Botswana’s Best Business Address for Technology Entrepreneurship Opens for Business
Location! Location! Location! It has become an almost hackneyed mantra, but where a business is located is the most important factor in its value – both now and in the future. A business’s location is key to successful operations and overall growth. The site of a business operation is determined by factors such as customers, human capital, support services, infrastructure, and issues around governance such as cost, ease and speed of doing business including tax breaks and labour laws.
In the fiercely contested global market, it is curious to know how Botswana fairs in the stakes of ideal business location. In establishing this, we must put the country’s business allure or lack thereof into context. Botswana’s meteoric rise from poverty and subdued socioeconomic development since gaining independence from British colonial rule in 1966 is legendary. Good fortune, smart thinking, and diligent work helped propel the country from one of the least developed countries with a low gross national income (GNI), vulnerable economy and suppressed Human Development Index ratings characterized by weak human resource indicators in life expectancy, nutrition, health, education and adult literacy to Africa’s miracle development success story.
Against all the odds, Botswana has since transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country with one of the world’s fastest growing economies. The World Bank Group says the country now boasts a GDP (purchasing power parity) per capita of about US$18,825 per year as of 2015. Real GDP showed robust growth of average 5% per annum over the past decade. It has the fourth highest gross national income at purchasing power parity in Africa, giving it a standard of living around that of Mexico and Turkey.
The country has a mature democracy, with free and fair elections held regularly and a constitution that provides for fundamental rights and freedoms. “The politics of Botswana take place in a framework of a representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Botswana is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Parliament of Botswana,” states the African Economic Outlook.
However, notwithstanding the country’s good governance, impressive economic growth and prudent macroeconomic and fiscal management, it became clear long before the 2008 global economic meltdown that diamonds, which had hitherto sustained the phenomenal economic growth, are not forever. The writing was on the wall, the precious stones had lost their sparkle. Continued uncertainty in global markets and the slow pace of economic recovery in advanced countries since the global credit crunch continue to act as a drag on Botswana’s economic outlook, mainly due to the country’s heavy reliance on diamond exports.
The uncertainty in global markets and the bleak prospects for commodity producers prompted the country to come up with strategies to address the challenge of stimulating and diversifying the economy from a factor-driven one to knowledge-based economy. In the process the country recognised science, technology and innovation as essential in the promotion of sustainable and inclusive socioeconomic development. Botswana embarked on a drive to achieve significant economic growth through the creation and deployment of science, technology and innovation capacity within a science and technology park.
The International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation defines science and technology parks as, “designated area of concentrated economic activity dedicated to fostering technology transfer and innovation.” Science parks are highly specialised sources of entrepreneurship, talent, and economic competitiveness, and are key elements of the infrastructure supporting the growth of today’s global knowledge economy. By providing a location in which government, research institutions and private companies cooperate and collaborate, science parks create environments that foster collaboration and innovation. They enhance the development, skills transfer, and commercialisation of technology and advance knowledge.
Botswana Innovation Hub was conceived by the Botswana Excellence Strategy of 2008 as part of the economic, game changing ensemble which carries the national hopes and aspirations of transforming the country from a resource-based economy to a technology and knowledge-based one. The company is charged with developing and managing the country’s first science and technology park in which it is building innovation capacity that creates a vibrant national science, technology and innovation ecosystem. Botswana Innovation Hub is nurturing creativity and innovation in technology developments as well as building capacity for economic diversification through technology transfer and adaptation.
Botswana Innovation Hub’s CEO, Alan Boshwaen says, “The focal point of the Botswana Innovation Hub is to provide state-of-the-art buildings and facilities to attract domestic, regional and global companies to locate business as well as research and development activities within the park, and promote technology-based innovation and entrepreneurship.” The appeal of Botswana Innovation Hub Science and Technology Park to technology entrepreneurs, startups and foreign direct investment is premised in its strategic location. The science and technology park is set in Botswana, a country whose reputation for peace, political stability, rule of law and far-sighted macroeconomic and fiscal management precede it. Although a lot of work still needs to be done, the country is working tirelessly to improve its ease of doing business index. Botswana is also a premier tourism destination in Africa offering some of the best wildlife viewing in the world, especially in and around the Chobe and Okavango Delta region. The Kalahari desert and Basarwa culture is another of this country’s great attraction.
Within Gaborone, the Botswana Innovation Hub Science and Technology Park is strategically located on a 57 hector site, near the Sir Seretse Kham International Airport and adjacent to the Diamond Technology Park in Gaborone’s Special Economic Zone (SEZ) development node of Block 8 area. The Park is an ideal location for technology-driven and knowledge-intensive businesses to establish themselves, develop and compete in the region and global markets.
The parks central icon buildings are a symbol of innovation that was inspired by Botswana environs and cultural artifacts. The buildings are a trend setter, a catalyst for other developments in the park. They set the tone for the theme, look and feel of the park ambiance. The world class, iconic masterpiece of architecture was designed by Shop Architecture of New York whose designs won the 2013 Auto Desk Design Awards. The building is regarded as one of Africa’s pioneering ‘green’ structures, certified by the green building rating system, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for its energy-efficient design and construction, water-conservation and use of sustainable or green resources and materials.
According to the World Green Building Council, “Green building (also known as green construction or sustainable building) refer to a structure and using process that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life cycle: from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition.” This requires close cooperation of the design team, the architects, the engineers, and the client at all project stages. The Green Building practice minimizes harmful effects on human health and the environment. The approach attempts to safeguard air, water, and earth by choosing eco-friendly building materials and construction practices that expand and complement the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort.
Construction of the parks Icon Building commenced in August 2014 and is scheduled to be completed in August 2016 in line to be commissioned as part of the country’s 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations on 30th September, 2016. The parks construction is a major national project that represents a significant investment in the country’s infrastructure development and offers prime real estate products and services.
The Icon Building entails a multi-use development with shared amenities within a garden Hub concept and an International amphitheater meant to host significant international events. The building also provides modern high quality premises that are easily adaptable with plug and play shared facilities such as meeting, board and training rooms, restaurants, coffee shops, gyms and wellness centers, postal services, banking and ATM services, and many other complementary services that provide work, live and play type of environment within the science and technology park. Included in the mix is unfurnished standard office space with electricity and data connections as well as services such as common area cleaning, maintenance, security, and administration within a secure business and networking environment.
With 23,000m2 of commercial development space, the state-of-the-art buildings and facilities offer flexible rental office and laboratory spaces ranging from 50m2 to 1000m2. The Icon Building will house both local and international innovative businesses and institutions thereby creating a network that fosters entrepreneurship, technology transfer, and innovation. In addition to creating jobs, the Icon Building tenants will create other spin-off benefits that will spur economic growth. On completion, the Science and Technology Park will offer world class services including high quality road infrastructure, street lighting, telecommunications infrastructure with high capacity international connectivity and uninterrupted power and water, as well as professional business and technology transfer services
For businesses that would like to put up their own buildings, the Botswana Innovation Hub Science and Technology Park offers mixed use developments of variable land sizes for long term renewable lease or co-development with an additional 36 hectares site adjacent to the main site available for spin off businesses such as light industrial and manufacturing purposes. The park has 40 plots of varying sizes available for lease. The plot sizes range from 3,000 – 16,000m2 which can be consolidated or subdivided and the company provides plot development guidelines.
Botswana Innovation Hub CEO Alan Boshwaen says, “In addition to developing superior, world class science and technology park buildings, Botswana Innovation Hub is involved in networking, advocacy and capacity building activities that support innovation.” Boshwaen is confident that Gaborone’s new landmark is set to offer a unique platform for scientific, technological and indigenous knowledge-based innovations.
As the completion of Botswana’s first Science and Technology Park draws near, Botswana Innovation Hubs Facilities Manager, David Tsheboeng calls on all technology entrepreneurs to sign up for space in the park, “Naysayers said it couldn’t be done in the 1960’s but they were proved wrong. This facility offers technology entrepreneurs the opportunity to catch the next wave that is going to propel the country to an exciting and brilliant future of a knowledge-based economy.”
From the architects of Africa’s political and economic miracle, Botswana Innovation Hub invites technology entrepreneurs to set up in the best business address for technology entrepreneurs, Botswana Innovation Hub Science and Technology Park and set their companies on a trajectory of success in the 21st century. The window of opportunity is open, “Innovation is happening here…. Come and join us!”
By Tigele Mokobi