certificate offered in partnership with Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School presents invaluable opportunities for Batswana to access in the diamond industry locally and internationally. The initiative is an extension of our Corporate Social Investment to the community in which we operate,” said Vishal Shah, Stargems Group Managing Director, during the launch of the Stargems Diamond Training Center.
In order to participate in this rare opportunity, interested candidates are invited to submit a police clearance certificate and a BGCSE certificate only to the Stargems offices. Students who excel in these programs will have the chance to be onboarded by the Stargems Group. This serves as motivation for them to go through this training with a high level of seriousness.
“Community empowerment is one of our CSR principles. We believe that businesses can only thrive when their communities are well taken of. We are hoping that our presence will be impactful to various communities and economies. In the six countries that we are operating in, we have contributed through dedicating 10% of our revenues during COVID-19 to facilitate education, donating to hospitals and also to NGOs committed to supporting women and children living with HIV. One key issue that we are targeting in Botswana is the rate of unemployment amongst the youth. We are looking forward to working closely with the government and other relevant authorities to curb unemployment,” said Shah.
Currently, Stargems Group has employed 117 Batswana and they are looking forward to growing the numbers to 500 as the company grows. Majority of the employees will be graduates from the Stargems Diamond Training Center. This initiation has been received with open arms by the general public and stakeholders. During the launch, the Minister of Minerals and Energy, Honorable Lefoko Moagi, stated that the ministry fully endorses Stargems Diamond Training and will work closely with the Group to support and grow the initiative.
“As a ministry, we see this as an game changer that is aligned with one of the United Nations’ Six Priority Sustainable Development Goals, which is to Advance Opportunity and Impact for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What Stargems Group is launching today will have a huge impact on the creation of employment in Botswana. An economy’s productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases as its skilled workmanship increases. It is not a secret that low skills perpetuate poverty and widen the inequality gap, therefore the development of skills has the potential to contribute significantly to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability and helping the country become more competitive. We are grateful to see the emergence of industry players such as Stargems Group who have strived to create such opportunities that mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy,” said the Minister of Minerals and Energy.