In its firm effort to encourage the use of internet in the mist of COVID-19 crisis, Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) engaged telecommunications operators on discussions centred on reduction of data prices, a factor that has many on their feet during this predicament.
BOCRA as the regulator and an enabler of market development exists to enable choices to be made by both the market and the consumer, ensuring that there is full and healthy competition in the market. Every year BOCRA reviews prices of the services that they regulate and this year, the focus was centred on mobile data prices.
When addressing members of the media in Gaborone this week, Chief Executive Officer Martin Mokgware said in the advent of COVID-19, affordability of communications services is more critical than ever before, saying people need data to access COVID-19 related information.
‘’COVID-19 virus is relatively new to the entire world and more information needs to be shared. If they do not have access to internet it will be difficult for them to access such information on a number of issues that include how they can protect the deadly virus, would not be able to telework, they would not learn remotely and would not connect to their families and loved ones in the event they are quarantined,’’ he said.
Mokgware further indicated that as BOCRA, they want all citizens to be fully connected so as to be able to use the full potential of digital technologies. ‘’There is a need to address few factors in order to have full connectivity. Lack of relevant content particularly local content is one factor that prevents full connectivity, as well as lack of digital skills to operate these technologies. BOCRA found lack of good quality of internet service provision as a challenge that still surfaces even during this crisis.’’
He however stressed that BOCRA will in September 2020 invite internet service providers to apply for their spectrum that would allow them to invest in and provide fixed wireless technologies. ‘’Our mobile technology in Botswana is universal and we have surpassed the 95 per cent mark.
That means we are doing well in the telecommunications sector, therefore our focus is more on fixed wireless technologies. We will be rolling out this spectrum to our operators in September because we want people to operate from home. They are able to do their work from their comfort zones, and this will enable children to learn from home as well. This is one way in which as BOCRA we strive to help contain the spread of the virus. We encourage our operators to start investing in high quality internet’’
Further, Mokgware told fourth estate that BOCRA managed substantially to reduce mobile data prices across all products and services provided by their operators. For his part, Director of Business Development Noble Katse said some internet packages across all products have been discontinued, saying the newly introduced packages are now competitive. ‘‘Some of our operators dealt away with old packages and introduced new bundles, while for some packages volumes have been kept constant.’’
According to information from the communications regulator, most of the internet packages from all operators realized a significant reduction. Orange Botswana reduced the 1 month All My Internet package of 2 gigabytes by 43 per cent to be P34.50 per gigabyte. The 4 gigabyte data bundle also saw a significant reduction of 55 per cent, which is approximately P24. 75 per gigabyte.
The Orange Prepaid Konnecta saw the introduction of new packages with new prices that vary according to the data bundle purchased. The newly introduced 12.5 gigabyte is priced P199.00, while the 30 gigabyte is sold P349.00. Mascom My Mix prepaid packages also saw a reduction of its 1 month validity data bundles by 22, 27, 32 and 41 per cent for the 32, 2, 4 and 16 gigabyte data bundles respectively. Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) prices did not change as they are already competitive.
In the past six months, entrepreneurs all over Botswana have rushed into the sanitizer market. However, Kutz & Tutz Hygiene founder and Executive Director Thatayotlhe Mmereki spotted the need – and acted – more than eleven years ago.
She explains how the business grew from its humble beginnings. ‘In 2009, I left my job because I had a vision. We were determined to bring Purell hand sanitizers to Botswana. While studying in Canada, we discovered the product and knew that our fellow citizens would love it, too. We started by going door to door, searching for companies who could be our first customers,’ she says.
‘There were a lot of rejections. But I was determined. And I’ve never been a big believer in the word no,’ she laughs. Sure enough, after months of focus and persistence, Kutz & Tutz Hygiene had its first two corporate clients. ‘Those first clients gave us what we needed at the time, which was a little bit of regular income,’ explains Thatayotlhe. ‘After a while however, we noticed their needs evolving.
Soon they were asking us for hand soap, paper towels — even mobile toilets. The business was suddenly diversified and booming.’ ‘There are a lot of sanitizer salespeople out there,’ she smiles. ‘But that’s not us. We are a passion driven portfolio. We exist to raise awareness. We are compelled by a sense of cleanliness: to give our clients a better, healthier environment in which to live and work,’ she explains. ‘We are here to elevate their state of being.’
Today, Thatayotlhe finds herself at the top of an entire group of companies under the Kutz & Tutz Hygiene umbrella, employing 60 people. ‘The hygiene industry is very broad and as time has gone by we have recognized the opportunity to expand into different areas of the value chain.
We don’t just supply personal hygiene products, we also run an innovative contract cleaning and disinfection business as well as a clinical waste portfolio where we do collection, treatment and disposal. From our offices in Gaborone, Francistown and Maun, we service clients all over the country.’
She encourages SMEs in Botswana to get their priorities right. ‘Our business grows because we are not led by money. Customer relationships come first, every day. As a result, the money follows us.’ ‘The onset of COVID-19 simply reinforced what our company has been saying since 2009: healthy hands save lives. ‘Demand for our products and services continued to grow consistently before, during and after the Lockdowns. But we faced our own cash flow challenges: that’s when BancABC rose to the occasion.’ ‘
Our biggest clients were struggling to pay us on time. Many were months behind. Our relationship manager at BancABC came to us with a perfect solution. They anticipated our need for cash, reached out to us and offered us the overdraft facility we needed to stay afloat— before we even asked for it. Amazing.’ ‘Because of this assistance, we’ve been able to make significant progress in a very uncertain time. I love BancABC. They understand us.’ Thatayotlhe says she has regional expansion plans for Kutz & Tutz Hygiene, with the next chapter of growth already mapped out. Today, her eyes are fixed on the African market.
The founding directors of Botswana and JSE-listed retailer, Choppies Enterprises Limited (“Choppies” or “the Company” or “the Group”) backed the Group’s turn-around strategy to the tune of just over P11,000,000.00 million recently.
Messrs. Ramachandran Ottapathu and Ismail Farouk acquired 18 597 724 shares on the open market at an average price of approximately 63 thebe per share on the Botswana Stock Exchange in a slew of transactions at the end of October.
“As a management team, we faced numerous challenges during the past number of years. The retail environment continues to experience headwinds, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. As a significant shareholder and director, I am confident that the worst is behind Choppies and that we’re close to the bottom of the cycle. “Our investment strongly aligns us with shareholders as we now focus on further improving corporate governance and growing profitability,” comments Chief Executive Officer Ramachandran Ottapathu.
The founding directors are currently involved in litigation against the Company’s former auditor and audit partner for delaying the publication of the Company’s audited results following breaches of independence and unlawful changes to the scope of the audit. This resulted in the suspension of trade in the Company’s shares on both the Botswana Stock Exchange (“BSE”) where it holds a primary listing as well as on the JSE Limited (“JSE”).
The JSE lifted the suspension of trade in the Company’s shares, following a similar decision by the BSE in July this year. Botswana based Kwabena Antwi from Kgori Capital says that shareholders will take courage from the fact that the Group is now current on its financial statements, following the BSE’s lifting of the trading suspension.
“Shareholder confidence is usually linked with shareholders returns. Getting Choppies back to an overall profitable position, where they are capable of paying dividends will go a long way in shoring up shareholder confidence. The next phase will focus on implementing governance structures throughout the Group. Some progress has been made, but there is still more to be rolled out,” he says.
At the presentation of the audited financial results for the year ended 30 June 2020, the Company said it has discontinued or disposed of its lossmaking operations in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique. This resulted in a once-off loss of approximately P371 million from discontinued operations and an increase in negative equity to P467 million for the financial year ended 30 June 2020.
“The board of Choppies considered the 2021 budgets, detailed cash flow forecasts that were stress tested, as prepared by management, banking facilities and covenants, undertakings of financial support by the founder shareholders, the economic outlook of the countries in which it operates as well as the possible future impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Based on the evidence provided by management, the Board concluded that the Group has already taken the necessary steps to remedy the past situation by discontinuing loss making operations the Company and the Group should be a going concern for the foreseeable future.
“As founder shareholders we remain committed to the turn-around strategy of Choppies, and confident of growing profitability in the short to medium term,” says Ottapathu.
The turnaround at Choppies follows implantation of turnaround strategy to improve corporate governance and exit of underperforming operations in South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania
The Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Honorable Anna Mokgethi paid an official campus visit to Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, on Thursday 29th October where she stated how she was impressed by the prowess that the university carries when it comes to creativity, innovation and technology as well as issues of gender based violence.
The purpose of the visit was for the minister appreciate what the University stands for, engage with staff and students and establish collaborations which will be beneficial to all within the university and the community which is within her constitution in her capacity as Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington North.
She also took time to discuss issues of compliance challenges as well as general welfare following the COVID-19 pandemic. The Minister’s campus visit started off with a tour of the University’s corporate walkthrough, followed by a tour of the students work exhibition.
She also had an opportunity to tour the University’s ecosystem including the University’s e-library, which is the biggest in the country, specialized digital, animation and architecture labs as well as the University’s Campus Radio where he was interviews live by students.
A visit to one of the lecture rooms saw Hon. Mokgethi walking into a Gender Based Violence Campaign Presentation by students much to her delight as a champion of the fight against GBV. She stated, “. Let me just say that I was gratified to witness an ongoing discussion on Gender based Violence during my campus tour.
As you all know GBV is very prevalent in our society, and I really want to commend you as a university for having seen it fit to play your role as institution of higher learning by incorporating the topic in your curriculum which I believe will have positive results in behavioral change of the community.
I was also impressed by the fact that we do not only have females involved, but we also have males involved. With our strategies, of involving men as part of finding the solution I am confident that we will win this fight and end GBV in our country. And I am extremely proud of what I saw and I am inspired.
The university prepared an official programme, where the student community representatives inclusive of students with special needs had an opportunity to share their experiences about the University with the Minister.
Speaking on behalf of students from 31 international countries currently enrolled in Limkokwing Botswana, Pearl Dikana from South Africa highlighted the university has proved to be a very hospitable home away from home for many of them, that has given them a chance to acquire skills that will help them contribute to their countries economies as Limkokwing is a respectable Global Brand present in 3 continents.
Limkokwing University mission states that the institution is committed to training industry relevant and ready graduates who can migrate seamlessly into the industry of choice. The University has coined the word INDUSITY, combining the words Industry and University to describe this innovative approach to education.
Through collaboration the University is able to work with the industry in unparalled ways in products or service innovation. The ability to respond professionally has attracted industry to collaborate on special projects to obtain fresh new angles to various economic issues.
This collaboration with industry has also been extended to government with the intention to build national competitiveness and the country’s global reputation through innovative design and effective branding. Students are given the opportunity to work on projects commissioned by the industry.
The collaboration between the university and the industry enables Limkokwing students to participate in projects working with industry professionals to output work that is used by industry to promote their projects and services.
Limkokwing University continues to attract active, vibrant and smart generation who are industry and future ready and are trained to think beyond employability upon graduation.