Jun 10, 2014 Old News

Polishing Botswana’s True Diamonds to Shine on the Global Stage

Botswana’s investment in the skills and talents of its people paid off in a spectacular manner when the nation celebrated magnificent sporting feats this past week. Our athlete’s sterling performance at the Africa Youth games, Nijel Amos winning the 800 meter Prefontaine Classic and a resurgent national football team, The Zebra’s scrapping through a 1 – 0 victory over Burundi to proceed to the second round of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers provided a huge boost to national pride and confidence to take on the world. Botswana Innovation Hub takes this opportunity to congratulate our sporting heroes for doing us proud.


Botswana’s recent impressive sporting record mirrors its remarkable economic record that has hitherto been built on a foundation of diamond mining. However the diminishing sparkle and appeal of the gem stones has brought a sharp focus on the country’s foremost asset and ‘True Diamonds’ – its people. As the brilliance and allure of our diamonds continues to wane, as with any other non-renewable resource, and investments in ‘true diamonds’ begin to give a healthy return on investment as demonstrated by our sporting achievements, the situation calls for the country to extend its investment in its true diamonds beyond sports to other spheres of human endeavor.


People are a country’s number one asset and human capital the most important pillar of business success. They hold the key to the country’s future and in response to structural and strategic shifts in the global economic landscape that has seen a drop in the appeal and sale of diamonds, Botswana seeks to diversify its economy away from being resource based to one that depends on the knowledge, skills and competencies of its people as the main raw material that will unlock economic value.


Botswana Innovation Hub has been set up as one of the entities that seek to achieve transformation of the country from a resource based to a technology-driven and knowledge-based economy through investment in people. The company aims to build the country’s first science and technology park in which to polish the country’s true diamonds by fostering entrepreneurship and technology transfer, promoting a culture of innovation and competitiveness and developing advanced science and technology innovation capital.


In an effort to create an enabling innovation environment, Botswana Innovation Hub established its flagship Technology Entrepreneurship Development programme, First Steps Venture Centre (FSVC) to support technology transfer and offer a one-stop-shop for entrepreneurial support that will polish the country’s true diamonds and enhance their competitiveness in the global market. Established in May 2013, FSVC identifies, develops and nurtures viable technology oriented start-up businesses with a potential to grow locally and into international markets.


A year into its existence, FSVC displayed flair and big match temperament by bursting onto the world stage with an ingenious, show stopping curtain raiser conference for the 2014 IASP Africa Division Conference that was held at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) in April this year. Dubbed the 2014 IASP Africa Division Pre-Conference, the trailblazing workshop with a youth and technology entrepreneurship focus featured a business idea pitching session in the mould of the famous BBC Dragons Den television programme. The FSVC pitching session adopted the name Lion’s Den to bring it closer to home and featured entrepreneurs pitching their viable and potentially very profitable business ideas to a panel of venture capitalists Lions with a view to secure invaluable investment finance and mentorship from possible backers.


An upbeat FSVC programme manager Tshepo Tsheko said, “The innovative and creative addition to the IASP conference was the first of its kind and distinguished FSVC as a formidable player on the global stage.” He said the achievement set the tone of where FSVC wants to go and emphasised that innovation and support network is an integral ingredient in any start-up eco-system. “FSVC programme not only aims to nurture technology start-ups into sustainable enterprises that will graduate into the mainstream economy, provide employment and contribute to local economic development but also ensures that these enterprises will be competitive enough to venture into regional and global markets,” he said.


Themed, Expanding African Economic Frontiers through Emerging Technology Entrepreneurs and Innovators, the novel Pre-Conference workshop addressed issues around Business Incubation and Acceleration, Financing Technology Start-Ups and Protection of Intellectual Property. Also featured into the workshop were real-life testimonials from distinguished business leaders and guests in the technology entrepreneurship development and enterprise development space from across the world.


In a post conference interview, Botswana Innovation Hub’s Cluster Development Director, Dr Budzanani Tacheba said that the Pre-Conference and Lion’s Den initiatives were fresh and brilliant ideas that focused on entrepreneurship and its relevance to the Science and Technology Park environment. He said, “The IASP has since adopted the trendsetting ideas of the pre-conference and business idea pitch session into their conferences beginning with the next International Conference to be held in Doha, Qatar in October later this year.”


Delighted with the outcome of both the pre-conference and the Lion’s Den, Tsheko says the rapid rate of the technology adoption lifecycle constantly challenges his team to stay ahead of the game with savvy solutions for their clients. “FSVC offers an attractive suite of services and amenities to eligible individuals and companies including, ready to use offices (plug and play) with readily available internet and telephone services; subsidized rental – low costs due to shared services, Intellectual Property and legal support; media and brand support; access to local and international industry networks; dedicated technology advisory services; dedicated business advisory – helping combine business plan and strategy; entrepreneurship development training; access to international markets; and lastly we will shortly be offering financial support through the Innovation Fund in line with its policy framework,” he enthused.


By Tigele Mokobi