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Inside FNBB Itsose competition row

A business competition which was power-driven by the commercial First National Bank of Botswana (FNBB) in association with Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) and University of Botswana hailed as Itsose Business Idea Competition has missed the mark in funding its last ten (10) front-runners in the business proposal contest.

The Weekend Post has established that the 10 who emerged victorious in the competition were never funded save for one, a bitter pill to swallow for the other nine contenders who have yet to receive their funding.

This is notwithstanding that the competition’s aim as espoused in its information sheet was to “facilitate the provision of funding to entrepreneurs who meet the criteria of the competition’s funding partners”.  

When explaining the row, FNBB Director of Coverage, Boiki Tema, who sat with bank Communications Manager, Kemiso Ben, told this publication in an interview on Monday that, “only one gentleman sought merely P200 000 altogether in his proposal and we thought the amount was slight and reasonable and therefore funded the project fully; while the other required P5. 1 million but we only offered him P100 000 which he outrightly rejected. We suggested he would get the money in phases as the project implicated huge sums of money.”

This basically means that only one participant’s project was fully financed. According to Tema, who has watched the project carefully since inception, said the bank is and was nonetheless “not obliged to fund” the front-runners of Itsose Business Competition, although they benefitted widely from coverage.

He referred this newspaper to the ‘agreement to the competition terms and conditions’ which were signed by contestants. Clause 8 of the agreement states categorically that, “I accept and agree that funding is not guaranteed even if I win the competition, and while FNBB will endevour to fund my proposal, any such funding is subject to satisfactory conclusion of a due diligence investigation or any other investigation which FNBB may deem necessary; furthermore any funding shall be subject to the negotiation and conclusion of an agreement between myself/ourselves and FNBB.”

It is understood that the competition, although widely advertised in the mainstream media, was merely hypothetical. Indications on the ground are that, “the fast-track to funding, business support and success for Batswana entrepreneurs, start-ups and growing businesses”  have gone rather pear-shaped, with the bank somersaulting on the prior arrangements and leaving the contenders on the lurch.

Some of the aggrieved winners who spoke to Weekend Post on conditions of anonymity questioned FNBB’s policy of “donating” money to other projects, including for people and organisations to build parks, for example, but failing to give out (refundable) loans to them. According to them, this probably led to the competition’s miscarriage.

“There was a meeting at some point at FNBB and we were told that we will be funded and asked to apply for the loans. Now they are quiet. So how do you say our businesses nosedived if you have not facilitated the loan to the fullest? The only way out of this dispute is to finance us,” one of the contestants who got a raw deal asserted.    

He added: “the competition created problems for some of us, as we don’t have working capital to start our proposed businesses. There is nothing to generate money with despite our proposals being regarded as the best.”

This publication has been informed that some, who were financed at almost P100 000 for multimillion pula projects are being made to walk on broken glass. It is alleged that they were blacklisted under controversial circumstances at the Citizen Economic Entrepreneurial Agency (CEDA) and therefore could not even be lent money at the loan institution.

For this reason, FNBB is currently dragging some to lawyers for failure to pay despite still having no working capital and therefore not being able to generate sufficient income.

“Some of the lawyers are harassing us and threatening to jail us,” he insisted.  

Meanwhile Tema acknowledged that two gentlemen making up some of the proposal front-runners had launched their grievances with the bank. The duo, Tiroyaone Barung and Tumo Kgopo have started a series of meetings with the bank with a mission to iron out the differences and find a common ground going forward.  

Tema also added that all the other eight contestants have been referred to LEA where they will be advised and guided for alternative funding. Although clause 8 of the competition terms and condition says funding by FNBB is not guaranteed, it is not clear why FNBB found a need not to finance the projects although they had the best business proposals from the 10 contestants.

According to Tema, some of the shortlisted project proposals which triumphed but lack funding ranges from waste management, a piggery business, advertising, a sports academy, a driving school and safari and toll gates among others.

“As a bank we only felt it was a good competition as it will position the SMMEs of Botswana and also build a data base for entrepreneurs, including helping diversify the economy,” he said.

The 10 finalists were shortlisted from the one hundred (100), who were selected from the initial 2 800 participants who had entered the competition. The 100 were taken through training and development, and given three weeks to solicit their business proposals. The proposals were then presented before a panel of judges from which the 10 winners emerged.

The conquerors then took home a package of P10 000 in cash, a business laptop, mobile phone, business training and mentorship, publicity and exposure of business and only lacked “access to preferred funding”.

Itsoseng started in 2008 and was seen as Botswana’s biggest, most exciting small business competition which gave a life time opportunity to upcoming entrepreneurs. Some of the competition’s aims was to fast track the start-up and growth of businesses with great potential and support their successes, encourage entrepreneurs to sharpen their businesses acumen, improve their business plans, thinking and writing skills.

Other objectives included encouraging individuals with good business ideas to take the “first step;” showcasing winning entrants as role models to encourage other entrepreneurs as well as facilitating the provision of funding to entrepreneurs who met the criteria of the competition’s funding partners.   

The project has seen three of the bank’s Chief Executive Officers (CEO’s) exchanging power since it’s commencement in 2008, from Danny Zandamela through to Lorato Boakgomo – Ntakwana to the current Steven Bogatsu.

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Veteran journalist Karima Brown succumbs to COVID-19

4th March 2021
Karima-Brown

South Africa’s veteran journalist and broadcaster, Karima Brown has died on Thursday morning from COVID-19 related complications.

Media reports from the neighbouring country say Brown had been hospitalized and on a ventilator.

Brown anchored eNCA’s The Fix and was a regular political analyst on the eNCA channel.

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

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.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

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.

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