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SME Success: the missing puzzle piece

 SMES are literally the future.  These superb entities are provide 80% of employment in Africa. There is no need to mention the crippling unemployment figures that were released this passing week by STATS SA, these give a clear depiction of the problem in the sub Saharan region.


Botswana is not exempt from these perils.  SMES are undoubtedly a necessity, their success means more people are employed and more members of society become active participants in the economy. Accordingly, our government and several others on the continent have developed strategies to ensure SMEs set up and [hopefully] survive. It is an extreme sport to survive past the five year mark, only fifty percent will manage this course.  The thriving of SMES is dependent on a combination of several components some of which are debatable, some of which are immovable as pillars of a successful small or medium enterprise.  [Market] Research is one of these but has been overlooked and underestimated.


There is an unequivocal need to know and understand information as a means to ensure the success of established startups and SMMES.  Yet for far too long the focus for many governments, business development agencies, and I have to fault entrepreneurs as well, has been on funding,  the lack thereof. This includes sources of funding, strategies to secure funding for the business. In no way is this an insignificant hurdle for SME’s and it continues to haunt business owners. Governments like ours have taken some initiative to bridge the funding gap- albeit a debatable subject.

None the less the failure rate of SME’s is astounding and the entities are not contributing to employment and overall development at a pleasing rate. The fact of the matter is that once funding is sourced, once a capital injection is guaranteed, possibility of failure still lingers because of the underrated value of SMMES engaging Research. The purpose of which is to gain competitive advantage. Sadly even established SMES lack the personnel, skills and attitude to engage this monumental part of a thriving business model. 

Finance facilities and capital injections are an obvious obstacle. But even when diminished, it doesn’t eliminate the need for established SMMEs to engage research: to inform their short term and long term strategy and operations. This remains the overlooked yet vital piece in mitigating the chances of failure of small and medium business’ alike, especially in economic climates which depend on these businesses to absorb the unemployed and therefore drive economic social development.

Research needs of each business will vary depending on size, industry, timeline and the goals set by owners and key stakeholders. For instance business’ needs for a competitor’s analysis will vary if the business only has a local footprint versus one which participates in intra-regional trade. Industry Best Practices, Consumer Studies, Sector Analysis are among some of the elements to be investigated by SMES as they grow and if they’re to survive beyond the five year threshold. The culture of engaging researchers is one that business owners and agencies assigned the role to support SMMES need to look into and cultivate with urgency and intentionality.

What ought to happen to induce this culture?  Sufficient amounts of capital should be invested into research.  As a matter of fact in these tough and volatile economic times, venture capitalist, grant patrons, agencies offering SMME’s financial facilities, and private investors alike, as the risk bearers, should tie their decision to fund having looked into whether the SME has engaged researches to ensure the validity of their model and the several assumptions that often lurk within a business operations and decisions. What needs to be carefully thought-out by entrepreneurs is how research and market insight are unequivocally necessary for any business model, more so if the business aims to be cutting edge, disruptive and above all successful conquering the crippling the SME failure rate.

On the flip side is the need for reliable sources of research and insight tailored for this group of the economy: these firms need to be able cater for SME budgets and also measure adequately their specific research needs in a way that ensures their gained competitive advantage.  This is another issue for another article.  However a piece of the puzzle that depicts the needs of successful SMEs not only in Botswana but the region at large given the ever changing dynamics, encompass research and analytics. The need has been overlooked, hopefully this can change. 

This has to form a part of the decision making process on the part owners and executives of said entities and on part of business development agencies. There needs to be a scrapping of business practice where decisions concerning their market are informed solely by having an ‘ear to the ground’: even in cases where SMMEs have the favour of an availability of funding & capital.

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Business

Food prices continue to rise, but at a slower rate

28th November 2022

Prices for cereals or staple foods in Botswana and other Southern African countries continue to rise at a slower pace, following trends in the global markets, according to the latest November 2022 Food Price Monitoring and Analysis by Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

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Still doing business the old way?

18th November 2022

It’s time to get business done better with MTN Business Botswana’s ICT Solutions.

Running a digital businessMTN Business Solutions Botswana, popularly known as MTN Business is an Internet Service Provider. We are a subsidiary of MTN Group Limited, a multinational telecommunications Group headquartered in South Africa, which operates in 19 markets across Africa and the Middle East.

More and more, clients are looking for ways to keep their staff productive in a dynamically changing business environment. Whether your people are working from home, the office or abroad, there is a growing recognition that digitising your operations can offer unprecedented commercial value in flexibility, productivity and growth. This new, digital reality means that it is more important than ever to stay agile – if there is anything that can slow a business down, it is being burdened by othatld technology.

Having made substantial investments in fibre technology, high-speed terrestrial and undersea networks and new frequency spectrum across the markets wherein it operates, MTN is perfectly positioned to respond to this shift in the market.

A few years ago, MTN also made the decision to build an IP capable radio network for its mobile services, giving its core network the ability to seamlessly integrate with enterprise IP networks. The mobile towers deliver services to enterprise clients absolutely anywhere it has a network, shortening the last mile and removing complexity and cost.

Now there is increasing demand from clients to connect their remote sites in all areas, including rural and semi- rural. MTN has assisted clients with overcoming this connectivity hurdle, enabling their staff to get the job done wherever they are.
MTN’s evolution

For MTN, the focus has shifted from just being a core telecommunications services provider, towards also becoming a technology solutions provider. The service offering now also includes Unified Communications, Data Hosting and Cloud Solutions, Security-As-A-Service and Managed Network Services. The scope has changed to being client and industry specific, so the requirements and service portfolio vary from one client to the next. The expectation is that a company like MTN must respond to these challenges, helping clients to get business done better as they shift from old to new technologies.

As many businesses continue to grapple with a digitally dynamic world, they face new challenges that have to be solved. This environment will benefit those that are more digitally enabled and agile. It is a brave new world that will favour online over on-site, wireless over wired and fluid over formulaic. Businesses will seek out partners and suppliers that are every bit as flexible and forward-looking as they are.
Ultimately, clients need partners like MTN Business that will invest in infrastructure, deliver the services they require, have market credibility, are financially sound and have a long-term commitment to their market presence.

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BIE to vitalize the Dignity of Engineers

9th November 2022

Botswana Institution Of Engineers (BIE), has last week hosted a gala dinner in  which they appreciated engineers who worked tirelessly and with dedication for 10 years from 1983 to steer the BIE to its current status.

The event that was held at the Phakalane Golf Estate had brought together young, experienced and veteran engineers and was held under the theme “Vitalize the dignity and eminence of all professional engineers”.

Explaining the theme, the institution’s treasurer, Thanabalasingam Raveendran said that engineers were looked upon reverentially with respect as the educated but with time it seems to have deteriorated. He indicated that there is a need to change the narrative by all means.

“The BIE exists for the welfare and the betterment of us Botswana engineers, we need to recognize specialised units within our Institution. We Engineers strongly believe in Engineers make it happen” Raveendran said.

He indicated that under the theme they appeal to all engineers to energize, to attain quality of being worthy of honour and respect and to achieve recognized superiority amongst the Society.

Raveendran stated that engineers need to ensure their end product is of good quality satisfying the end users expectations and engineers must be honest in their work.

“Approximately 8000 engineers registered with Engineering Regulatory Board (ERB) are not members of the BIE, engineers need to make every effort to recruit them to BIE” he said.

He alluded that BIE being a society, it currently needs to upgrade itself at par with professional institutions elsewhere like the UK and USA.

He further stated that BIE has to have engineering units of specialised disciplines like Civil/Mechanical/electrical etc

“As President Masisi indicated in his inaugural speech, the young people, who make 60 percent of the population of this country, are the future leaders and therefore investing in them is building the bridge to the future” said Raveendran

Kandima indicated that BIE has a memorandum of Understanding with Engineers Registration Board (ERB), where BIE is a recognised provider of CPD training, mentorship programmes and more importantly IPD undertaking to upgrade the skills and know-how of our engineers.

“For us to achieve our mandate and make worthwhile changes to engineering in Botswana, we have to be totally focused and act with intent” said Kandima.

Furthermore, Stephen Williams, past president of the BIE from 1986-1988 told the engineers that  the BIE provides a fertile environment where they can meet, share ideas and grow professionally.

“The BIE is also a nesting place for graduate engineers to learn from their peers and seniors, it also cater for engineering technicians and technologists and so nobody in the technology field is left out” he said.

He further indicated that Botswana Government provides a conductive environment for growth of engineering professionals.

“It must be stated that the Botswana Government recognises the existence of BIE and it can further be stated that the government enables ERB to carry out its mandate as a regulator of engineering professionals” said Williams

He plead with engineering companies to recognize and support BIE as it is the only source of engineering personnel’s for various Industries .

Furthermore, when giving his farewell speech, Michael Pinard , a past president of the institution  said how they are viewed as engineers by the general public might be due to some lack of appreciation as to exactly what role they play in the development of the country.

“The BIE slogan is aptly coined-Engineers make it happen, in other words, what man dreams engineers create” Said Pinard.

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