On Tuesday this week Botswana Innovation Hub held their Innovation Vendor day which shall become a key event in their annual calendar and is aligned to the National Science Technology and Innovation (STI) month.
This month was set aside by the Ministry of Infrastructure Science and Technology to share information and showcase Science Technology and Innovation in Botswana with an array of Science and Technology related events across the country. The STI month was launched by the Minister of Infrastructure Science and Technology, Hon Nonofo Molefhi on the 4th August 2015 in Gaborone.
The Innovation Vendor day and exhibition is an initiative of the Botswana Innovation Hub to publicise its mandate and showcase current innovation programmes offering and relevance to Batswana. It is symbolised by technology demonstrations, innovation pitch sessions, innovation exhibitions and networking activities.
The Objective of the Innovation Vendor day is to sensitize stakeholders of current developments within the Botswana Innovation Hub and Science, Technology and Innovation in general.
The Botswana Innovation Hub is a product of the Botswana Excellence Strategy of 2008 where Government sought to establish a Science and Technology Park to contribute to economic diversification efforts through Science, Technology and Innovation prospects which have been forecasted future drivers of the economy beyond mineral wealth.
The under construction Science Park is an organisation managed by specialised professionals, whose main aim is to increase the wealth of its community by promoting the culture of innovation and the competitiveness of its associated businesses and knowledge-based institutions.
The Park will stimulate and manage the flow of knowledge and technology amongst universities, R&D institutions, companies and markets; facilitate the creation and growth of innovation-based companies through incubation and spin-off processes as well as provide other value-added services together with high quality space and facilities.
Botswana Innovation Hub, through its wholly owned subsidiary Botswana Innovation Hub Properties, engages in property development and facilities management activities within the Science and Technology Park. Their commercial and real estate proposition include creating a physical workspace – office and lab space for rental, serviced land for lease or co-development, and superior ICT infrastructure and services.
The construction of the (23 000 sqm) Icon Building, a key attraction to the Park, is well underway. Attendants had an opportunity to appreciate the creative process that led to the building and the progress to date, later touring the Park. It is envisaged that the Icon Building will house key technology multinationals, such as, Microsoft, Oracle, Dimension Data, as tenants, but also as strategic and collaborative partners in the innovation agenda. The development of the icon building provides physical platform for business and networking opportunities.
The building will comprise superior ICT services, office spaces, high-end laboratories, meeting rooms, a 250 seater auditorium, communal garden sand a range of shared amenities. It represents modern thinking in the design of green buildings and it is intended to set a trend.
While officiating at the event BIH Chairman of Board of Directors Neo Moroka said Strategic partnerships and collaborations are a corner stone of our business model. To this end, Botswana Innovation Hub has since established more than 20 partnerships which have delivered amongst others, private sector driven innovation support programmes and high impact technology oriented projects.
The Microsoft Corporation under the auspices Microsoft Innovation Centre (MIC) has recently renewed its commitment to work with Botswana Innovation Hub in delivering innovation led initiatives and capacity building programmes.
“In addition, I am pleased with the recent Special Economic Zone Bill which the Parliament recently passed as this will designate the Science and Technology Park as an SEZ which will not only extend more incentives to BIH registered members but also improve doing business environment. Our membership and partnerships records currently stand at 90 registrations in the four sectors of mining technology, biotechnology, energy and environment and lastly Information and Communications Technologies”, said Moroka.
Lastly he acknowledged that innovation needs investments especially financial, he urged Government and key industry practitioners to appreciate that Innovation is the game changer in our national competitiveness. He asked them to continue to support grassroots innovations which will go a long way in creating a global footprint about our culture.
Microsoft and Innovation Hub together with key partners are working together to pilot a new type of technology to deliver broadband access called “TV Whitespace” in Lobatse, Francistown, and Maun. In telecommunications, White Spaces refer to frequencies allocated to a broadcasting service but not used locally. Botswana Innovation Hub has requested for a special pilot license to run this project with its partners.
“This is a cutting edge technology that has the potential of providing cheaper broadband internet connectivity to areas that were not connected before. The technology is ideal as it can work in areas where there is no electricity, and it can lower the cost of an access base station by a factor of 10,” stated Manager of the Microsoft Innovation Centre, Patel Barwabatsile.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.