BDIH CEO Urges Innovators To Raise The Bar

Botswana Digital and Innovation Hub (BDIH) Acting Chief Executive Officer, Diane Mongudi appealed to entrepreneurs and innovators to come up with globally competitive projects that will create successful businesses beyond Botswana market.

In an interview with BG Business, Mongudi said BDIH is looking for opportunities locally and internationally to bring stakeholders together and support innovators. “The science and technology park was established to provide an environment where innovation ecosystem can work together and all players can converge and find ways to bring solutions to modern challenges. BDIH is currently developing the SmartBots laboratory that will house state of the art equipment, including AI technologies.

Government has allocated P1.83 billion to accelerate the implementation of programmes and projects geared towards innovation and digital transformation. “We want to appeal to innovators and startup entrepreneurs that we are here to support them and help them establish thriving enterprises.” He revealed that recently BDIH partnered with the Legatum Foundry Fellowship which is undertaken by at Massachusetts Institute of Technology to enable start- ups in Botswana to access support and enhance skills capacity. Currently, there are over 2300 innovators registered in the BDIH. Mongudi said BDIH fosters networking, collaborations and working together by the innovators and key stakeholders to bring innovative solutions to the market. “This is where the Legatum Foundry Fellowship comes in. We want to see our innovators grow and reach the world market. We want our innovators to be enrolled in the LFF and form partnerships not only with other startups but with other existing companies. We work with innovators right from the start to the commercial stage and assist them to launch the project in the market. “We provide them with capacity training so that they are able to develop their ideas and once they are through with the incubation programme we then assist them with access to fund through our Botswana Innovation Fund.

He told BG Business that some of the challenges affecting innovators is market acceptance but they are working hard to address the challenges. “Our local organisations are not ready to support innovators. This is something we have taken up with the public institutions and the private sector. For example, recently we had an issue whereby the city council refused to allow an innovator to use one of the traffic lights for demonstrative purposes, we had to go and plead with them.” Launching the Legatum Foundry Fellowship recently in Botswana, Legatum Foundry Fellowship Executive Director, Dina Sheriff explained that Botswana is a gem of Africa because it demonstrates how innovation can really propel a nation forward.

“We believe that the fellows including those from Botswana will work together and Africa will be known again for its innovations. I do not doubt that there will be a time in the near future where we as Africans will export our innovations to the rest of the world again.” The six-month Foundry Fellowship program aims to create a community of African entrepreneurs envisioning a continent with fluid movement of people, ideas, and resources across borders. Sheriff said the aim of the fellowship is to create a space for successful entrepreneurs in Africa to own the creation of new narrative that is created for Africa by Africans. “A narrative that truly embraces the beauty of our enormous complexity of history and the promise that lies in our future.” Currently, there are 37 fellows from across Africa working on solving some of the continent’s most complex challenges on scale. She stated that the fellows represents some of the innovative solutions to the most complex challenges of the African continent including cold storage, supply chains and decreasing amount of food waste in transit, and access to consistent and clean reliable energy.

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