Entrepreneurship in Botswana
Background & History
Botswana officially known as the Republic of Botswana is a landlocked country inSouthern Africa. Bordered by South Africa in the south and the southeast, Namibia to the west and north and Zimbabwe to the northeast. The Kalahari Desert covers 70% of the country. The country’s name means “Land of the Tswana“, referring to the dominant ethnic group in Botswana. Earliest of inhabitants in the region date back to the beginning of mankind.
The British colonised the area and declared a protectorate under the name of Bechuanaland in 1885. And Bechuanaland became and independent Commonwealth republic under its current name on 30 September 1966. The population of Botswana is approximately 2.4 million people as per latest census, making it one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Gaborone is the capital and the largest city.
From being one of the poorest countries at independence, Botswana has transformed into an upper middle-income country, with a GDP per capita of approximately $18000 as of 2021, ranking it as one of the highest in Africa. Since independence, Botswana has had one of the fastest growth rates in per capita income in the world. The high ranking has ensured a high standard of living and the highest human development index in Sub-Saharan Arica.
The economy is dominated by mining, cattle, and tourism. The mining industry accounts for 25% of the GDP and minerals account for 90% of exports. It’s major trading partners for exports are Belgium, India, UAE, South Africa and Singapore. It imports fuel, food and beverage, tobacco, machinery and equipment, electronics, chemicals, rubber and motor vehicles. Its main import partner is South Africa with which it has 75% of the total imports, and China, Israel, Namibia and Zimbabwe being the other trader partners from where it imports goods.
Debswana is the largest diamond mining company operating in Botswana, 50% owned by the government and 50% by The De Beers Group of Companies. It is one of the worlds leading diamond producers both by value and volume operating out of the four mines in Orapa. Letlhakane, Damtshaa and Jwaneng. The company contributes significantly in terms of revenue to the government and employment for the people. It is also the largest contributor of rough diamond production for The De Beers Group.
Botswana’s Orapa mine is the largest diamond mine in the world in terms of value and quantity of carats produced annually. Many international mining corporations have established regional headquarters in Botswana, and prospected for diamonds, gold, uranium, copper, and even oil, many coming back with positive results.
Entrepreneurship and Startups
The Government in Botswana has supported micro, small and medium enterprises with various programs but they have been mostly unsuccessful as they were targeted rightly. Botswana is planning to use science and technology to diversify its economy and thereby reduce its dependence on diamond mining. To this end, the government has set up six hubs since 2008, in the agriculture, diamonds, innovation, transport, health and education sectors. As per the doing business report 2020, Botswana is ranked 87 in terms of ease of doing business.
In 2009, Botswana-based company Deaftronics launched a solar-powered hearing aid after six years of prototype development. The company has sold over 10,000 of the hearing aids, since. The hearing aid is priced at $200 per unit, each hearing aid includes four rechargeable batteries that lasts up to three years and a solar charger for them. The product is inexpensive compared to many similar devices, that can start from around $600.
Power TV founded by Patel Mmusi Barwabatsile offers content streamed over the internet to a TV, Smartphone, or a laptop. Focus Surveys founded by Tumelo Mapila is a data collection platform that offers clients innovative research tools to make informed decisions. Modisar founded by Thuto Paul Gaotingwe is a platform that enables livestock farmers to maintain and monitor records easily.
Yiego founded by Rapelang Rabana, is mobile VoIP application, Rekindle Learning also founded by Rapelang Rabana, provides micro learning and online courses on mobile and computers both online and offline. Rapelang has appeared on Oprah Magazine’s O Power List and in the Forbes 30 under 30. Conexus founded by Melissa Tafila and Otsile Tafila, produces educational software that enable s students to access notes for revision and tests. mAgri founded by Martin Stimela, is a mobile app that allows farmers to access information related to markets and finance.
Dependence on a few public sector corporations and the diamond industry has not encouraged the development of a stronger private sector. However, Botswana is now taking a large interest in renewable energy sources, that will attract investors in the wind, solar and biomass renewable energy industries.
Africa suffers from infrastructure problems, hence the scope to develop infrastructure across sectors is huge. A National Development Plan for 2017-23 has been set up, but the strategy of using Public Private Partnerships (PPP) to procure and finance infrastructure projects is not as effective as needed. Big name private international infrastructure companies could play a big role in solving the infrastructure development problem, by using its experience and resources to execute the projects successfully.
Healthcare infrastructure is crucial to the country’s development, as it suffers from a major HIV/Aids epidemic, and the more recent Covid-19 pandemic. Access to proper healthcare systems and services will add to the economic development significantly.