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Botswana could google her way to prosperity

The information, Communication and technology (ICT) sector could create thousands of jobs. Technology experts revealed to the participants at the first annual Job Summit that a change in mindset in embracing ICT will lead to prosperity.

As a keynote speaker, Rapelang Rabana, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Rekindle Learning, enthralled the audience as she took them on her journey through the male dominated ICT industry. Her conquests in ICT include being a co-founder of Yeigo Communications, an innovative company that developed some of the earliest mobile VoIP application.

But her biggest achievement to date is being the founder of Rekindle Learning, which provides learning and performance support tools. It was such a great feat that it earned her a spot on the cover of Forbes magazine. However Rabana did not only talk about herself at the job summit, she extolled the virtues of ICT and the unlimited opportunities it offered.


“Technology and the internet is a powerful tool for prosperity,” she announced to the already encapsulated participants. Rabana urged the youth not to be heavily dependent on the government, adding that they should not see the government as a “money making scheme.”

Instead they should seek to engage in businesses that offer sustainable growth, businesses that can change lives. She also had sound advice for the government. “Set up the government and get out of the way,” she said this was because the government has a way of limiting people through its bureaucracy and lack of understanding of certain things, particularly the unlimited opportunities ICT offers.


The high flying technological entrepreneur said Botswana should become more open to trading with other countries. In matters of ICT, she called on the government to provide quality broadband and low cost bandwidth. Rabana reminded the audience that the internet knows no borders, “On the internet Botswana is not a landlocked country” therefore it should not limit itself in pursuing ICT excellence.

To show the power of the internet, Rabana confirmed that when they started their first mobile applications, they did not know everything; they had to literally google their way to success. As a parting shot, she persuasively said, “If underdevelopment can be designed, so could prosperity.”


Richard Neill, Director Special and Strategic Projects, Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), said that “Botswana is in its second phase of transformations, from agriculture to diversified knowledgeable economy.”

He added that in the knowledge economy, Botswana comes fifth in Africa but the country is still struggling in the world rankings. Neill said that knowledge economy is about sustainable development, furthermore it creates quality jobs.


However, knowledge economy requires substantial funding in the fields of “research and innovation” in the ICT sector. Moreover, he said that the benefits and returns of ICT outweigh the costs.

“Every pula invested in IT will pay off in growth and GDP. For example Mauritius created about 10000 jobs in the ICT sector.” Neill said investments in infrastructure are not enough, what is required and needed is proper ICT infrastructure.


Going forward, Neil hopes that the government and private sector would realise that ICT is the core to efficiency. He also said given the highest number of mobile penetration in Botswana, the government and private sector should take advantage of this and improve E-commerce.

Although there are challenges such as skills, competence and managing projects, Neil is hopeful that it’s something that can be solved through a deeply embedded collaboration between the government and private sector.


If there ever was a time for global approach and solutions, the time is now. At least that’s what Monametsi Kalayamotho, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Moro Group, told the participants at the Job summit. Monametsi, one of Botswana’s successful ICT entrepreneurs, talked about his passion for ICT and seeing youth lead in creating jobs. “I used to be passionate about ICT, and now I’m obsessing about ICT and jobs creation,” he confessed.

It’s not hard to see the fire that burns when Kalayamotho talks about ICT, he is a man on a mission to do right. He has been told to tone it down, but he won’t because he “Sincerely believes we could be creating applications in Botswana.”


It is this sincere belief that has put him on collision course with people who just don’t get it, but it appears Kalayamotho is scoring some victories in convincing them that ICT is the future. Kalayamotho said that we need leaders who believe in themselves and if they don’t, then they should give the opportunity to someone who believes in their ability. Regarding the economic stimulus package, Kalayamotho does not hide his disappointment.

“ICT should have been given priority together with those identified sectors that need to be stimulated. In fact ICT should be the driver, it should be the pillar,” he said, adding that its nothing new since even during budget allocations ICT is not given priority. This is something he really wants to change.


“We need a change in mindset. Do not see ICT as a by product,” he said. Kalayamotho believes the most important thing is the jobs that can be created through ICT. To do these, it will require cutting down on the import bill because some of the things imported could be assembled in Botswana thus creating jobs.

“It doesn’t mean if it’s made in Botswana, it’s going to be different,” he chuckled before explaining that in ICT they adhere to the highest international standards, meaning any product assembled here will meet international certifications.


Kalayamotho gave credit to the government for improving the broadband and fibre infrastructure development as well as rolling it to many areas. Nonetheless he had some wisdom to share concerning the infrastructure. “When you talk infrastructure, you talk applications and content. That’s when people use your infrastructure. What’s the point of having infrastructure when you don’t have content?” he asked. Kalayamotho says this is where the bulk of the ICT jobs will come from. 

There are too many applications and content to create, it could be games, educational applications, health applications even language content. He beamed when he talked about the talented youth in the country, although he conceded they will need further training and education so that they could be the best.

“We should appreciate how ICT works. Applications and content is a huge opportunity. I’m talking 3000 jobs in 24 months,” he said, adding that this is because content changes every day. In essence jobs in ICT could be said to be regenerative particularly in content creation, it’s a continuous process of development and enhancement.


Kalayamotho is not naive to the challenges that lie ahead, and he fully understands them. He called on the private sector to be supportive to entrepreneurs. He pleaded with the Human Resource Development Council to come on board by paying for ICT training. Kalayamotho says there a need to continuously build capacity locally. He applauded BOCRA for doing a fine job in ensuring that people get access to connectivity.

In his closing argument, he pleaded with the government and private sector to not be dismissive when ICT businesses require a higher capital injection, because “Sometimes it’s not about number of the jobs that will be created but the scale of impact it would have on people’s lives.” This was met with a thunderous applause from the audience.

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Pula smiles at COVID-19 vaccine

25th November 2020
COVID-19 vaccine

A squeaky and glittering metaphoric smile was the look reflected from the Pula against the greenback this week and money market researchers lean this on optimism following Monday’s announcement of another Covid-19 vaccine which is said to have boosted emerging market economies.

With other emerging market currencies, the Pula too reacted to optimism and fanfare on the new Covid-19 vaccine against the weakening US dollar which has been losing its shine since the uncertainty laden US elections.

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Choppies high on JSE rollercoaster volatility

25th November 2020
CHOPPIES

After bouncing back into the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) last week Friday, following a year of being in the freezer, the Choppies stock started this week with much fluidity.

Choppies was suspended in both the Botswana Stock Exchange and its secondary listing at the JSE for failure to publish financial results. Choppies suspension on Botswana Stock Exchange was lifted on 27 July 2020. On Friday last week, when suspension was being lifted, Choppies explained that this came into fruition “following extensive engagement with the JSE.”

Choppies stock, prior to suspension, hit a mammoth decline in value of more than 60 percent, especially in September 2018. Waking from a 24 month freezer, last week the Choppies share price was at R0.64 and the stock did not make any movement.

However, Monday was the day when Choppies stock moved vibrantly, albeit volatile. Choppies’ value was on a high volatile mood on Monday, reaching highs of 200 percent. At noon, the same Monday, the Choppies share had reached R1.05. Before taking an uphill movement, Choppies stock slightly slipped by 2 cents. But the Choppies share rode up high and by lunch time the stock had reached the day’s summit of R2.00 and that was at 13:30 when investors were buying the stock for lunch.

The same eventful Monday saw gloom on the faces of Choppies rivals, when Choppies gained by 220.31 percent around lunch time its rivals in the JSE Food & Drug Retailers sector were licking wounds. Spar lost 2.94 percent, Pick Pay fell by 2.43 percent, Shoprite 7.52 percent and Dis-Chem 1.98 percent. The only gainer was Clicks by a paltry 0.51 percent.

In an interview with BusinessPost, Choppies sponsors at the JSE PSG Capital Managing Director Johan Holtzhausen explained that the retailer’s stock was in high demand after a long suspension. He said when a company list or a suspension is lifted the market needs to find itself on the pricing of the share.

“Initially when the suspension was lifted there were more buyers than sellers. As far as we could see this created a shortage of shares so to speak and resulted in the price at which the shares traded going to R1.20 and eventually R2.05 before finding its level around R0.80 sent from a JSE perspective.

This is marked dynamics and reflect that there are investors that are positive about the stock in the long run. This is a snapshot over a short period and one requires a longer period to draw further conclusions,” said Holtzhausen in an interview talking about the Choppies stock.

On Monday this week where the Choppies value grew by 200 percent, the stock took a turn looking down, closing the day at R0.87 from a high of R2.00. According to local stockbroker Motswedi Securities on Monday while there was no movement by Choppies in the local stock exchange as the retailer appeared on the board as 141,000 shares traded at P0.60 each.

However in Choppies’ secondary listing the stock price rallied to over 200 percent during intraday trading on Monday before losing steam and declining to around R0.87 share.

Before press yesterday Choppies opened the market with the stock starting the day at R0.80 then went flat for few hours before taking a slide downward, dropping 5 cents in 30 minutes. Choppies then went flat at R0.75 for 50 minutes yesterday before going up at 10:20 am where it nearly recovered the open day price of 80 cents, but was shy of 1 cent. From 79 cents the price went flat until noon.

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Foschini-Jet merger, a class and rivalry conundrum dissection

25th November 2020
Foschini

Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA) has revealed that in its assessment of the Jet take over by Foschini, there were considerations on possible market rivalry and a clash in targeted classes.

According to a merger decision notice seen by this publication this week, high considerations were made to ensure that Foschini’s takeover of Jet is not anyhow an elimination of rivalry or competition or if the two entities; the targeted and the acquiring enterprise serves the same class of customers or offer the same products, to elude the anti-trust issues or a stretch of monopoly.

The two entities are South African retailers whose services stretched to Botswana shores.  Last month local anti-trust body, CCA, received an acquisition proposal from South African clothing retailer, Foschini, stating their intentions to take-over Jet.

South African government’s Business Rescue Practitioners earlier this year after finding out that Jet’s mother company, Edcon, is falling apart, made a decision that Foschini can buy Jet for R480 million. This means that Foschini will add Jet to its portfolio of 30 retail brands that trade in clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, homeware, cell phones, and technology products from value to upper market segments throughout more than 4085 outlets in 32 countries on five continents.

However the main headache for the CCA decision which was released this week, is distinguishing the targeted and the acquiring entity businesses and services.

When doing a ‘Competitive Analysis and Public Interest’ assessment, CCA is said to have discovered that Foschini is classified as a “standard retailer” which targets middle-to-upper income consumers and it competes with stores such as; Truworths and Woolworths. The targeted entity, Jet, is on the lower league when compared to its acquirer, it serves customers of lower classes and is regarded as a discount/value retailer targeting lower income consumers or a mass market. This makes Jet to be in direct competition with Ackermans, Pepkor, Cash Bazaar and Mr Price.

“Therefore, a narrower view of the market is that Foschini through its stores trading in Botswana is not a close competitor to Jet. Additionally, there exist other major rivals who will continue to exercise competitive constraints on the merged enterprise post-merger,” concluded CCA this month.

The anti-trust body continued to explain that in terms of the Acquisition of a Dominant Position, the analysis shows that the acquisition of the target business by Foschini Botswana will result in an insignificant combined market share in the relevant market.

This made CCA reach to a conclusion that there is no case of an acquisition of a dominant position in the market under consideration or any other market on the account of the proposed transaction.

What supports the merger according to CCA is that it is in compliance with regards to ‘Public Interest Considerations’ because the findings of the assessment revealed that the transaction is as a result of the need for a Business Rescue by the target enterprise. This is so because in the event that the proposed transaction fails, it will translate into the loss of the employment positions at the target business.

“On that note the Authority (CCA) found it necessary to ensure that the proposed merger does not result in any retrenchments or redundancies. In light of this, the assessment revealed the critical need to protect the employees of the merged entity from possible merger specific retrenchments/ redundancies,” said CCA.

Before making a determination that the recently proposed transaction is not likely to result in the prevention or substantial lessening of competition or endanger the continuity of the services offered in the relevant market, CCA said it then moved into a concern for public interest which is a protection enshrined in the Competition Act of 2018.

CCA’s concern was mostly loss of livelihood or employment by 126 Batswana workers at Jet stores, stating that possible retrenchments or redundancies may arise as a result of implementation of the proposed merger.

Much to the desire of trade union or labour movements in Botswana and across Southern Africa where the Jet stores are stemmed-who also raised concerns about the retail’s workers job security- CCA subjects Foschini to keep the target entity 126 workers.

“There shall be no merger specific retrenchments or redundancies that may affect the employees of the merged enterprises. For clarity, merger specific retrenchments or redundancies do not include (the list is not exhaustive): i. voluntary retrenchment and/or voluntary separation arrangements; ii. Voluntary early retirement packages; iii. Unreasonable refusals to be redeployed; iv. Resignations or retirements in the ordinary course of business; v. retrenchments lawfully effected for operational requirements unrelated to the Merger; and vi. Terminations in the ordinary course of business, including but not limited to, dismissals as a result of misconduct or poor performance,” said CCA.

CCA also orders that Foschini informs it about all the details of 126 Jet employees within thirty (30) days of the merger approval date. CCA should also know information of when Foschini is implementing the merger, within 30 days of the approval date.

Other conditions include Foschini sharing a copy of the conditions of approval to all employees of the Jet or their respective representatives within ten (10) days of the approval date.

“Should vacancies arise in the target, the merged enterprise shall consider previous employment at one of the non-transferring Jet stores to be a positive factor to be taken into account in the consideration of offering potential employment,” said CCA.

According to CCA, in cases of any job losses, for the Authority to assess whether the retrenchments or redundancies are merger specific, at least three months before (to the extent that this deadline can be practically achieved and in terms of the prevailing and legally required employment practices) any retrenchments or redundancies are to take place, inform the Authority of:  i. The intended retrenchments; ii. The reasons for the retrenchments; iii. The number and categories of employees affected; iv. The expected date of the retrenchments.

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