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Tumelo Mapila Perfects His Elevator Pitch and Launches Focus Surveys Onto Essential Global Networks

TIGELE MOKOBI
BIH CORNER

One of the worlds celebrated scientists and Nobel Prize (Physics) laureate, Albert Einstein is credited for saying, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” In present day’s fiercely competitive and fast paced world, entrepreneurs are increasingly required to master the art of the elevator pitch to convey their business idea in a clear, succinct and compelling manner to potential investors, mentors or clients.


The elevator pitch denotes the rare opportunity entrepreneurs have to ignite interest in their business idea or product. It is a brief, persuasive speech that does not last longer than a short elevator ride of 15-to-30 seconds, hence the name.  In an article written in the America business magazine, Forbes, Kristi Hedges states that, “There’s a well-told adage that you only get one chance to make a first impression. From personal relationships to business meetings, we’re taught that people form opinions of us in a few moments, and that we should be ready to show our best at all times.” On both sides of an exchange, and with every new encounter, one is evaluated and yet another person's impression of us is formed.

In business, making good first impression with potential investors, mentors or clients allows one to, “Maximise their connection in a minimal amount of time and start making valuable additions to their network from the get-go,” says author and coach in the leadership and life skills space, Todd Dewett. He goes on to say these first impressions can be nearly impossible to reverse or undo, making the first encounters extremely important, for they set the tone for all the relationships that follows.

Budding local entrepreneur Tumelo Mapila has adopted Einstein’s wisdom and the culture of making impressive first impressions as one of his personal and business life’s enduring lessons and guiding principles. Mapila lives by the ethos of author and motivational speaker, John Calvin Maxwell who asserts that, “Your network is your net worth.”

Building and nurturing strong business networks is important for supporting personal and enterprise advancement as it earns entrepreneur’s social capital, which compares to money in the bank.  A strong network can help one build visibility, connect with influencers, and open up doors for new opportunities. “Networking is a valuable way of expanding one’s knowledge and learning from the success of others, gaining new perspective and fresh insights, as well as raising one’s profile, expanding one’s sphere of influence and meeting prospective business partners, suppliers, customers and staff,” says Mapila.     

Growing up in Botswana’s thriving democracy and burgeoning economy, Mapila was acutely aware of the contradictions presented by the opportunities the prosperous country availed to its citizens and the hardships and sacrifices his doting civil servant mother endured to give him and his siblings a decent life. With a taste for the refined things in life, the young man was very clear, from a very tender age of the type of life he wanted to live. Having watched the rough and tumble experienced by his entrepreneur uncle and the amazing rewards he enjoyed for his patience and hard work, Mapila was convinced he was not cut out for the 8am to 5pm work regime. He concluded that, entrepreneurship was where he belonged.

The road to entrepreneurship is however, never easy and at one point Mapila joined the heart-wrenching ranks of the country’s youthful job seekers in the unemployment trenches. “This was one of the lowest points of my life from which I suffered bouts of depression,” he states. He goes on to say it was at this point that his uncle threw him a lifeline when he took him under his wings and helped him establish his own company. The mentorship provided invaluable guidance and lessons that helped him develop and grow his entrepreneurial skills.     

Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug at an early age, Mapila went on to overcome the initial stumbling challenges and become the founding CEO of All Bosses (Pty) Ltd. The company offers research consultancy services that engage innovative data collection and analytic technologies. All Bosses flagship service offering is Focus Surveys, a dynamic and robust intelligent data collection and analysis reporting service.  

Businesses – in general and startups in particular – face a myriad of challenges. The lack of business experience and the wherewithal to get the right exposure and make the essential business networks can stifle and may even kill off a budding enterprise. American policymaker, academic and director of the project on Technology, the Economy, and National Security (TENS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, David Edelman says, “It’s a false economy to put your faith in customers discovering you unless you make a concerted effort to grow them with a proper structured plan to promote your startup.”

This is one lesson Tumelo learnt earlier on in his entrepreneurial journey of self-discovery. He learnt that in present days highly competitive business world, an international outlook and collaborative approach are some of the critical requirements that underpin a vibrant startup ecosystem. He testifies that, “Networking and brand awareness are two of the critical business development components that have promoted and grown this enterprise.”

He says the story of his company’s life began with the establishment of Focus Surveys in 2013. After a difficult and painful start, the company got a break when it was engaged to do data collection and analyses for the country’s premier business to business (B2B) exhibition and conference, The Global Expo in 2015. That being their first major job, they went all out to make a bold statement and prove to the client that they were more than capable to execute the task on time and within budget. Mapila boasts that their final submission to client was exceptional to the extent that they were later invited to present their report to The Global Expo executive committee which affirmed their credibility and assured them of future jobs.

Mapila’s first encounter with Botswana Innovation Hub was through the company’s technology entrepreneurship development programme, First Steps Venture Centre (FSVC) when in 2013 he participated in one of the programmes pitch sessions. The pitch sessions accord entrepreneurs the opportunity to present their business ideas to prospective investors, mentors and collaborators. “Participation in the FSVC pitch sessions gave us increased confidence and launched us further into the local and regional market,” he says.

Botswana Innovation Hub is an innovative and networked company that promotes technology, entrepreneurship and commercialisation on a purpose built Science and Technology Park. Around this, Botswana Innovation Hub is building opportunities in tenancy, membership, a globally-connected innovation ecosystem, and world-class client services. Emboldened by the roaring success of their maiden participation in the FSVC pitch session, Mapila enrolled Focus Surveys into the technology entrepreneurship development programme and went on to benefit from an array of the programmes service bouquet. These include, hot desking, business advisory, brand activation and publicity, technology entrepreneurs coaching and mentoring, and match making which connects start-ups with the right business partners.

In March 2017 Botswana Innovation Hub collaborated with DEMO Africa in an initiative that sought to provide local entrepreneurs with the opportunity to pitch at the DEMO Africa competition which was held in South Africa that year. DEMO Africa is a product of a partnership between The U.S. Department of State, Microsoft, DEMO, USAID and Startup Weekend called Liberalizing Innovation Opportunity Nations (LIONS@FRICA) Partnership. LIONS@FRICA seeks to connect African startups to the global ecosystem though its flagship programme, DEMO Africa.  

Focus Surveys participated in the DEMO Africa grand finals in September 2017 and emerged victorious in the prestigious local pitching competition. The company went on to participate at the DEMO Africa competition in South Africa where although they did not emerge in the top five finalists of the of the fiercely contested regional competition, Mapila’s sterling performance at the DEMO Africa competition earned his company a slot on the LIONS@FRICA Innovation Tour which was held earlier this year in Silicon Valley, California from February 10th till 18th 2018. An Angel Investor was convinced by Mapila’s Elevator Pitch and saw the relevance and growth opportunity in Focus Surveys and pledged to sponsor the company to participate in the prestigious StartUp Grind competition.

The LIONS@FRICA Innovation Tour is focused on knowledge sharing with leading Silicon Valley stakeholders and networking opportunities that are intended to yield deeper engagement between the company and potential partners. While in the U.S., the company participated in a series of events including StartUp Grind, and other curated side events across the Silicon Valley ecosystem. This presented Mapila with multiple opportunities to pitch his company’s products, services and technologies to select groups of investors, industry leaders, diaspora groups and expert panels.  

Prior to the Silicon Valley excursion, Mapila had participated in another pitching competition organized through the Botswana Innovation Hub partnership with the Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme (SAiS). In that competition known as SLUSH, Mapila put up an awesome performance as always and went on to win the local edition of the SLUSH 2017 pitching competition. He proceeded to represent the country at the finals of the global pitching competition in Helsinki, Finland. SLUSH is a startup and tech event that facilitates founder and investor annual meetings with the aim of building a world-wide startup community that helps the next generation of great, world-conquering companies move forward.

Mapila’s journey to success is testimony that a refined Elevator Pitch can open business opportunities and that indeed one’s network is their net worth. The exposure of an enterprise earns it social capital which is an essential resource in the knowledge-based economy and as DEMO Africa executive producer, Harry Hare affirms, “The entries this year certainly kept up with the DEMO Africa spirit to produce innovative and creative ideas that are bound to transform the technology landscape and we are excited by the growth of innovation and technological advancement in Africa as portrayed by our finalists.”

Focus Surveys latest feat confirms Mapila as master of his craft. The young man knows his story and he can break it down for you clearly and convincingly in less than a minute. He is the undisputed national champion of The Elevator Pitch. Having conquered the local and regional scene, Mapila has now joined the elite global league where he hobnobs with the world’s best at Silicon Valley. Thanks to FSVC for identifying, developing and nurturing this technology-oriented startup business to grow into international markets.

Mapila concludes, “I am grateful for the opportunities received through Botswana Innovation Hub’s technology entrepreneurship development programme. The many pitch sessions we have participated in, including The DEMO Africa and SLUSH competitions have helped us polish our pitching skills and provided invaluable experiences that exposed us to different networks and a globally connected innovation ecosystem.”

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Business

MD, Board in BBS battle for supremacy

12th April 2021

Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) moved swiftly this week to suspend BBS Limited from trading its securities following a brawl between Board of Directors and Managing Director, Pius Molefe, which led to corporate governance crisis at the organisation.

In an interesting series of events that unfolded this week, incumbent board Chairperson, Pelani Siwawa-Ndai moved to expel Molefe together with board Secretary, Sipho Showa, who also doubles up as Head of Marketing and Communications.  It is reported that Siwawa-Ndai in her capacity as the board Chairperson wrote letters of dismissals to Molefe and Showa.

Following receipt of letters, the duo sought and was furnished with legal opinion from Armstrong Attorneys advising them that their dismissals were unlawful hence they were told to continue to report to work and carry out their duties.

Documents seen by BusinessPost articulate that in the meeting which was held on the 1st of April, the five outgoing board members, unlawfully took resolutions to extend their contracts by a further 90 days after April 30 2021 as they face tough competition from five other candidates who had expressed interest to run for the elections.

Moreover, at the said meeting, management explained that neither management nor the board have the authority to decline nominations submitted by shareholders or the interested parties which is in line with Companies Act and also BBS Limited constitution.

Molefe also revealed that as management they cautioned the board that it was conflicted and it would be improper for it to influence the election process as it seems they intended to do so.
“Nonetheless, in a totally unprecedented move in the history of BBSL, the board then collectively passed the unlawful resolutions below. Leading to the illegitimate decisions, the board had brazenly directed that its discussions on the Board elections should not be recorded totally violating sound corporate governance,” reads the statement released by management this week.

When giving their legal advice, Armstrong Attorneys noted that notice for the AGM should state individuals proposed to be elected to the board and directors have no legal authority to prevent the process.

Armstrong Attorneys also noted that, “due process” cited by board members are simply to ensure that the five retiring Directors avoid competition from interested candidates to be appointed to the BBS Limited board.  The law firm further opined that the resolution of the 90 day extension of term of the five directors pending re-election or election was unlawful.

Molefe expressed with regret that BBS has been suspended from trading by BSE until the current matter has been resolved. “I am concerned by this development and other potentially harmful actions on the business. As management, we are engaging with stakeholders to mitigate any negative impact on BBS Limited,” expressed a distressed Molefe.

He assured shareholders and the rest of Management that they are working very hard to ensure that the issues are being dealt with in a mature manner.  BBS which hopes to become the first indigenous commercial bank has seen its shares halted barely four months after BSE lifted the trading suspension of shares for BBS following submission of their published 2019 audited financial statements.

According to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the local bourse, Thapelo Tsheole said the halting of shares of BBSL is to maintain fair, efficient and orderly securities trading environment. “The securities have been suspended to allow BBS to provide clarity to the market concerning the recent allegations which have been brought to the attention of the BSE relating to the company’s Board of Directors and senior management,” said Tsheole.

Meanwhile in their audited financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2020, BBS recorded a loss of P14.6 million as at 31 December 2020 compared to the loss of P35.7 million for the comparative year ended 31 December 2019. According to Molefe the year under review was the most challenging for the bank, its shareholders and customers endured the difficult economic environment and the negative impact of the coronavirus.

He revealed that as the bank, they were forced to put in place several measures to ensure that the business withstands the impact of coronavirus and also to cushion mortgage customers from the effects of the pandemic. “Since April 2020 up to the end of December 2020, BBS assisted 555 mortgage customers with a payment holiday,’’ he said.

This is the bank whose total balance sheet declined by 12 percent from P4, 626 billion for the year ended. 31 December 2019 to P4, 088 billion as at 31 December 2020. As if things were not bad enough, total savings and deposits at the bank declined by 14 percent from a balance of P2, 885 billion as at 31 December 2019 to P2, 494 billion as at 31 December 2020.

On a much brighter side, BBSL mortgage loans and advances improved from P3, 401 billion to P3.408 billion with impairment allowance significantly improving to P78, 648 million from P102, 532 million for the year under review, representing a positive variance of 23 percent. BBS maintained a strong capital base with capital adequacy ratios of 26.32% for the year ended 31 December 2020.

Molefe was optimistic and anticipated a positive outcome during the implementation of the new BBS corporate strategy, whose main drive is commercialization of operations, which is in full force.
“It will be spurred on by the positive results we have achieved for the year ended 31 December 2020, and our planned submission of our banking license application to Bank of Botswana which we anticipate to operate as a commercial bank in the third quarter of 2021,” he alluded.

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Mphathi promises people centred, environmentally sensitive new BCL

12th April 2021
CEO of Premium Nickel Resources Botswana: Montwedi Mphathi

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Premium Nickel Resources Botswana (PNRB), Montwedi Mphathi, has said his company will resuscitate the formerly owned BCL assets and deliver a new, sustainable and cutting edge mining operation.

The new mine which will leverage on modern and next generation technology, will be environmentally sensitive and cognisant of the needs of its people and that of the communities around the area of influence.

In a statement last week, Premium Nickel Resources Botswana and its parent company, the Canadian headquartered Premium Nickel Resources announced that they have now completed the Exclusivity Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Liquidator.

The MOU will govern a six-month exclusivity period to complete its due diligence and related purchase agreements on the Botswana nickel-copper-cobalt (Ni-Cu-Co) assets formerly operated by BCL Limited (BCL), that are currently in liquidation.

On February 10, 2021, Lefoko Moagi, the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security of Botswana, affirmed in Parliament a press release by the Liquidator for the BCL Group of Companies, stating that PNR was selected as the preferred bidder to acquire assets formerly owned by BCL.

“This is encouraging for the company and for Botswana. Our ambition in this new project dubbed “Tsholofelo” is to redevelop the former BCL assets into a modern, environmentally sensitive, efficient NI-Cu-Co-water producer where sustainability and the people are at the forefront of the decisions we make,” said Mphathi in a statement last Thursday.

“We also understand that no matter how successful we are at building the “New BCL” , our success will only be measured at our ability to create local wealth , skills and support the continued transition of local economy to a longer term sustainable base.”

The next step during the exclusivity period will be the completion of the definitive agreement. Simultaneous to this the PNRB will be conducting additional investigative work on site to further its understanding of the potential of these assets.

Specifically the company will complete an environmental assessment, a metallurgical study, a review of legal and social responsibilities, a review of the mine closure and rehabilitation plans and an on-site inspection of the legacy mining infrastructure and equipment that has been under care and maintenance.

Mphathi said they continue to monitor the global Covid-19 developments noting that they are committed to working with health and safety authorities as a priority and in full respect of all government and local Covid-19 protocol requirements. PNRB has developed Covid-19 travel, living and working protocols in anticipation of moving forward to on site due diligence.

“We will integrate these protocols with the currently applicable protocols of Ministry of Health & Wellness as well as District Health Management Team ( DHMT) and surrounding communities,” reads a statement released by the Gaborone based Premium Nickel Resources team.

PNRB is looking to become a catalyst in participating and building a strong economy for Botswana, with a purpose where respect and trust are core to every single step that will be taken. “Our success will mean following international best-in-class practices for the protection of Botswana’s environment and the focus on its people, building partnerships and earning respect, through cooperation and collaboration,” explains PNRB on its website.

“We are committed to Governance through transparent accountability and open communication within our team and with all our stakeholders.” Mphathi, a former BCL Executive, is widely celebrated for achieving unprecedented profitability at the mine during his tenure as General Manager.

The Serowe-born mining guru obtained a Diploma in Mining Technology from Haileybury School of Mines in Canada. He later obtained a B.Eng. Mining degree from the Technical University of Nova Scotia. Mphathi went on to City University in London, UK and obtained a M.Sc. in Industrial and Administrative Sciences.

Before ascending to the top country managerial role of Premium Nickel Resources. Mphathi was General Manager of Botswana Ash (Botash), Southern Africa’s leading salt and soda ash producer.
He was at some point linked to Debswana top post, which is still to date not substantively filled following the death of Managing Director, Albert Milton, in August 2019.

With Mphathi out of the race and now leading the rebuilding of his former employer, the top post at De Beers- Botswana joint venture is likely to be filled by current acting Managing Director Lynette Armstrong, a seasoned finance executive with unparalleled experience in the extractive industry.

“We are happy to hear that former General Manager of BCL, Mr Montwedi Mphathi, has a relationship with the new Company that intends to resuscitate the mine, he is an experienced Mining Executive who knows BCL better, we want the mine to be brought back to life so that our people can be employed ” said Dithapelo Keorapetse Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West recently in Parliament.

BCL was liquidated in October 2016 following a series of losses and government bailout occasioned by low Copper prices and allegedly poor Investment decisions and maladministration. Recently PNR CEO, Keith Morrison said his team of seasoned experts both from Canada and Botswana are committed to resuscitate the BCL assets and deliver a high performance mining operation.

“The World, Botswana and the mining industry have changed dramatically since mining first started at the former BCL assets in the early 1970s. The nickel-copper-cobalt resources remaining at these mines are now critical metals, required for the continued development of a decarbonized and electrified global economy,” he said.

Morrison added: “As we move forward, it is our goal to demonstrate the potential economics of re-developing a combination of the former BCL assets to produce Ni-Cu-Co and water in a manner that is inclusive of modern environmental, social and corporate governance responsibilities.”

He explained that to attain this, extensive upgrades to infrastructure will be required with an emphasis on safety, sustainability and the application of new technologies to minimize the environmental impact and total carbon footprint for the new operations.

“Our team remains committed to working with the local communities and all of the stakeholders throughout this period and we encourage anyone with questions or feedback to reach out to us directly,” he noted.

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Lucara extends sales deal with Belgian diamond cutter

12th April 2021
Lucara extends HB Antwerp’s contract Signum technologies

Lucara Diamond Corporation, the Canadian 100% owners of iconic Karowe mine, this week announced the extension of its supply deal with Belgian diamond midstream giant HB Antwerp.

The definitive supply agreement is in respect of all diamonds produced in excess. of 10.8 carats in size from its rare gem producing Karowe diamond mine located in the Boteti district of Botswana.
Large, high value diamonds in excess of 10.8 carats in size account for approximately 70% of Lucara’s annual revenue.

Though the Karowe mine has remained fully operational throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Lucara made a deliberate decision not to tender any of its +10.8 carat inventory after early March 2020 amidst the uncertainty caused by the global crisis.

Under the terms of this novel supply agreement with HB, extended to December 2022, the purchase price paid for each +10.8 carat rough diamond is based on the estimated polished outcome, determined through state of the art scanning and planning technology, with a true up paid on actual achieved polished sales thereafter, less a fee and the cost of manufacturing.

“Lucara is beginning to see the benefits of this strategy in accessing a broader marketplace and delivering regular cash flow based on final polished sales,” said Lucara CEO, Eira Thomas on Wednesday.

“We believe these early results warrant an extension of the arrangement for at least 24 months to determine if superior pricing and market stability for our large, high-value diamonds can be sustained longer term.”

The Canadian junior miner initiated a supply agreement with HB for large stones from its Botswana Karowe mine in July 2020, after pausing its tenders shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic began.
The deal enables Lucara to sell the rough diamonds to HB at a price based on an estimate of the polished outcome, which the companies determine using diamond scanning and planning technology.
Once HB sells the goods, it adjusts the price that Lucara receives based on the actual selling price of the polished, minus a fee and manufacturing costs.

The extended supply deal will follow the same payment terms as the initial agreement, and will be in effect through to December 2022. Lucara said in a statement this week that the agreement also provides increased tax revenue and beneficiation opportunities for the government of Botswana, and creates a streamlined supply chain for Karowe’s rough.

“More than a supply agreement, this collaboration structurally embeds a new transparent and sustainable way of working in the diamond-value chain,” said HB CEO, Oded Mansori.
“For the first time, different partners of the value chain are fully aligned, sharing data and information throughout the process from mine to consumer.”

Mansori added: “We are truly proud with this innovative and straightforward collaboration that has proven itself through the volatile and uncertain reality of 2020. We are confident to achieve even better results during the term of this new contract and demonstrate the power of a true partnership.”

Lucara, which early this year secured extension of Karowe mining license to 2040, announced over P2.4 billion funding for Karowe underground mining expansion project a fortnight ago. The Vancouver headquartered top large diamond producer says this supply agreement deal extension with HB will bring about regular cash flow for Lucara using polished pricing mechanism. Furthermore, the company says the deal has potential revenue upside, particularly suited for Lucara’s large, exceptional diamonds.

In the main, Botswana will benefit increased tax revenue and additional beneficiation opportunities for the Government and communities around Karowe mine. A streamlined supply chain that achieves alignment between Lucara and HB to maximize the value of each +10.8 carat diamond produced at Karowe.

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