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Is Ram, Choppies’ ‘Success’ Story Underrated?

RAMACHANDRAN

DUMISANI NCUBE

Walmart, the world’s most successful retailer knocked doors on the South African market in 2011. With a total equity of just less than a trillion pula (BWP895 billion), 2.2 million employees around the world, its strategic merger with Massmart in South Africa was to define what was to be the new era for retail and FMCGs sector not just in the country of the strategic merger but across the continent.

To put this into context Massmart owns Makro, Game, Jumbo Cash and Carry, Builders Stores amongst dozens of other established brands. This was against the backdrop of Shoprite owning the crown of the African market in the FMCG space from Johannesburg to Gaborone and the rest of the mother continent. Spa, Pick n Pay and Woolworths are also domineering forces that have known nothing but leadership on the FMCG sectors.

Having some of the global leaders with expertise that is close to impossible to replicate closing deals with Africa’s market leaders for market domination and control meant a new era for the markets. What chance really would any player make and take in any part of the continent when the world’s best is playing a game of chess with great masterminds and strategists with a financial war chest which cannot be replicated?

Sam Walton (Founder of Walmart) at the end of his life is quoted saying, “If we work together, we will lower the cost of living for everyone… we will give the world an opportunity to see what it’s to save and have a better life.” Born during Great Depression his convictions were to serve the average working consumer by offering the lowest prices anytime, anywhere. His vision/strategy intent was premised on an un-ending quest to improve lives best on good competitive prices for all.

There is no business journal in the world that doesn’t celebrate the late Walton as the mastermind on matters of strategy. His model won the world over on pricing because of an enduring vision.  Having his business’ presence on the continent through Massmart meant the world and markets watch in wonder and bewilderment as big boys do what they know best – dominate.

The Economist highlights that South African retailers such as Shoprite, Pick & Pay, Spar and Woolworths are highly sophisticated and offer a fine array of fresh food, at least in the big cities. Botswana saw an unlikely creation metamorphose in Lobatse in the form of Wayside. Two struggling stores meant for the local market of just under 20 000 at the time were trying to figure out a model which could rival local dominance of established brands and outcompete for the benefit of the ordinary Motswana.

An unknown accountant from Mazaars always seen analyzing figures, and as a regular at the store he was set to be the new visionary of what would be Botswana’s leading brand in its sector.
“Choppies was an exciting story because of its rapid growth and expansion as a leading FMCG player in Botswana. It’s phenomenal growth and eventual listing on the BSE was a spectacle.

Major players such as retail players like Spar and Pick n Pay upped their game in acknowledgement of Choppies’ surprise market domination,” notes an investment expert who is close to Choppies transactions and declined to be named.

“They took a dent with over concentration on the top line and rapid African expansion. Exiting Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa and other market and announcement of a measures growth strategy is what shareholders hope to see in addition to rolling out the full plan of a deputy CEO and succession,” he notes.

“WE are pleased with the re-admission on the local bourse. It is critical for a listed entity. We never compromised on investor confidence. We are exiting a few markets where growth came at the expense of Choppies Botswana. For the remaining markets Zambia is growing slowly, Namibia has a strong chance of growth and Zimbabwe is profitable despite challenges of market stability,” notes Ram Ottapathu.

Premised on finding solutions for the average shopper for basic grocery needs Choppies found a unique value frontier that established brands had left wide open. Any viable local farmer with produce knew that Choppies was good option to supply their hard-earned harvest. The intricate network of value for suppliers, countrymen alike grew thus creating numerous entrepreneurs along the way.

The Accountant turned entrepreneur had done what few have ever imagined. He created a multibillion-pula enterprise, expanded it from Lobatse to a regional thrust with a presence at home here in Botswana, in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya with prospects to grow beyond.

“Growth is fine but it should not be for the sake of growth. I support the exit strategy. I believe it give the current board room to regroup and use Botswana as a springboard for future ventures in the region,” the financial expert noted.

Are there better days ahead? Having done the unthinkable -conquering the perceived African giants in the Botswana backyard. Choppies has a chance to rekindle its flame. We have heard the story too many time what we need to hear now is how best can we return to the Choppies glory days? “When we stop funding loss making entities the value will go back to the shareholder,” concludes Ram.

*Dumisani Ncube is Digital Executive at Pr Practise

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Fighting vulture poisoning in KAZA region.

3rd February 2023
As a response to avert vulture poisoning currently going on in Botswana and KAZA region, Birdlife Botswana has collaborated with three other partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & Birdlife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations.

The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootshositse has revealed in an interview that the project which is funded by European Union’s main goal is to reduce poisoning related vultures’ death and consequently other wildlife species death within the KAZA region.

He highlighted that Chobe district in Botswana has been selected as a pilot site as it has experienced rampant incidents of vulture poisoning for the past few months. In August this year at least 50 endangered white backed vultures were reported dead at Chobe National Park, Botswana after feeding on a buffalo carcass laced with poison.  In November this year again 43 white backed vultures were found dead and two alive after feeding on a zebra suspected to have poisoned.  Other selected pilots’ sites are Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.

Kootshositse further explained they have established a national and regional Wildlife Poisoning Committee. He added that as for the national committee they have engaged various departments such as Crop Productions, Agro Chemicals, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and other NGOs such as Raptors Botswana to come together and find a long-lasting solution to address wildlife poisoning in Botswana. ‘Let’s have a strategy or a plan together to tackle wildlife poisoning,’ he stated

He also decried that there is gap in the availability of data about vulture poisoning or wildlife in general. ‘If we have a central point for data, it will help in terms of reporting and advocacy’, he stated

He added that the regional committee comprises of law enforcement officers such as BDF and Botswana police, village leadership such as Village Development Committee and Kgosi. ‘We need to join hand together and protect the wildlife we have as this will increase our profile for conservation and this alone enhances our visitation and boost our local economy,’ he noted

Kootshositse noted that Birdlife together with DWNP also addressed series of meeting in some villages in the Chobe region recently. The purpose of kgotla meetings was to raise awareness on the conservation and protection of vultures in Chobe West communities.

‘After realizing that vulture poisoning in the Chobe areas become frequent, we realise that we need to do something about it.  ‘We did a public awareness by addressing several kgotla meetings in some villages in the Chobe west,’ he stated

He noted that next year they are going to have another round of consultations around the Chobe areas and the approach is to engage the community into planning process. ‘Residents should be part of the plan of actions and we are working with farmers committee in the areas to address vulture poisoning in the area, ‘he added

He added that they have found out that some common reasons for poisoning wildlife are farmers targeting predators such as lions in retaliation to killing of their livestock. Another common incident cross border poaching in the Chobe area as poachers will kills an elephant and poison its carcass targeting vultures because of their aerial circling alerting authorities about poaching activities.

Kootshositse noted that in the last cases it was disheartening the incidents occurred three months apart. He added that for the first time they found that some of the body parts of some vultures were missing. He added harvesting of body parts of vultures is not a common practice in Botswana, although it is used in some parts of Africa. ‘We suspect that someone took advantage of the availability of carcasses and started harvesting their body parts,’

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Giant in the making: Everton Mlalazi

3rd February 2023

The music industry is at a point where artists are jostling for space because there are so many aspirants trying to get their big break, thus creating stiff competition.

In the music business it’s about talent and positioning. You need to be at the right place at the right time with the right people around you to propel you forward.
Against all odds, Everton Mlalazi has managed to takeover the gospel scene effortlessly.
To him, it’s more than just a breakthrough to stardom, but a passion as well as mission directly appointed by the Lord.

Within a short space of 2 years after having decided to persue a solo career, Mlalazi has already made it into international music scene, with his music receiving considerable play on several gospel television and radio stations in Botswana including other regional stations like Trace Africa, One Gospel, Metro FM in South Africa, Hope FM in Kenya and literally all broadcast stations in Zimbabwe.

It doesn’t only stop there, as the musician has already been nominated 2 times and 2 awards which are Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAA) best Male artists 2022, StarFM listerners Choice Award, Best Newcomer 2021 and ZIMA Best Contemporary Gospel 2022, MLA awards Best Male artist & Best Gospel Artist 2022.

Everton’s inspiration stems from his ultimate passion and desire to lead people into Godly ways and it seems it’s only getting started.
The man is a gospel artist to put on your radar.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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