There is high opportunity for innovators in the agriculture sector, says the Africa Innovation report 2017 released last week. This is good news for Botswana, which is trying to improve its agriculture sector.

The only notable innovation related to the agriculture sector from Botswana has been m-Agri by Branstorne Group, a software app developed with the assistance of Orange Botswana, to help farmers share news, events, weather forecasts and tips. The app, launched in 2015, currently has over 10, 000 users.

The report, compiled by Liquid Telecom, outlines the challenges, opportunities and potential for innovations in Africa.  It notes that while a lot of start-ups focus on urban solutions, there is more potential and higher return on investment for rural areas. The report notes that while the challenges are steeper for innovations in rural areas, the rewards are higher for the communities, nation and continent at large.

The World Bank estimates that 65 percent of sub Saharan Africa’s labour force works in the agriculture sector, which accounts for one third of the country’s GDP. Furthermore, rural areas are home to some of the continent’s poorest communities. The Africa Innovation report states that increasing agricultural productivity is critical to lifting large numbers of rural households out of poverty.

Further, that technology and innovation can play an important role in supporting Africa’s agriculture sector, empowering farming communities with information that can drive efficiencies and ultimately increase yield and profit. “Unlocking the potential is one of the largest challenges facing the region’s start ups, as here levels of mobile and internet penetration are at their lowest and the target customer has little disposable income. With the support of governments, academia and NGOs, a growing number of start-ups are developing innovative solutions that navigate these obstacles in order to help support rural communities living close or beneath the poverty line.”

The report profiled interesting innovations like drones to be used in farming by Droneclouds (a partnership between IntegriSense and Afrolabs), which will give farmers the benefits of modern remote sensing through affordable and on-demand crop insights via a cloud platform that uses aerial imagery generated through its social global network of drone operators and satellites.

DroneClouds has already started scaling its operations and finding new ways to use earth observation data to support farming operations. Co-founder at DroneClouds David Campey was quoted as saying that, “We are able to look at a region of small subsistence farmers and identify gaps in their education based on their farming activities. We are generating lots of data, which will create further insights for the academic world and provide further learning for farmers,” he said.

Campey acknowledged that current production offering is often a bit too high tech for African farmers and that’s why it is essential for them to create innovations that are clever but simple to use, and are affordable. Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and Ivory Coast surged ahead in Innovation and are leaders in technology innovations particularly.

In a recent interview, Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) CEO Allan Boshwaen noted that interest in innovation was still low but expressed hope that the situation would improve. “The level of interest in innovation in Botswana is relatively low compared to countries like Kenya where we already see practical examples of individuals making a living out of innovation based entrepreneurship.

“However, BIH and its partners continue to conduct road shows and sensitising activities have proved to be relevant in raising awareness and interest. Most notably, the hosting of the Innovation Prize for Africa was one of the key initiatives that stimulated interest from the public,” he said.
Boshwaen also noted that BIH’s role is to create a conducive environment, which nurtures innovations by offering a wide range of quality services and incentives relevant to accelerating the level of creativity and innovation through robust criteria to reach commercial level.

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Downgrade to affect fuel, food prices
SACU revenues likely to drop

Botswana, the diamond-rich economy struggling to recover from the global commodity crunch, faces yet another painful test with this week’s downgrade of South Africa’s credit rating by Standard & Poor’s.
This is the common view coming out clearly from various economic commentators. They say there is no way Botswana can escape the pinch of a political meltdown in its neighbour following the widely-criticised cabinet reshuffle by President Jacob Zuma last Thursday.

South Africa is currently a country grappling with economic and political tensions. This week the credit agency, S&P cut the country credit status to junk, arguing that the political upheavals in Africa’s most advanced-economy have endangered the economy which has not grown above 1 percent in recent years.

The downgrade will surely hit home and this will be a Catch 22 situation for Botswana which is failing to contain runaway unemployment rates, currently standing at 16, 4 percent. “It will not serve Botswana’s economy well if South Africa’s economy was to go down as a result of the downgrade,” said Standard Chartered plc Chief Economist(Africa), Razia Khan.

She was speaking to Botswana Guardian Wednesday afternoon at a focus group meeting of local business owners organised jointly by Standard Chartered Bank Botswana and Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC).

Botswana, a landlocked-country imports most of its goods and services through South Africa, whose President Jacob Zuma sacked both his finance minister, Pravin Gordhan and deputy, Mcebisi Jonas in a widely-slammed cabinet reshuffle which has weakened the Rand. The Pula is pegged to the Rand in a basket of currencies known as Special Drawing Rights (SDR).

Botswanan-born Khan, who is based in London and Garry Juma, Head of Research at Motswedi Securities, concur that the medium to long term results of the downgrade and political tension in South Africa, will also have adverse impact on the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which Botswana has come to depend on, especially at a time when revenue from diamonds is now hard to come by.

“We will feel the pinch,” Juma told Botswana Guardian. He has all the reasons to believe so. South Africa is the biggest revenue contributor to SACU, which in turn is a reliable cash-cow for Botswana after diamonds and statutory taxes.

According to Botswana Unified Revenue Services annual report for 2015, SACU revenue increased by 13, 7 percent to R89, 2billion, powered by South Africa. The once apartheid-governed country contributed more than 40percent to this total figure, which clearly shows that the fall in the country’s economy and trading activities will adversely affect the Union, which also counts Swaziland, Lesotho and Namibia as its members.

Local analysts are also jittery that the downgrade, which can also invite other rating agencies to follow suit, will also affect South Africa’s ability to trade on the backdrop of reduced consumer confidence, which ultimately will have ripple effects in Botswana and the entire SADC region.

The business community in Botswana is also wary of current developments in the region’s economic powerhouse. President of Botswana Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA), Nkosi Mwaba said on Wednesday: “These are unfortunate events. We do a lot of trading with South Africa and if the Rand continues to fall, we will be negatively affected’.

The Rand fell by as much as 2percent after South Africa’s cabinet reshuffle last week to trade at nearly R14 to the US dollar.  Botswana, a diamond rich economy imported goods and servicesworth $4,4billion (about P44billion) from South Africa in 2015. This data was obtained from Global Edge this week.
Although it is still early days, the current economic situation prevailing in South Africa will also hurt the domestic economy which is facing an expanded budget deficit for the current financial year.

The downgrade of South Africa’s economy means the cost of accessing capital will go up for government and major companies operating in that country, said Juma. “This will also mean interest rates will go up and this also translates to higher inflation,” said Juma, who is a former economist at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. The high interest and inflation rates will basically mean Botswana will be forced to pay more for its goods and services in South Africa, added Juma.

All this impact will be felt in the medium to long term.
Prices of fuel will likely go up in South Africa as well as Botswana since Botswana gets most of its petroleum products in South Africa. He made the estimates on the basis that most oil products are priced in US dollar and major currencies which the Rand is pegged to. Juma said the current economic uncertainty in South Africa is a wake-up call for Botswana to stop reliance in South Africa. On an unrelated matter, African National Congress Secretary General Secretary, Gwede Mantashe jetted into the country on Wednesday to meet Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass to discuss matters of common interest between the two parties.

There is likelihood that, the BDP will have had one or two words with Mantashe over the current political and economic uncertainties in South Africa, where the president is under pressure from opposition and his own party to step down. April 18 has been set aside for Parliament to debate a Motion of No Confidence on JZ.

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A  dark cloud continues to hover over women’s football league. The league is currently halted and details are still hazy as to who   accounts for this atrocity.
In fact the current Botswana Football Association  (BFA) president Mclean Letshwiti used the advancement of   women football and development structures as part of his campaign. Moreover, the women’s league continues to be shrouded in controversies while both the BFA and the Women National Executive Committee watch indifferently.

 A few years ago when the women league was introduced, many applauded the initiative as it was seen as a positive move towards sports development that will enable active women participation in football.However, all efforts directed towards ensuring that women football is functional seem to be hitting a snag. The situation is worrisome and does not show any signs of improvement in future. Early this year, the women super league suffered a blow when the league was called to an abrupt stop due towhat was said to be financial constraints weighing heavily on the league. Women league Vice Chairperson Otukile Moruakgomo, says four teams have written to say that they cannot continue with the league due to insufficient funds.

The committee then summoned all other participating teams and realised that the situation was affecting all teams. It was then resolved that the league be suspended indefinitely. The teams are said to have requested at the time to engage the Women National Executive Committee (NEC) on the matter but to date the issue is still pending.
On behalf of BFA, Tumo Mpatane the Association’s spokesperson said the women league representatives have failed to provide them with a full report as to why the league is currently not running. “We do not have a full understanding of what is happening, we have asked for a report from the chairperson of the women’s league,” Mpatane said.

When brought to speed about reports that the league was financially constrained, Mpatane explained that the women league was running without a sponsor and did not receive any grant from FIFA either. He noted that women football league structures did not conform to those of FIFA and thus, they are not able to receive grants from the international football governing body.
Nevertheless, he has assured that they are working around the clock to ensure that women football structures conform to FIFA’s rules and regulations. He also promised that the intention is to have the league running again next season. Additionally, the matter has hit hard on local teams and some of them have now begun pointing fingers while others remain hopeless.

The situation has seen players abstain from the game for quite some time now while others are still in nail biting situations to try and survive the hard times. Should this matter remain unattended, the women national team will also be affected in the process. Efforts to communicate with the Women NEC all proved futile before going to print.

Published in Sports
Monday, 10 April 2017 13:11

Mascom undecided on Top 8 sponsorship

The Mascom Top 8 Cup, ‘Tse Di Tona’ knockout tournament has undoubtedly brought a touch of both glitz and glamour to local top-flight football.
The thrill and spills witnessed during the Mascom Top 8 final clash between Jwaneng Galaxy and Orapa United over the weekend was the sort of high stakes football game local supporters have been yearning for. Nevertheless   there have been doubts on whether the mobile phone service producer will return as Top 8 sponsors following the conclusion of their contract with the Botswana Football Association.

Nevertheless, the Saturday game may definitely   keep the sponsors on board as Francistown Sports Complex was filled with many supporters who came to witness history as Jwaneng Galaxy, who came into the game as underdogs, humiliated the defending Champions Orapa United to bag the P1.2 Million prize money.
It is evident how the popularity of the tournament has steadily grown and in the process, has become an integral part of the football community. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen if the Cup tournament shall continue to be the apple pie of many local football enthusiasts.

The contract between Botswana Premier League (BPL) and the title sponsors of the tournament, Mascom, comes to an end this year. Mascom has been sponsoring the tournament since 2011. It remains a mystery whether Mascom will want to renew their contract or not, given the negativity that has surrounded local football.

However, BPL Acting CEO, Thabo Ntshinogang said in an interview this week that they have expressed interest of continuing the partnership through a formal letter. He explained that their contract will elapse shortly after the Mascom Top 8 awards to be hosted sometime in May or June. Ntshinogang noted that for the past six years, they have been enjoying a cordial working relationship with Mascom. “The tournament helped our local teams participate internationally which also assisted our senior national team perform better,” he said.

He said it is through the Mascom Top 8 tournament that local players find the opportunity to showcase their talents outside the premier league. Ntshinogang said they are ready to fasten their belts and look for other alternatives in order to keep the tournament alive, should Mascom decide otherwise. On the other hand, Mascom remained cagey about the sponsorship matter, saying that they are yet to review the past season of the tournament and will share the evaluation with partners, Botswana Premier League.

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South African television sports channel Super Sport is expected to cover this year’s Gem Diamonds Kalahari Cycle challenge scheduled for the 9th – 11th June 2017.
 The action packed mountain bike event has grown   in leaps and bounds and coverage from an international sports channel is expected to not only promote cycling in Botswana but also paint the country as a cycling tourism destination.
Launching the event at Avani Gaborone Hot & Casino in Gaborone earlier this week, the race director Seamus O’Neill said they went the extra mile to empower locals by trying to increase their participation in one of the biggest and best mountain bike riding events in Botswana.

O’Neil said the aim is to build a base of local riders who will be able to compete confidently in the southern African cycling scenes. The challenge is made up of the 60km and the 70, 80 and 90km races. O’ Neil added that during the three-day race, the riders will be expected to manoeuvre through sandy, stony and bushy areas, the race will begin from Lion Park Resort, head through Sentlane farms and down the Mokolodi tarmac road. Areas which will be affected by the race include Mogobane, Mmankgodi and Lekgolobotlo Villages.

On the last day of the race, riders will follow a fast-flowing route home through the Aloe single track back to the Lion Park, which will mark the end of the challenge. Categories expected on the day include men aged 19 – 29, Sub-Vets from 30 – 39, Veterans 40 – 49, and masters aged 50+. There will also be mixed women categories.
Meanwhile local cyclists will get a 50 percent entry fee discount of the standard rate prize. Popularly known as a sport of mountain biking and considered one of the toughest races in Africa, the standard rate for registration is P6 000 for individuals and P10 000 for teams. Meaning participating local riders will be paying P4 000 per person and P8 000 for pairs.
The standard entry fee covers entry into the race, a four-man tent (team) or two-man tent (Solo) with mattress and bedding (sheets, pillow & blankets).  It also includes Friday lunch & dinner, Saturday breakfast, lunch & dinner and Sunday breakfast at overnight campsite and a goodie bag & event t-shirt, plus other extras.

The registration for all participating cyclists will be at Avani Gaborone Hotel on Thursday 8th June 2017 from 14h00 until 19h00. Race Briefing from 19:00 and late Registration from 20h00 - 21h00. Registration is now open at and will close on the 5th of May. Stanbic Bank and Gem Diamonds are the major sponsors of the event while other sponsors include Kgalagadi Breweries, Scania Botswana, Avani Gaborone Resort &Casino, Medswana, Bokomo Botswana and GMR freights.

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The recent United Nations (UN) World Happiness Report  (WHR) has labelled Botswana as one of the unhappiest places on earth.

The report was released   this week and features Botswana in position 142 out of 155 countries in the world. The WHR further places Botswana in position 34 out of 44 African countries. Moreover the shocking report shows Botswana, regarded by many as a flourishing and progressive economy being ranked lower than other African states including Sudan, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Angola. 

The   report   further ranks Botswana lower than war torn hotspots including Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine. According to the WHR Norway is the happiest country in the world while the Central African Republic came in last at position 155.

The WHR   measurement considers six factors: GDP per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support (as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble), trust (as measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business), perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity (as measured by recent donations).

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The World Bank last week approved a $145.5 million loan to Botswana for the Emergency Water Security and Efficiency Project. This will be used to improve water availability in drought vulnerable areas, according to the Bank.

“The Project will help Botswana cope with increased water stress, arising from a number of factors including chronic drought,” said Paul Noumba Um, the World Bank Country Director. “The proposed measures are therefore critical for the sustainable development of the country, particularly given current climate change projections.” The Project was prepared in response to the 2015-2016 El-Nino related drought which was rated extremely severe - the worst in the last 34 years.

Although droughts in Botswana are chronic, acute events such as the 2015-2017 drought further aggravate the fragile water balance. In 2015, overall dam levels fell below 20 percent of their design capacity and ground water sources in several water supply schemes dried up or became saline. The Project will improve the availability of water supply in drought vulnerable areas, strengthen wastewater management in selected systems and improve the operational efficiency of the Water Utilities Corporation.

“While the recent rains have alleviated the dry conditions faced over the past three years, due to low recharge rates, groundwater levels will take several years to recover,” said Mukami Kariuki, World Bank Task Team Leader. “The Project will also support the Government’s ongoing efforts to integrate and manage surface and ground water resources more effectively.”

Around 460,000 people in select settlements will benefit from augmentation or rehabilitation of existing water supply systems and about 177,000 people will benefit from improved wastewater treatment and sludge management systems. In addition, targeted measures to interlink, protect and secure surface and groundwater resource will be undertaken, and support for institutional strengthening and capacity development provided, in order to improve the efficiency of services and sustainability of water resources in Botswana.

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It was an enchanting Thursday night.  Diplomats of all hues and colours mingled freely with Chiefs, Ministers, public officers, lawyers and the hoi polloi to celebrate the birthday of a foreign sovereign – Japan’s Emperor Akihito, who turns 83 this December 23.

Seldom does this happen, considering our condescending attitude towards Monarchies. Except for our deference to England’s Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, we hold in lowly esteem this anachronistic system of governance – little wonder then, the extent to which we have usurped diKgosi of their powers!

Yet, last Thursday provided a rare opportunity to confound this attitude, only if temporarily. Nestled in the heart of Gaborone’s Extension 11 suburb just behind the Parliamentary Village along Kgalagadi Way is the official residence of Japan’s Envoy to Botswana, His Excellency Masahiro Onishi who had gathered a decent crowd for a reception and buffet dinner in honour of His Imperial Majesty’s birthday.

In usual Japanese finesse and attention to detail, the venue was manned by attendants from the gate into the yard right through the foregrounds, on the foyer of the imposing two-storey building all the way inside the house and outside the back gardens.The atmosphere was alluring. Japanese peoples are sticklers for time-keeping. By 630PM everything had been set. Guests had already arrived and others were scurrying their way into the yard, conscious that their hosts abhor late-coming with a passion. Scattered in the gardens, the guests made small talk as they sipped and enjoyed drinks while waiting.

Former Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe and former longtime Minister of foreign affairs Dr. Gaositwe Chiepe graced the event. The white hairs on their heads glimmered against the night lights as if to affirm the wisdom of their ways as they sat side by side to absorb every moment of the proceedings, reliving their past in retrospect.

After all, Kedikilwe and Dr. Chiepe enjoy the same honour that was recently conferred on Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi - the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun! Former Ambassador to Japan, Oteng Tebape, who was however not in the crowd, is yet another beneficiary of the same Honour but in Gold and Silver.President of the local chamber of commerce – Business Botswana- Lokwalo Mosienyane and his wife could be seen chatting and networking with local investors and foreign dignitaries. Motor-magnate and longtime ruling party purse-keeper, Satar Dada was also in the crowd.

Former Bank of Botswana Governor and current coordinator of a programme designed to revitalise the SPEDU Region, which includes the ailing copper mining town, Selibe Phikwe, Linah Mohohlo was radiant in her flowery dress and pinkish top as was Mma Nametso – the country’s third First Lady, Barbara Mogae who lazed in the gardens with Matlho Kgosi, wife to DISS boss, Isaac Kgosi, as if at home.The royal couple, Kgosi Puso Gaborone and his wife was equally stunning in their outfits and not to be outdone was the fabled economist, Keith Jeffries and his wife! There were also the young and vibrant legal minds – Nametso Dire and Outule Keatimilwe from Salbany & Torto and Armstrongs & Associates respectively.

Pule Mphothwe, the newly appointed Director of Communications at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Affairs – freshly arrived from a six-year diplomatic stint in Tokyo, Japan was there as was old hand at the job, Clifford Maribe. Indeed, foreign affairs was well represented. The press corps darted around clicking away at their cameras to compliment the legion of Japanese ushers all donned in their traditional garb (Yukata) who watched after the guests’ every care. Madam Sae Onishi, wife to the Ambassador welcomed guests with a curtsying gesture and smile.

And then the Ambassador, Masahiro Onishi took to the podium to regale his guests first about the Emperor’s health describing him as “still fit” as a fiddle even at 83, and then about Japan’s diplomatic and commercial relations with Botswana. Onishi revealed that they plan to invite Botswana public officers to Japan next year for training in public service reforms. In the two years three months since his appointment, Onishi has worked tirelessly to improve trade and commercial relations between Japan and Botswana. In fact, just recently – end of October – he led a joint investment promotion mission with BITC’s chief executive Letsebe Sejoe to market Botswana’s investment potential.At the end of his speech, he was followed by Acting Foreign Minister, Eric Molale who paid tribute to Japanese way of life and work ethic, revealing in the process that Botswana was emulating these attributes by introducing the Kaizen (continuous improvement) system in its public service.

Molale also announced that his government would be applying for funds under the Japan/Africa development framework - TICAD VI. He said Finance minister Kenneth Matambo’s ministry was coordinating efforts to identify projects for funding under TICAD VI, for which Japan has pledged US$60billion towards Africa’s development in the next three years. And not only this, in a separate interview Molale, who incidentally had led the Botswana delegation to Nairobi, Kenya for TICAD VI summit, revealed that Botswana would be hosting the TICAD VI follow-up meeting next year.  

In fact the end of their speeches the two men proposed toasts to the continued heath of President Khama, Emperor Akihito and the continued strong relations between the two peoples before they conducted the ‘Kagari wari’ ceremony of breaking the barrel containing the Japanese rice wine, (Sake). And the party began!!

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The Republic of Japan has this week celebrated its diplomatic relations with Botswana in anticipation OF the latter’s 50th silver jubilee independence celebrations.

Speaking at reception ceremony in Gaborone, Ambassador of Japan to Botswana, Masahiro Onishi said his country established its diplomatic relations with Botswana on 30th September 1966 and this was worth celebrating.

“Botswana and Japan share the same fundamental values, namely, democracy, rule of law and the respect of human rights. It is for that reason that we have been cooperating in the international arena to advocate those principles. For us Botswana is a true friend that one can trust wholeheartedly,” explained Onishi. He further stated that both Botswana and Japan have rich natural resources, including tourism, which made the friendship between the two countries even stronger.

“About 10, 000 Japanese people visited Botswana in 2014, and it is my wish that more Japanese people will visit this beautiful country,” he said. Onishi also highlighted that Japan has previously assisted Botswana in the construction of infrastructure through grants and Yen loans over the years.

“Currently, Botswana has already achieved the status of an upper middle income country so that, in general means our grants and Yen loans are no longer applicable to this country. Instead, we are now cooperating with Botswana through technical cooperation and grant assistance for Grass Roots Projects,” he said. He therefore promised that he would commit to strive for further development of the relations between these two countries.

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Senior Officials from respective ministries and departments dealing with transport logistics and food security in SADC Member States are currently attending a two day meeting  in Johannesburg, South Africa.The  meeting convened  in  order to map the way forward on how the region could sustain itself during the difficult times caused by the effects of El-Nino.

The meeting is a follow-up to the recent declaration of a SADC Regional Disaster and launch of a Regional Appeal for Humanitarian and Recovery Support amounting to US$2.4 billion by the Chairperson of SADC and president of  Botswana, Lt. General Dr  Ian Khama.
A statement from SADC this week states that the objective of the meeting is to strategize and adopt a coordinated regional transportation plan for humanitarian relief cargo.

The Regional Disaster Appeal reveals that the devastating El-Niño-induced drought has affected an estimated 40 million people across the SADC region, and out of this figure, more than 23 million are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

It is further stated that the Regional Disaster Appeal estimates that the region has a cereal shortfall of 9.3 million metric tonnes. Considering that only two SADC countries recorded a surplus, (Tanzania and Zambia), the bulk of this shortfall will be covered with imports from outside the region.
A supply chain assessment conducted by the WFP in March this year and the recent consultative mission to key SADC ports by the SADC El Nino Transport Logistics Team this month, on the state of preparedness of the regional transport corridors, both indicate that the regional transport infrastructure and services have adequate capacity to handle the anticipated surge in imports, their storage and distribution. However, they need to be coordinated.

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