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.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.