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TIGELE MOKOBI

“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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Business

The Bulb World starts operations in South Africa

8th April 2021

Homegrown LED light manufacturing company, The Bulb World, has kick started operations in South Africa, setting in motion the company’s ambitious continental expansion plans.

The Bulb World, which was partly funded by Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) at the tune of P4 million, to manufacture LED lighting bulbs for both commercial and residential use in 2017, announced last year that it will enter the South African market in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) of North West province under the auspices of North West Development Corporation (NWDC).

The company has already secured a deal with South Africa authorities which entails production factory shells and tax incentives arrangements.

The company founder and Chief Executive Officer, Ketshephaone Jacob has also previously stated that the company is looking for just under P50 million to finance its expansion strategy and is reaching out to institutional investors such as Botswana Public Officers Pensioners Fund (BPOPF) and government investment arm, Botswana Development Corporation (BDC).

However, Jacob told WeekendPost that instead of sitting and waiting for expansion funding the company has started hitting the ground running.

“We have decided to get in the streets of SA, start selling lights from door to door, ” said Jacob who is in currently in Rusternburg to oversee the introduction of The Bulb World products in the market.

Jacob explained more brand activations will be undertaken in South Africa. “The plan is to do it the whole of North West and Limpopo province, through hawkers, we give the hawkers the lights to sell at a factory price and they put a mark up and make a living,” he said.

The Bulb World operates from Selibe Phikwe, it currently employees 65 young people, 80 % of which are Phikwe youth. The company plans to add 100 jobs this year alone as it forges ahead with its regional and continental expansion plans.

In July this year Bulb World products will hit South African Shelves:  Pick n Pay, Checkers and Africa’s largest retailer Shoprite.

The Bulb World has been registered as a company in South Africa; the company will start producing lights from Mogwasa after striking a special economic zones deal with North West Development Corporation in North West Province South Africa.

“Over the next 10 years we are looking to create over 5,000 jobs in Africa. Through our expansion into all of Africa we will be able to create employment for various individuals in different sectors namely; manufacturing, distribution electronics and retail,” Jacob told this publication earlier this year.

Jacob said if all goes well, the plan is to have taken over Africa or rather penetrated, and have prevalent presence in the African market.

“We are gunning to have at least 30 percent market share by then. According to a 2016 Market Survey, the total valuation of sales for LED Lighting was 57BN, a portion of which we plan to have taken over by then,” he said.

 

While the company has set its eyes on Africa, Jacob said, the company has not fully exploited its local growth, indicating that there could be strategic factories built to supply neighbouring countries of Angola and Zimbabwe.

“There is potential for further local expansion as well to other areas of Botswana if things run smoothly as anticipated. Hopefully in the long-term if our fellow Africans and all these markets receive us well we are planning to build another factory,” he said.

“We are looking to build another factory in the Chobe/Ngamiland Area that will give priority to markets in Zimbabwe and Angola,” he said

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Business

‘Oil exploration will have minimal impact’

30th March 2021
Okavango-River-Basin

The Maun based Okavango Research Institute (ORI) has downplayed the impacts of oil and gas exploration in part of Okavango delta arguing that given the distance proposed the likelihoods of negative impacts drilling these exploration wells on the surface water systems is likely to be negligible.

The Institution released a position paper titled ‘Proposed Petroleum (Oil and Gas) Exploration Operations in the Petroleum Exploration License (PEL) No. 73,’ with findings stating that, in the event of discovery of economically viable hydrocarbon deposits, much more careful consideration of the impacts and economic benefits of development of the resource will be needed.

For example, the fracking process for gas and oil extraction is known to require large volumes of underground water.

It further argues that increased extraction of the underground water is likely to affect the water table level and further affect the overall water availability in the river-basin.

“The effect on water availability and use may become worse if surface water is reticulated or sourced by any means from the Kavango River. Should the exploration and fracking for oil and gas expand to Block 1720, 1721 and 1821, the impact on water availability and quality will be significant, especially if the wastewater is not well managed,” said the paper.

The research unit recommends close communication between the relevant Basin State Ministries (Mineral Resources, Environment) and the Permanent Commission on the Okavango River Basin, OKACOM, and other stakeholders must be facilitated.

This will facilitate sharing of the correct information on the desired intentions of the basin states and compromises sought for the sustainability of the ecosystems in the downstream of the Cubango-Okavango river Basin, states the position paper.

ORI as a key stakeholder with scientific information says it is positioned to provide scientific advice and guidance to decision-makers on the potential impacts of both exploration and development and operation activities.

It also recommends that while the impacts might be minimal at the exploration stage, environmental impacts during the development and extraction process are significant.

Findings also state that the SADC Protocol places a mandatory duty to make a notification of planned measures undertaken in any riparian state in cases where such measures hold the potential to cause ‘significant adverse effects.’

It further states that where the planned development is trivial and not expected to cause any significant harm, the development state is not under duty to notify other riparian states.

Given that the drilling in the Kavango Region in Nambia is merely for exploratory purpose and the possibility of harm is minor, it is therefore not surprising that the Namibian government did not inform Botswana.

However, should it be found that the oil can be profitably or economically exploited, the Namibian government would be under a duty to notify both Angola and Botswana.

The institution further states that to ensure sustainable development in the Okavango Delta the following in the context of exploration for and potential development of hydrocarbon deposits within the Cubango-Okavango River Basin, it must be considered that the Okavango Delta is a World Heritage Site listed in 2014 by UNESCO and one of the binding requirements of the listing is the non-permissible commercial mining of any mineral, gas or oil within the World Heritage Site.

It states that the Okavango Delta is also a RAMSAR site in which mining is not allowed.

Should the exploration for minerals, oil and gas be allowed, there is a high chance that a mineral, oil or gas may be found given that the Delta is sitting on karoo sediments and shale rocks which in other parts of the world have been found to be sources of oil and gas deposits. Should oil or gas be discovered, there will be a strong socio-economic pressure to mine oil or gas and create jobs for the masses.

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Business

Pakmaya yeast penetrates local market

30th March 2021
Pakmaya Africa Sales Manager: Cem Perdar

Manufactured in Turkey, Pakmaya Instant Dry Yeast can be used in the production of various fermented products, as it is suited for both traditional and industrial baking processes. All kinds of breads, buns and fermented pastry products are typical examples of applications.

Pakmaya Africa Sales Manager Cem Perdar says Pakmaya has 4 plants in across the world, further indicating that all of the plants have the highest standards of quality certificates and approvals. Regarding raw material, molasses is the main ingredient for yeast. Concerning production activities, yeast manufacturing requires high know-how and capability. Pakmaya has all those capabilities and aspects more than 45 years.

According to Perdar, Pakmaya has been existent in African markets since 30 years. From South to North, Central to East and West, a consumer can find Pakmaya in nearly every part of Africa continent.

“With its high quality, rich product selection and good service, our brand has become the favorite yeast of many Africans. On the other hand, our distributors in African countries are working very hardly and loyally in order to promote our products in their markets. After some time, we are becoming like families with our exclusive distributors in Africa and this enables both parts to work harder and keeps our product sustainable in market,” he said in an interview this week.

The yeast manufacturing giant made its way to Botswana market. The company has been smoothly working with Kamoso Distribution, a local distribution company. Perdar told BusinessPost that two entities have been working hard to earn is market locally.

“At the moment we have a good market share with them in Botswana market. I’m sure during 2021 long, we will be increasing our sales and market position. Soon we are going to start a marketing campaign in Botswana, so that means Batswana will see and recognize Pakmaya more and more. Pakmaya wants to be the best friend of bakers in bakeries and ladies at homes in Botswana.”

As per global COVID-19 regulations to curb the spread of the COVID-19, Botswana just like other country closed borders. Providentially, the restrictions did not affect the company destructively.

Perdar says “Kamoso Africa is a very important and strong partner in Botswana territory. With Kamoso’s hard work and strict measurements, we have done a very good job. So as Pakmaya, we have not suffered any distribution problem. Our partner is doing the needful at the reaching our products to end users.”

He further said “We are doing well in Botswana market and hoping to make much more. Our aim is to enter every single corner in Botswana territory. With our new marketing campaigns, we are planning to be the most preferred yeast in Botswana market.”

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