Representatives of various local entities, among them Debswana, Morupule Coal Mine and Letshego, recently declared their commitment to increasing citizen spend, reducing barriers to entry of new entrants into the market and loosening the stringency of requirements for access to funding.
These outstanding entities made known their readiness to help accelerate the government’s citizen economic empowerment drive and Reset Agenda by encouraging Batswana-owned businesses to participate and benefit from their supply chains at a #PushaBW forum that was hosted by Botswana Investment and Trade Centre in Gaborone.
In a panel discussion centred on deliberate efforts by entities to support and buy local, Letso Gaborekwe, Head of Sales and Distribution at Letshego, spoke of how the micro-finance company – which is traditionally associated with personal loans – had made a deliberate shift in 2017 to set up a dedicated Medium and Small Enterprises (MSEs) unit.
Gaborekwe said this was in recognition of the importance of citizen economic empowerment (CEE) in the national economic agenda. Letshego accordingly shifted its focus to see how it could play a more meaningful role to assist locally-owned enterprises overcome the challenge of accessing capital. “We service MSEs through three main programmes, namely purchase order financing, working capital financing as well as invoice discounting,” he said. Significantly, Gaborekwe stated that the size of the companies does not limit the level of funding that Letshego can avail. He disclosed that Letshego has 1000 locally-owned SMEs with funding valued at P200 million over the past two years.
Wanantsha Moakufhi spoke about CEEP, the ambitious Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment Programme (CEEP) as an eloquent example of how the giant mining parastatal is committed to the national agenda of economic development. Moakufhi said Debswana spends approximately P120 million per annum on the socio-economic empowerment initiative. “We clearly pledged in 2019 to deliver a shared citizen spend value of P20 billion by 2024 and to create 20 000 jobs in the process,” he explained. “The framework is in place and showing success.”
But he was criticised from the floor about difficulties experienced when trying to register on the Debswana SAP Ariba network that is ostensibly meant to make it easier for suppliers and buyers to interact and discover new business opportunities, Moakufhi said the Ariba system is currently under review. “We want to tailor-make it to address the needs of youth businesses and more user-friendly,” he asserted. “I can promise that within this year, the reviewed Ariba system will be in use.”
CEEP Manager at Morupule, Resego Keipidile, said the colliery has collaborated with local banks to avail funding of P3 billion for the next five years for assisting local suppliers who have difficulties with accessing finance. “We have set ourselves a target of 50 percent spend by 2027, and that money should support a minimum of 3000 jobs,” Keipidile stated. “One of our biggest achievements was enrolling the very first citizen-led contactor miner to deliver our Motheo Open Cast Mining.
“This was through the Bassel-Read/Bothakga Burrow joint venture where Bothakga Burrow is a 100 percent locally owned company and took up 90 percent of the joint venture. It was the first of its kind in the country with a value of P200 million.” He disclosed that Morupule will have an online supplier registration system by the second quarter of 2023 to enable year-round easy registration for SMEs looking to do business within its supply chain. The panel discussed initiatives, challenges, experiences and successes of CEE as part of the #PushaBW forum that was hosted by Botswana Investment and Trade Centre ahead of the Global Expo Botswana 2022.