Emboldened by the resounding success of the launch of Di-Apps Mobile Application Store earlier this week, First Steps Venture Centre (FSVC) programme manager, Tshepo Tsheko made a bold pronouncement to Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Hon. Thapelo Olopeng, “Sir, we are not done yet! We have several other companies lined up and ready to fulfil your quest to produce young Batswana entrepreneur millionaires during your term of office.”
Tsheko was speaking on the fringes of the launch of the country’s first and only online application store, aptly named, Di-Apps Mobile Application Store. The digital distribution platform is a product of one of FSVC’s clients, Ditec Mobile.
The 100% citizen owned company designs, customizes and ultimately manufacturers mobile phones. Ditec Mobile offers a full range of hi-tech and durable mobiles with a wide appeal to people who appreciate the beauty and broad functionality of mobile phones,” states the company’s founder, Thatayaone Dichaba.
Ditec Mobile enrolled into the Botswana Innovation Hub’s technology entrepreneurship development programme, FSVC in January, 2014. The company was presented as candidate for the Ministers Young Entrepreneur Millionaire project at the launch of its Di-Apps Mobile Application Store at the Capitol Cinema at Game City mall in Gaborone.
The Youth, Sports and Culture Minister has vowed to produce at least five young entrepreneur millionaires during his term of office. Speaking at the launch, the Minister said, “It is high time Batswana showed confidence in young people and know that the big international brands we celebrate are given a push in their countries of origin.”
“Charity begins at home, these big brands are recognized by their economies, so why can’t we do the same for our brands? From today, I am becoming the brand ambassador for Ditec Mobile phones,” declared the Minister.
Expounding on his pledge to the Minister, Thseko said, “Let’s face it, the odds are heavily stacked against early stage enterprise development. A significant percentage of new businesses fail and according to Bloomberg, nine out of ten startups will fail. This is a hard and bleak truth, but these cold statistics are not intended to discourage entrepreneurs, instead, they should encourage them to work harder and smarter.”
Tsheko explained that FSVC is the Botswana Innovation Hub’s hybrid incubator/accelerator that provides business and technology support services, strategic partnerships, tenancy and market access support to startup ventures.
He said with the caliber of clients they currently have in the programme, they can confidently meet and surpass the target for young entrepreneur millionaires that the Minister has set. He went on to say that it takes an inordinate amount of time, effort and other resources to graduate technology startups, but with the talent, passion and hunger for success that the FSVC clients demonstrate, he was certain they are the premier technology incubator and business accelerator in the region.
“Our clients are very enterprising and are looking beyond our borders for markets. In fact most have already secured contracts abroad, and all we are asking for is recognition and support on the home front,” he said.
Tsheko said preparations are at an advanced stage for the launch of another locally based and globally focused startup. “World Queues is a 100% citizen owned company offering an innovative, time saving queue management service. The service allows customers to queue on line, by kiosk at entrances and by sms from their mobile phones,” he said.
The queue management service is already live in Kenya’s Coop Bank and Kenya Revenue Authority as well as the Department of Road Transport and Safety (DRTS) and First National Bank (FNB) in Botswana. “World Queues is another demonstration of the stellar work coming out of globally connected innovation ecosystem created by FSVC. We will be announcing the launch of this company in the next few weeks,” Tsheko said.
World Queues Managing Director, Justice Williams said they have been motivated by the Youth Ministers support and are looking forward to expanding their services to hospitals and clinics, and social services and amenities providers. “Our kiosks are being produced locally with a huge job creation spinoff and the revenue potential to the company and the country is enormous,” he said.
Williams said they are positioning World Queues as a Pan African brand and welcomed the support of the Youth Minister.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”