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Olopeng challenges youth to be global entrepreneurs

Minister of Youth Empowerment Sport & Cultural Development Thapelo Olopeng has challenged Batswana youth entrepreneurs to come up with business ideas targeting the regional & continental market as well as a global consumer space.

Olopeng made this call to young entrepreneurs at the De Beers Entrepreneurship Catalyst Summit at the University of Botswana this week. The minister conceded that Botswana’s population was too small to sustain larger entrepreneurial undertakings and said that his government was acknowledging of the fact that unemployment was a challenge is Botswana-hence the need for entrepreneurship to grow.   

The De Beers Entrepreneurship Catalyst Summit is a youth empowerment, interactive platform that aims at enabling, inspiring as well as igniting and exciting the youth of Botswana towards changing an innovative idea into a sustainable business for the next 50 years. The forum is held every year in the sidelines of the DeBeers Diamond week which constitutes a high profile Diamond Conference, the conference was officiated by His Excellency Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama at the GICC on Tuesday.  

Minister Olopeng told the young entrepreneurs that they needed to change their mindset and think outside the box “Young entrepreneurs are not braggers, the results speak for them and they don’t look out for handouts but rather come up with initiatives to even empower others,” he said. The Minister also observed that Botswana seats on over 200 billion tonnes of coal deposit and urged innovative youth to explore opportunities in the industrialization value chains. He also said on the other hand young innovators needed to come up with ideas to explore gaps in green technology. “Young people need now to come up with green technology solutions, design and manufacturing of solar panels as we also move to venture into that energy,” he said.

The former army captain also shared his journey from working for government and taking a leap into entrepreneurship saying his strong values were perseverance and not giving up when the going got tough. “I made up my mind that I didn’t want to work for anybody and the first 2 years I was struggling but to me those were my best university of Business years, experience is the best teacher!”

Lack of intellectual property protection demoralises entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship involves intellectual crafts that are formulated by GOD given talent and creative observation of opportunities and gaps in the existing business space. It has been established at a number of dialogue platforms and interactive workshops that Botswana protection framework on intellectual property specifically in the area of entrepreneurial ideas and viable crafts is not as sound as it is supposed to be.

This was reiterated last week during various views exchange seminars in the sidelines of the Global Expo and even including at the De Beers Entrepreneurship Catalyst Summit on Wednesday. Young people who attended the discussions revealed that they presented ideas to investment agencies and become unsuccessful only to see the idea implemented by some else who has ties with officials within the financial agencies. “In most cases the ideas are poorly implemented because we didn’t share the same vision and go how with the armchair entrepreneur who illegally inherited the idea” asserted one of the attendants at the intellectual property seminar held last week Thursday.

It also emerged from one of the International investment & trade conference plenary sessions that some investment and financial institutions do not have confidentiality arrangements during the presentation of business ideas by entrepreneurs. Managing Director at Investec Asset Management Botswana, Martinus Seboni who is also Chairman of Companies & Intellectual Properties Authority (CIPA) last week conceded that the intellectual property protection guidelines in the area of entrepreneurial ideas and craft were not as sound as they should be.

Seboni however noted that currently CIPA was reviewing the guidelines and the framework will be discussed at the ongoing 11th parliament session. Chief Executive Officer of Debswana Pension Fund, Gosego January said that the law had to clearly bind investors and private equity firms not to disclose nor use ideas and entrepreneurial patents against the consent of the owner, saying that her organization has a clear confidentiality clause before even opening one investment proposal. “It is also equally important for entrepreneurs to register their patents and creations with relevant authorities before approaching investors in order to protect their intellectual properties,” she said.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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