Billionaire advice to Botswana
Billionaire English business man, bestselling author, philanthropist, founder and Chairman of a conglomerate of multinational companies, Virgin Group, Richard Branson graced the 2017 Global Expo organized by the BITC. He specifically gave a talk at a special event dubbed ‘Conversations with Sir Richard Branson’.
Before sharing his entrepreneurial experiences to an audience of captains of industries, expo exhibitors, senior government officials and young entrepreneurs, Branson paid a courtesy call on President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama and Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi at the office of the President. Branson who has been in Botswana before on private visit commended Botswana for its sound environmental conservation and natural resources preservation policy and management system.
Of his various exploits around the world Sir Branson maintains that his best African holiday trip was in Botswana. “The Okavango Delta, according to me, is amongst the top 10 best things to have happened to planet earth, the place is so incredible.” The filthy rich diverse entrepreneur showered Botswana with praises for its good ratings by the international oversight bodies on good governance and busting corruption.
However he cautioned against the high unemployment rate among young people who constitute the majority of Botswana population. He said this was a sad reality that must be addressed. “It is a sad because young people are the most vibrant and active. In order for jobs to be created people need to take deliberate steps of entering into entrepreneurship and starting sustainable businesses,” Sir Branson said.
Sir Branson who started his first business after dropping out of school at the age of 16 explained that to become a successful entrepreneur one has to be a good listener who can always observe existing opportunities and must be ready to learn. ”You have to ask yourself a question on how you can do something better than other people who have done it before, because entrepreneurship is not always about what hasn’t been done, if there is an opportunity to complement or do something better, that is a gap for a business,” he said.
Sir Richard Branson advised that Botswana should venture into clean energy: “You have a lot of coal, that is wrong timing as the world is shifting to green energy, but for jobs and GDP’s sake you can extract the coal and export to more industrial countries overseas; but for sustainability, start taking a leap into green energy,” he said. The over $5 billion worth English tycoon lectured Botswana on the unexplored diamond this country is sitting on – the natural hot climate conditions. Sir Branson said solar energy can be Botswana‘s multimillion Dollar sector that can create jobs.
“You can even import the chips, cells, the solar silicon cells from China and assemble them here and someone can set up a solar power station,” he said. According to Sir Richard Branson, people must start thinking big business ideas and implement them at a young age while they still have no commitments. “To run a sustainable business is highly dependent on among other things the people you have hired and how you treat them. Good business leaders are always looking at getting the best out of people they lead.”
Sir Branson further shared that people must be comfortable at the workplace in order for them to carry out their mandate fully. He stated that the workspace must not dictate to workers what to wear and how long to work as long as the job is done. Sir Richard Branson who has various charity projects around the world which are aimed at humanitarian work in undeveloped countries and unstable nations believes that people must be given a chance in life.
“At Virgin Active we hire ex-convicts fresh from prison and none of them has ever reoffended.” He also shared his thoughts on drugs: “People who sell drugs are entrepreneurs, they possess a skill, it is just that they are using it in an illegal dealership which also has negative health consequences. We just need to give people another chance in life.” According to Sir Branson drug dealers and offenders can become great entrepreneurs if they are rehabilitated and given another chance to follow the right path in pursuit of their dreams.
HOW HE MADE IT TO THE TOP
Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, born 18 July 1950, founded Virgin Group in 1966 when he left school to run a business and lifestyle magazine called Student. In 1970, he set up a mail-order record business which was followed by a chain of recording stores under the label Virgin Records.
His fast growing business Group expanded rapidly in the 1980’s. One of his major business segments is Virgin Atlantic, a multinational airline that fought brutally with British Airways to gain establishment. When answering a question from Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Bogolo Kenewendo, Sir Branson said that startups must do whatever it takes to survive the wrath of already established business.
He shared that when British Airlines wanted to swallow his startup Airline and pushed his brand out of the game, he exposed their ill intension with the help of the media. He advised local media to support startups in order to realize significant growth of the economy. Sir Richard Branson also runs an entrepreneurship program termed Branson entrepreneurship school headquartered in London with outreaches worldwide. In March 2000 Branson was knighted at Buckingham Palace for "services to entrepreneurship”, particularly for his work in retail, music and transport as well his humanitarian work. He has partnered with Desmond Tutu, Koffi Anan, and the late Nelson Mandela on a number humanitarian undertakings aimed at bringing peace worldwide.
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Grit divests from Letlole La Rona
Grit Services Limited, a member of the pan African real estate group, London Stock Exchange listed Grit Real Estate Income Group is divesting from Letlole La Rona Limited (LLR), a local real estate company established by government investment arm Botswana Development Corporation over a decade ago.
The Board of Directors of Letlole La Rona Limited this week announced in a statement to Unitholders that Grit Services Limited (‘Grit’) has informed them of its intention to exit its investment in the company.
Grit has been a material shareholder in LLR since 2019. On 07 March 2023, Grit sold 6 421 000 linked units, representing 2.29% of the Company’s total securities in issue, at a market value of BWP 22 537 710.
This trade follows previous sales of 6.79% in December 2022, as communicated to Unitholders on 10 January 2023, as well as a further sale of 4.78% (representing 13 347 068 linked units) on 24 February 2023 to various shareholders.
In aggregate, Grit has sold 13.9% shareholding in the Letlole La Rona between December 2022 and March 2023, resulting in current shareholding of 11.25% in the Company.
Letlole La Rona said in the statement that the exit process will take place in an orderly manner so as to maintain stability of the Company’s share price.
The statement explained that Grit’s sale of its entire shareholding in LLR is in line with its decision to exit investments where it does not have majority control, or where it has significant exposure to currencies other than US dollar, Euro or hard-currency-pegged revenue streams.
“Grit has announced similar decisions pertaining to certain of its hospitality assets in Mauritius recently. The Company would like to advise Unitholders that it remains focused on long-term value delivery to all stakeholders” LLR said
In July last year as part of their Go-to-Africa strategy Letlole La Rona acquired an initial 30% equity stake in Orbit Africa Logistics, with an option to increase this investment to 50%. OAL is a special purpose vehicle incorporated in Mauritius, owning an industrial asset in a prime industrial node in Nairobi, Kenya.
The co-investment was done alongside a wholly owned subsidiary of London listed Grit. The Orbit facility is situated on a prime industrial site on Mombasa Road, the principal route south of Nairobi center, serving the main industrial node, the port of Mombasa and the industrial town of Athi River and is strategically located 11 kilometers south of the international airport and 9.6 kilometers from the Inland Container Depot.
Grit shareholding in Letlole La Rona was seen as strategic for LLR, for the company to leverage on Grit’s already existing continental presence and expand its wings beyond Botswana borders as already delivered by Kenya transaction.
Media reports have however suggested that LLR and Grit have since late last year had fundamental disagreements on how to go about the Go-to-Africa strategy amongst other things, fuelled by alleged Botswana government interference on the affairs of LLR.
Government through LLR founding shareholder – Botswana Development Corporation has a controlling stake of around 40 percent in the company. Government is the sole shareholder of Botswana Development Corporation.
Letlole La Rona recently released their financial results for the six months ended December 2022, revenue increased by 4% to P50.2 million from P48.4 million in the prior comparative six months, whilst operating profit was up 8% to P36.5 million. Profit before tax of P49.7 million was reported, an increase of 8% on the prior comparative six months.
“We are encouraged by the strong results, notwithstanding a challenging economic environment. Our performance was mainly underpinned by annual lease escalations, our quality tenant base and below average market vacancy levels, especially in our warehouse portfolio,” Kamogelo Mowaneng, Letlole La Rona Chief Executive Officer commented.
LLR reported a weighted average lease expiry period of 3.3 years and escalation rates averaging 6.8% per annum for the period ended 31 December 2022.Its investment portfolio value increased by 14% year-on-year to close the period at P1.4 billion, mainly driven by the acquisition of a 30% stake in OAL in July 2022.
The Company also recorded a significant increase in other income, predominantly due to foreign exchange gains on the OAL shareholder loan. “We continue to explore pipeline opportunities locally, and regionally in line with our Go-to-Africa strategy and our interest remains on value-accretive investments,” Mowaneng said.
An interim distribution of 9.11 thebe per linked unit was declared on the 6th of February 2023 for the half-year period to 31 December 2022, comprising of a dividend of 0.05 thebe and debenture interest of 9.06 thebe per linked unit which will be paid to linked unit holders registered in the books of the Company at the close of business on 24 February 2023.
Stargems Group establishes Training Center in BW
Internationally-acclaimed diamond manufacturing company StarGems Group has established the Stargems Diamond Training Center which will be providing specialized training in diamond manufacturing and evaluation.
The Stargems Diamond Training Institute is located at the Stargems Group Botswana Unit in Gaborone.
“In accordance with the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) which holds the principle that through education and skills development as well as the strategic alignment between national ambitions and individual capabilities, Botswana will become a prosperous, productive and innovative nation due to the quality and efficacy of its citizenry. The Training Centre will provide a range of modules in theory and in practice; from rough diamond evaluation to diamond grading and polishing for Batswana, at no cost for eight weeks. The internationally- recognized certificate offered in partnership with Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School presents invaluable opportunities for Batswana to access in the diamond industry locally and internationally. The initiative is an extension of our Corporate Social Investment to the community in which we operate,” said Vishal Shah, Stargems Group Managing Director, during the launch of the Stargems Diamond Training Center.
In order to participate in this rare opportunity, interested candidates are invited to submit a police clearance certificate and a BGCSE certificate only to the Stargems offices. Students who excel in these programs will have the chance to be onboarded by the Stargems Group. This serves as motivation for them to go through this training with a high level of seriousness.
“Community empowerment is one of our CSR principles. We believe that businesses can only thrive when their communities are well taken of. We are hoping that our presence will be impactful to various communities and economies. In the six countries that we are operating in, we have contributed through dedicating 10% of our revenues during COVID-19 to facilitate education, donating to hospitals and also to NGOs committed to supporting women and children living with HIV. One key issue that we are targeting in Botswana is the rate of unemployment amongst the youth. We are looking forward to working closely with the government and other relevant authorities to curb unemployment,” said Shah.
Currently, Stargems Group has employed 117 Batswana and they are looking forward to growing the numbers to 500 as the company grows. Majority of the employees will be graduates from the Stargems Diamond Training Center. This initiation has been received with open arms by the general public and stakeholders. During the launch, the Minister of Minerals and Energy, Honorable Lefoko Moagi, stated that the ministry fully endorses Stargems Diamond Training and will work closely with the Group to support and grow the initiative.
“As a ministry, we see this as an game changer that is aligned with one of the United Nations’ Six Priority Sustainable Development Goals, which is to Advance Opportunity and Impact for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What Stargems Group is launching today will have a huge impact on the creation of employment in Botswana. An economy’s productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases as its skilled workmanship increases. It is not a secret that low skills perpetuate poverty and widen the inequality gap, therefore the development of skills has the potential to contribute significantly to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability and helping the country become more competitive. We are grateful to see the emergence of industry players such as Stargems Group who have strived to create such opportunities that mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy,” said the Minister of Minerals and Energy.