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Tenderpreneurship – A corruption initiation

For six of my eight years as an entrepreneur I had combined estate agency, business development training, and tenderpreneurship under one company. Eventually I exited tenderpreneurship because of its unsustainability coupled with the unsavoury nature of such business. I say it is unsustainable due to its erratic short-lived, measly earnings, and unsavoury due to rampant bribery and corruption among both suppliers and the purchasing officers.

Tenderpreneurship, as I understand it, involves a business dealing and surviving on tender and quotation bids, through supply of either services or products, mainly to government departments. Services vary from construction, engineering, and various forms of consultancy, all of which require specialised skills and training whereas products are the tangibles ranging from stationary, machinery food, and various chemicals.

It follows therefore that the higher the skills required for any business undertaking, the higher the value and returns from such tender. And for sure the higher the expected returns the high the level of corruption dealings, and the higher the officials involved.

In this article we look as tenderpreneurship at goods supply level. Tenderpreneurship at goods supplies level is the easiest and less capital intensive business start-up to venture into and it is the level at which many of those who play in the upper league of high value businesses have started. Because of the ease of entry into this business, there has been increasing competition in the last few years due to the escalating youth unemployment and the laying off of employees by some organization.

To start, one must register either a company or a business with the Registrar of Companies and have funds to open and maintain an office for at least two months, open a bank account, apply for a trade license as a Supplies Agent (SA), acquire a Tax Clearance Certificate from BURS, and eventually register with the PPADB.

Other items required include a computer with a fax/printer machine, a small table and chair, telephone/fax line. Most furniture and machinery can be acquired at public auctions or borrowed from friends and relatives to cut costs. A car is a luxury to add some efficiency and a feel of professionalism, even though many do start without even a bicycle.

Many Batswana, especially the youth, open up offices across the country to run businesses as tenderpreneurs, specifically licensed as SA, supplying various items to government department offices in an attempt to gain a living and shake themselves up from slipping into destitution.

Since the government is both the biggest employer and consumer of many items such as office machinery, stationary, cleaning chemicals, food, and many items, the supplies business thus forms the core undertaking and main income generator for the businesses as many of their owner-directors do not possess any special technical skills to do anything else.

A few, like ourselves then, do survive on tenders, which are on a one year fixed-term contracts won by satisfying all requirements of an invitation to tender (ITT) before final selection is based on price competitiveness.  Given that it would be a blow on efficiency and effectiveness for government employees to run around sourcing these from manufacturers and distributors.

This therefore provides an opportunity to Batswana, especially the youth to fill the gap by bringing such goods and services to government offices’ doorsteps and adding a little mark-up to the buying price to make some profit. Depending on the length of service required, in case of tenders, and the mark-up earned, one could earn a decent survival for some time. Those who may graduate to an upper level may even use a friends’ qualifications, experience, and machinery to register with the PPADB as providers of services that require technical skills.

Almost all of the SAs toil on a daily basis to earn an opportunity to supply one item or another through quotations done upon invitation to quote (ITQ). For an ITQ a government department Supplies Officer would select at least four companies from the usually long list of registered suppliers and issue out an ITQ against which the companies have to competitively bid mainly on price in order to gain an opportunity to supply.

Those who aggressively market do move from office to office in search of ITQ whereas the well-connected get them ITQs faxed to their offices, probably followed by coaching on how to do the pricing. Unlike ITQ on which a decision to award is mostly done by one Supplies Officer (SO), tenders are to a large extent fair and transparent as they are adjudicated by a panel of more than two persons. It takes a really well-connected and loaded person to motivate a panel of tender adjudicators in one’s favour, and that happens when the returns are really good.

Unfortunately, the same suppliers/distributors/manufacturers from which the SA buy their products are also allowed, without restrictions, to bid and compete with their supposed clients for the same customer; government. This result with the SA losing out to the suppliers/distributors/manufacturers who cut their bid prices further lower than what they quoted the SA. Interestingly, over the years this has not been a concern to any of government ministers and officials whereas it is one of the factors that pressure SAs to be involved in underhand dealings.

This supply business behaves like a wild beast running whilst slowly being eaten away by wild dogs because of the slow build-up of costs during their lifespan up to a point where the proprietor runs into a brick wall of financial burdens. As indicated, within government service and product are acquired based on price rather than quality.

While a lot many young Batswana continue to open offices across the country, there are serious cost areas that slowly knock holes into the proprietor’s business until such time the undertaking is fully submerged in financial challenges, resulting with closure of such venture and even threat of litigation by BURS. Nowadays, it is an open secret that to gain a competitive edge over other businesses one has to be well-connected with government Supplies Officers.

Many of them SAs either have to part with at least 5% of the invoice amount, reserved in advance to pay the opportunity to supply or have a close acquaintance who would allow them to use multiple companies, sometime borrowed from friends, for submission of their bid.

Depending on a proprietor’s willingness to ‘oil officer’s hands’ they could get as many as five purchase orders at a time, which would assure them of their continued survival in the jungle for next few months. However, this continued practice eventually kills a good man’s conscience. As for women, add their nature’s blessing to their competitive advantage – I’m stating a fact as it is herein.

Despite the small intake volumes by these government departments, the stiff competition on price forces many of the suppliers to add slim mark-up on the buying price of their supplies in order to gain a competitive edge over others.  In doing so many fail to take into consideration other operational costs such as rent, transport, handling labour, and time. An addition to these costs is the deliberate delays of payments by government revenue officers, probably due to their determination to earn their share of proceeds like the Supplies Officer.

There is also scarcity of opportunities due to fact that a company name may be given only one opportunity in a long time to bid and/or supply which many of the businesses attempt to circumvent by the either the use of multiple company names to bid or the ‘greasing of hands’. It therefore follows that so long as there is inflow of cashflow, from supply of quotations or a tender, the proprietor gets shield from the pain of holes being punched by operational costs into their businesses. The proprietor would play a cost-shifting game up until such cumulative costs hit the heart of the business.

Eventually, this type of business fails to pay rent, tax, VAT, and staff. Unless the proprietor is wise enough to diversify from this business while they still are valid on the market and have the opportunity, one would be forced to close down and even play hide-and-seek with BURS.

On the other hand, recently for some few days the Botswana Vice President, Rre Masisi, has been trying explain to the nation his key role in creating employment through partnership with the private sector. Well, I would be a little impressed if he could openly appreciate the importance of tenderpreneurship in job creation among the youth and start getting his government to address the challenges faced by those who venture into this business.

My big concern is that so long as government continues to ignore quality in preference price competitiveness as well as fail to categorise supply businesses so that small tenders are reserved for these tenderpreneurs, there would be uncontrollable levels of corruption within the business community. The country will continue to breed corrupt tenderpreneurs who would one way or the other find their ways into key positions within both the ruling and opposition parties thus resulting with a complete corrupt government, be it current or future. Eventually, Botswana will be like any other African country.

Omongwe Samuel Ramakoba
Managing Director
Volksplek Botswana (PTY) Ltd (Estate Agents, Business Development Trainers)
Tel. +267 72307505
Facebook: Omongwe-Samuel Ramakoba

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021


This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi:

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media.

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021


The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media.

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