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Local tech startup gets Orange, Blackberry support

The Botswana technology and innovation playing field, although hugely underfunded, is seeing some strides with Batswana making the grade on groundbreaking inventions.

A local innovator and incubation client at the Botswana Innovation Hub’s First Steps Venture Centre (FSVC) and chief executive of Intelligere Media, Itumeleng Garebatshabe, has made a remarkable breakthrough in creating a portal that will put Botswana products directly into the global marketplace.

The proliferation of smartphone and internet use has come at the right time for BWMADE which, as Garebatshabe observed is, far more than seven years ago when the concept was born. One proposal to then Canadian based makers of Blackberry devices, being Research In Motion (RIM), saw the start up securing support from the giant mobile technology company by way of technical support and  

Garebatshabe is upbeat about the prospects of the portal creating US$10 million cumulative sales in the next five years.

“We have a customer base on M-PESA of 19 million users in Africa and the millions of users of the Orange mobile network on the continent,” said Garebatshabe.

Garebatshabe commented further, “Besides giving Batswana creatives a platform to share their products with the world, we aim to create at least 20 to 40 jobs in marketing, store management, website maintenance. Looking to the future BWMADE has much potential for growth in Africa, where we are even looking at tapping into the 106 million Orange customer base on the continent.

This is possible through our interface with the Orange billing system which can be accessed across 13 African countries. We are very proud to be able to bring the best of Botswana creative products to Africa and the world.”

The startup was self funded by the promoter, who has been running his business concern for 12 years, though only incorporating in 2012 as Intelligere Holdings.

A big achievement on the part of securing an insurance value of P15 million which was achieved when Garebatshabe decided against a cash out payment for his content as content aggregator, when Nokia closed its OVI store, instead using the value to purchase the insurance package which will be used in case of security breaches to BWMADE system.

“Blackberry has adopted our project which is the Project 120, now Blackberry Project 120, which will see the setting up of 120 technology startups; BWMADE is the first of those companies,” said Garebatshabe.

An annual subscription model is expected to help sustain BWMADE which gives retailers the security to know that their store stays open 24 hours a day. There will be small variations in the subscription models for the different industries, in line with their particular needs.

The digital music store will for instance offer artists a subscription rate of P1,000 per album with a discount of 20 percent for artist who post 5 or more albums. The artist will retain 100 percent of the fees from sales as well as retain the copyright to their music.

For content buyers, there are 10 payment methods including MyZaka and Orange Money, as well as through the Post Office and electronic transfers. Garebatshabe said that Orange has also opened itself up to innovators to use its platform, hence payments for ordered materials, whether downloaded or physically delivered content, can be done by converting airtime value into money value, which will make it easy for international and continental buyers.

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Botswana on high red alert as AML joins Covid-19 to plague mankind

21st September 2020
Botswana-on-high-alert-as-AML-joins-Covid-19-to-plague-mankind-

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.

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Finance Committee cautions Gov’t against imprudent raising of debt levels

21st September 2020
Finance Committe Chairman: Thapelo Letsholo

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.

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Gov’t Investment Account drying up fast!  

21st September 2020
Dr Matsheka

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”

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