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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

Slight growth in GDP as economy battles return

28th July 2021
Peggy-Serame

Botswana’s economy showed slight growth signs in the first quarter of 2021, following a devastating year in 2020.

During 2020, the entire second quarter was on zero economic activity as the country went on total lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

Diamond trade plummeted to record low levels as global travel restrictions halted movement of both goods and people and muted trade.

The end result was a significant decline for the local economy, at an estimated 7 percent contraction, just marginally below the 2008/09 global financial crises.

According to figures released by Statics Botswana this week, the country’s nominal Gross Domestic Product for the first quarter of 2021 was P47.739 billion compared to a revised P45.630 billion registered during the previous quarter.

This represents a quarterly increase of 4.6 percent in nominal terms between the two periods.

During the quarter, Public Administration and Defence became the major contributor to GDP by 18.4 percent, followed by Wholesale & Retail by 11.4 percent. The contribution of other sectors was below 6.0 percent, with Water and Electricity Supply being the lowest at 1.6 percent.

Real GDP for the first quarter of 2021 increased by 0.7 percent compared to a contraction of 4.6 percent registered in the previous quarter.

The improvement in the first quarter 2021 GDP reflected continued efforts to reopen businesses and resume activities that were postponed or restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The real GDP increased by 0.7 percent during the period under review, compared to an increase of 1.2 percent in the same quarter of 2020.

The recovery in the domestic economy was observed across majority of industries except Accommodation & Food Services, Mining & Quarrying, Manufacturing, Construction, Other Services and Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing.

The overall slow performance of the economy was mainly due to the impact of measures that were put in place to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Non-mining GDP increased by 4.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 4.0 percent increase registered in the same quarter of the previous year.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry decreased by 2.0 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2021, relative to a contraction of 5.2 percent registered during the same quarter of 2020.

The main driver of the unfavorable performance stems from a decrease in real value added of Livestock farming by 3.0 percent.

Mining and Quarrying registered a decrease 11.4 percent in the real value added, this was mainly influenced by the drop in the Gold and Diamond real value added by 17.5 and 12.5 percent respectively.

Diamond production in carats went down by 12.1 percent while the tonnage of Gold produced went down by 17.5 percent.

The poor performance of the diamond sub-industry is attributed to the reduction in production due to a lower grade feed to the plant at Orapa in response to heavy rainfall and operational issues, including continued power supply disruptions.

With regard to Gold is due to diminishing resource base which affect production.

The Manufacturing industry recorded a decline of 7.4 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2021, compared to a decrease of 2.3 percent registered in the corresponding quarter of 2020.

The deep low performance in the industry is observed in the two major sub-industries of Beverages & tobacco and Diamond cutting, polishing and setting by 57.0 and 38.5 percent respectively.

The reduction in Beverages is attributed to alcohol sale ban imposed during the quarter under review in order to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. On the other hand, exports of polished diamonds went down by 24.9 percent compared to a decrease of 11.5 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year.

The construction industry recorded a decline of 4.8 percent compared to an increase of 4.3 percent realized in the corresponding quarter in 2020.

This industry comprises of buildings construction, civil engineering and specialized construction activities. The industry is still showing signs of the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic. The industry recorded a negative growth of 7.4 percent in the previous quarter.

Water and Electricity Water and Electricity value added at constant 2016 prices for the first quarter of 2021 was P506.2 million compared to P378.2 million registered in the same quarter of 2020, recording a growth of 33.8 percent.

In the first quarter of 2021, Electricity recorded a significant growth of 62.4 percent compared to a decrease of 67.6 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2020.

The local electricity production increased by 22.4 percent while Electricity imports decreased by 33.3 percent during quarter under review. The water industry recorded a value added of P231.3 million compared to P209.0 million registered in the same quarter of the previous year, registering an increase of 10.7 percent.

Wholesale and Retail Trade real value added increased by 11.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to an increase of 5.5 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year. The industry deals with sales of fast moving consumer goods.

Diamond Traders recorded a significant growth of 112.7 percent as opposed to a decline of 22.7 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter last year. The positive growth is due to improved demand of diamonds from the global market.

The Transport and Storage value added increased by 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2021, compared to a 2.4 percent increase recorded in the same quarter of the previous year.

The slight improved performance of the industry was mainly attributed to the increase in real value added of Road Transport and Post & Courier Services by 4.3 and 2.1 percent respectively.

The slow growth was influenced by a significant reduction in Air Transport services of 69.7 percent due to reduced number of passengers carried. Rail goods traffic in tonnes went down by 6.4 percent and passenger rail transport was not operating during the quarter under review.

Accommodation and Food Services Accommodation and Food Services real value added declined by 31.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to a decrease of 4.4 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year. The reduction is largely attributed to a decrease of 42.1 percent in real value added of the Accommodation activities subindustry.

The suspension of air travel occasioned by Covid-19 containment measures impacted on the number of tourists entering the borders of the country and hence affecting the output of Hotels and Restaurants industry. COVID-19 restriction measures resulted in reduced demand for leisure and conferencing activities, as conferences are largely held through virtual platforms.

Finance, Insurance and Pension Funding industry registered a positive growth of 8.3 percent due to the favorable performance from monetary intermediation and Central Banking Services by 16.4 and 5.4 percent respectively during quarter under review.

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Business

Chobe Holdings secures P16 million for dark days

28th July 2021
Chobe Holdings

It is still tough in the tourism industry — big players in this sleeping giant are not having it easy, but options are being explored to keep the once vibrant multibillion Pula sector alive until the world gets back to normalcy.

One of the primary measures against the spread of Covid-19 is to stay home; this widely pronounced precaution against the global contagion that has claimed over 4 million lives across the world is however a thorn in the flesh of one of the major industries in the global economy — the tourism sector .

This sector is underpinned by travel – an act which is the virus‘ number one mode of spread, especially across borders.

Chobe Holdings Limited, one of Botswana’s leading high end eco-tourism giants said its survival strategies are underpinned by well-crafted stakeholder engagements in the mist of these unprecedented times of muted trading activity.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Chobe continued to invest in and strengthen its relationships with key stakeholders in both its traditional markets and the SADC region,” the company directors updated shareholders this week.

To keep the business afloat, the company which owns and operates some of the exquisite tourism destinations along the banks of the mighty Chobe said it has triggered its existing available debt financing avenues.

Chobe revealed that its current overdraft of BWP 25 million has been extended on favourable terms.

The company shared that it has negotiated a further USD 1.5 million (over P16 million) standby loan with a flexible settlement terms and preferable cost implications to the bottom line.

“We are confident that the Group has sufficient cash inflows, cash reserves and un-utilized prearranged borrowing in place to settle any liabilities falling due and support the smooth recovery of operations in the short and medium term,” the company directors said, noting that they will retain the flexibility to vary operations should market conditions change.

Early this year, Chobe announced that the ongoing crisis in the tourism industry forced the company to draw from its prearranged overdraft facility of P25 million to the extent of P11.6 million.

Last year Chobe’s occupancy levels around its lodges and hotels went down 89 percent. This resulted in unprecedented revenue decline of 93% to P27.78 million from the P373.94 million in the previous year ended February 2020.

Operating profits went down 159% with profit after tax down 170%, mirroring a loss of over P67 million.

Chobe management said during the last half of the financial year they have done all they could to contain costs across the company’s operations.

During the last half of the year Chobe’s marketing and reservations teams continued to pursue the “don’t cancel but defer policy”.

“We thus continue to hold advance travel receipts, to the value of about P34 million at the financial year end,” the company revealed early this year.

Chobe said it continues to engage Government, through HATAB and BTO to prioritize the vaccination of workers in the tourism sector.

“Throughout the pandemic we have ensured that employees are trained in and comply with COVID-19 infection mitigation protocols as well as ensuring that all visitors to our remote camps and lodges as well as our staff and contractors are tested for COVID-19 before reaching the camp or lodges,” the company said.

However, the company said vaccinating the tourism staff will provide the best way to ensure that both employees and guests are protected from the virus.

“We continue to manage our cashflow through stringent cost control measures, balanced against the protection of the Group’s physical assets and the wellbeing and retention of its people,” the company said.

Chobe has successfully retained its top management through the pandemic.  To this end the company directors continue to closely monitor the Group’s recovery from COVID-19 and adjust salary reductions to support operations and aid retention.

Domestic and regional travel resumed during the second quarter of the 2020/21 financial year with the Group opening a strategic mix of camps and lodges.

A comprehensive domestic, regional and international marketing plan was put in place to support these openings.

International travel resumed in the first quarter of the 2021/22 financial year with occupancies forecast to steadily increase, albeit from a low base, through the second quarter.

The company is optimistic that forward bookings are strong for the 2022/23 financial year.

“There is pent-up demand from our traditional source markets to travel now, but this is tempered by uncertainty and access constraints,” the company stated.

“Both the domestic and international markets are sensitive to such uncertainty, and it is critical that both the private and public sector work together to develop and publish clear, authoritative and consistent travel information in order to build confidence”

Chobe entered the pandemic with the Shinde camp rebuild in progress — one of its high end camps and this was completed in the first half of the 2020/21 financial year accounting for the majority of the Group’s capital expenditure for that period.

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Business

De Beers Q2 production jumps in response to strong rough diamond demand

28th July 2021
De-Beers -jwaneng-mine

De Beers Group, the world’s leading rough diamonds producer by value and Botswana’s partner in the diamond business, ramped up its production in the second quarter of 2021, in response to stronger demand for rough diamonds in the global markets.

The London headquartered diamond mining giant revealed in its production report this week that rough diamonds output  increased by 134% to 8.2 million carats in the three(3) months  of quarter 2 2021, “reflecting planned higher production to meet stronger demand for rough diamonds”.

This was against the backdrop of curtailed demand in the same quarter last year, mirroring the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns across southern Africa during that period.

In Botswana, where De Beers sources majority of its rough diamonds through partly government owned Debswana, production increased by 214% to 5.7 million carats. The percentage jump mirrored planned low production in the second quarter of 2020 where output was adjusted to market demands and implemented Covid-19 protocols.

Debswana operates four (4) Mines: Jwaneng Mine- being its flagship producer and largest revenue contributor. Jwaneng Mine which is the wealthiest diamond mine in the world by value is envisaged for multi-billion expansion to an underground operation in future to stretch its existence by few more decades.

The underground project which is anticipated to cost a whooping P65 billion will be the world‘s largest underground diamond mine.

The company which accounts for over 65 % of De Beers’s global production also operates Orapa Mine- one of the world’s largest by area, Letlhakane Mine currently a tailings treatment operation and Damtshaa Mine which is under care and maintenance following market shrink in 2020.

Namibia production decreased by 6% to 0.3 million carats, primarily due to planned maintenance of the Mafuta vessel which was completed in the quarter and another vessel remaining demobilized.  In Namibia De Beers sources diamonds both in land and marine through Namdeb and Debmarine respectfully.

In South Africa-the spiritual home ground of De Beers Group, production increased by 130% to 1.3 million carats, due to planned treatment of higher grade ore from the final cut of the Venetia open pit, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown in Q2 2020.

Production in Canada increased by 14% to 0.9 million carats, primarily reflecting the impact of the Covid-19 measures implemented in Q2 2020.

De Beers said consumer demand for polished diamonds continued to recover, leading to strong demand for rough diamonds from midstream cutting and polishing centers, despite the impact on capacity from the severe Covid-19 wave in India during April and May.

Rough diamond sales totaled 7.3 million carats (6.5 million carats on a consolidated basis), from two Sights, reflecting the impact of the reduced Indian midstream capacity on Sight 4, compared with 0.3 million carats (0.2 million carats on a consolidated basis) from two Sights in Q2 2020, and 13.5 million carats (12.7 million carats on a consolidated basis) from three Sights in Q1 2021.

The H1 2021 consolidated average realized price increased by 13% to $135/ct (H1 2020: $119/ct), driven by an increased proportion of higher value rough diamonds sold.

While the average price index remained broadly flat, the closing index increased by 14% compared to the start of 2021, reflecting tightness in inventories across the diamond value chain as well as positive consumer demand for polished diamonds.

Full Year Guidance Production guidance is tightened to 32–33 million carats (previously 32-34 million carats (100% bases)), subject to trading conditions and the extent of any further Covid-19 related disruptions.

When commenting to 2021 quarter 2 production figures, Mark Cutifani, Chief Executive of Anglo American- De Beers parent, said the entire Anglo American Group delivered a solid operational performance supported by comprehensive Covid-19 measures to help safeguard the lives and livelihoods of its workforce and host communities.

“We have generally maintained operating levels at approximately 95% of normal capacity and, as a consequence, production increased by 20% compared to Q2 of last year, with planned higher rough diamond production at De Beers” he said.

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