Botswana is a land-locked country in Southern Africa with a population of about 2 million people, a sustained economic growth rate averaging 5% in the last decade and the 2nd strongest currency in Southern Africa, after Zambia. A country sustained by mining and agriculture, which according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s (GEM) 2016 report, also has high entrepreneurial activity, listed 3rd out of 65 countries. The high perceptions of entrepreneurship by the young Batswanan’s was evident at our Anzisha Prize tour entrepreneurship event in March 2017.
Our hosts, Mmabatho Motsamai, a young entrepreneur who founded and runs the Afrolutionist, an online blog that tells great African success stories and Naledi Mosweu, an Anzisha Fellow, were the perfect fit to introduce us to the entrepreneurial eco-system in Botswana. It was an introduction to their life really, to how they became who they are – young, strong, African woman entrepreneurs. We were eager, not just to find the right applicants for the Prize, but to learn about entrepreneurship and the eco-system that supports it in Botswana.
Ranked higher that South Africa and Kenya on the Global Entrepreneurship Index, which measures the health of the entrepreneurship eco-system in over 137 countries, it is evident through the number of organisations on the ground helping entrepreneurs succeed in their endeavours. Organisations such as the Botswana Innovation Hub and Global Business Labs, at University of Botswana are playing an active part in stimulating youth entrepreneurship. However, a majority of the other organisations within the eco-system seem to follow the culture in many countries within the SADC region, where entrepreneurship is viewed as a good career choice, but little is actually done to cultivate young entrepreneurs and a focus is placed on older entrepreneurs.
We were privilege to host the entrepreneurship workshop at Botho University, which introduced us to actual young entrepreneurs in Botswana. The event was attended as well as any event in Southern African that focuses on 15-22 year olds would be attended on a weekday. Our niche market is still a challenge for Southern Africa, as evidenced in the applications we receive versus those received in West and East Africa. However, the young entrepreneurs that came through, came hungry to learn and dreamed bigger that we could have imagined. Ideas that emanated from the ideation session included construction businesses and businesses aiding bling learners in schools through different tools.
We were excited to not only be able to engage with the young entrepreneurs, but with organisations that are committed to work with young entrepreneurs in Botswana in stimulating the entrepreneurial spirit, developing the entrepreneurial skills and providing support to the entrepreneurs through their entrepreneurial journey. The building of Africa’s largest science park next to Sir Seretse Khama Airport, which aims to inspire and equip the youth to start ICT businesses shows government’s interest in entrepreneurship and should encourage young people in Botswana to align themselves with the entrepreneurial movements of an already very entrepreneurial country.
Botswana was one of 6 countries selected for this year’s Anzisha Prize tour and we are glad to have had the privilege to form part of discussions around the work that should be done and will be done to support young entrepreneurs, as an investment in the sustainable growth of the country’s economy. We encourage young entrepreneurs to get in touch with the Botswana Innovation Hub, Global Business Labs and the Afrolutionist to find out more about how they can be part of through participation or support. And as Anzisha, we are excited to see the growth of young entrepreneurs in Botswana in the coming years.