Botswana’s Rising Stars
Six Batswana entrepreneurs to watch out for
Patel Mmusi Barwabatsile
Power TV, a subscription service for television content, was set up by Patel Mmusi Barwabatsile, a computer systems engineer by background, to offer Batswana streaming via the internet instead of satellite. It means people can stream 10,000 channels direct to their device, whether it’s a smart TV or a smartphone. “This will encourage uptake of internet as well as democratise the broadcast and media business by taking away the huge cost of satellite or terrestrial broadcasting infrastructure,” said Barwabatsile. Additionally, it allows local businesses, such as sports, culture, government, faith-based or education, to both advertise and also publish content about events, for example.
“It helps develop other industries like creatives, sports or education by giving them the platform to give information at low costs,” said Barwabatsile. “It will also create opportunities for the revenue streams and better chances for the professionals in these areas to monetise their skills and talents.”
Focus Surveys is a data collection platform which offers innovative and intuitive research tools to industry who want to make evidence-based decisions. “We have used existing open source technologies and incorporated machine learning to automate our quality checks and a few predictive models,” said Tumelo Mapila, the company’s founder. “We are continually updating our datasets for market and industry related data that spans medical insurance and consumer behaviour to fast-moving consumer goods and even the local entrepreneurship ecosystem.”
Focus Surveys enables the timely collection of data, analytics and insights which are presented via dashboards. Clients include Fairground Holdings (Subsidiary of Botswana Development Corporation), Gaborone Netball World Championship under the banner of the Botswana National Sports Commission, Debswana Mining Company and the Botswana Innovation Hub.
“A key part of our business model is to always collaborate where there is an opportunity,” said Mapila. “Our network of data collectors consists mostly of recent graduates and university students in an attempt to address the unemployment gap.”
“With access to 1000 or more students and domain experts, we always engage in our various projects. We take pride in this approach because we train on interpersonal skills, data treatment approaches.” For students or graduates, he said, mobile phones can be a revenue generation tool.
Thuto Paul Gaotingwe
Thuto Paul Gaotingwe was just 25 years old when he beat 450 others from 17 African counties in an IT innovation competition. He won the Orange Africa Social Venture Prize in 2014 with his start-up project Modisar, a precision livestock farming company. The software he created assists livestock producers by allowing them to keep accurate records & automated, continuous monitoring of their farm animals.
As agriculture in Botswana moves from subsistence, small-holder farming to an profitable industry in its own right, Gaotingwe observed an essential need for a platform which provides animal management, finance management, a knowledge base and a market place in order for agriculture to develop. “The vision behind this is that of a farming system where farmers, buyers and agribusiness are constantly connected to benefit from each other.” And as well as being CEO of Modisar, Gaotingwe is working on a TB monitoring app and a bribery data collection app.
Botswana-born Rapelang Rabana became an entrepreneur fresh out of university at the age of 22, when she co-founded Yiego, which designed and developed some of the world’s earliest mobile VoIP applications, using broadband to deliver voice communications. Continuing her focus on the value and ease of mobile technology, she founded Rekindle Learning, a technology company that provides “micro-learning” and online courses on mobile and computers, both on and offline. Since then, she has become an inspirational and motivational voice in the innovation space and was appointed Chief Digital Officer at BCX, an information and communications company based in South Africa. Described as a maverick and disrupter, she has appeared on the Oprah Magazine’s O Power List and Forbes 30 Under 30. “Today, African entrepreneurs are using their imagination to drive the next wave of globalization, exporting innovative African-baked technology,” she wrote, in January 2019.
Conexus is a business in Botswana owned by Melissa Tafila and Otsile Tafila with a focus on the value of education. The company produces educational software and runs a learning centre in Gaborone to offer high quality innovative education materials for primary, junior and secondary schools. In 2016, it won the Orange Social Venture Prize for its work. As of March 2019, the company has moved into the digital space with Conexus partnering with Orange to launch the Atlega Mobile Education Service. The app allows pupils to use their mobile phones to access information for revision and testing in subjects such as maths and science for both primary and secondary school age to revolutionise learning and harness the ubiquity of mobile tech.
One of Brastones Enterprise’s flagship products is mAgri, a USSD mobile app for the farming community in Botswana. It gives rural farmers access to information, markets and finance. It also allows Stimela and his company to achieve important work within his sustainable development philosophy. “Agriculture is closest to the majority of the poor,” he said. “How do we eradicate poverty? How do we allow people to be more self-sustaining and empowered? Especially women because the majority of people in agriculture are women. Our work is very deliberate. How are you given back? How are you touching on the things that really matter to people, the social good?”
Excited by both growth but also sustainable development, Stimela’s company is 100 percent youth-driven and 60 percent of employees are female. “Gender equality is big on our radar,” he says. The company are hoping to scale out into the majority of Africa over the next four years.
Botswana Investment and Trade Centre
BOTSWANA is a land of unmatched beauty, abundant in wildlife and rich in culture. Her people have a rich and diverse culture and are ready to welcome you to enjoy her breath-taking landscapes. A land-linked country at the heart of southern Africa, bordered by Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, Botswana’s central location in southern Africa makes it the perfect gateway to reach the whole of the SADC region, and beyond, making it the ideal investment and trade hub.