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Savannah Fund chief inspires local entrepreneurs

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Paul Bragiel

American internet entrepreneur, Paul Bragiel has challenged local entrepreneurs to aggressively pursue their dreams. “Real entrepreneurs do not give up,” said Bragiel addressing technology driven entrepreneurs in Gaborone last week.

Bragiel was in the country to scout for investments and entice youth to consider businesses aligned to Internet of Things (IOT).The Savannah Fund founder’s visit comes weeks after President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s entourage to World Economic Forum (WEF) met and convinced Bragiel to visit Botswana.

Savannah Fund is an early stage technology fund focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa and is actively investing across the continent.“We want people with big visions. The key thing is for you to get me excited, we get a thousand of ideas always,” said Bragiel, encouraging young entrepreneurs to apply for the Savannah Fund.

Bragiel encouraged youth businesses to not only have appetite for business but also consolidate it with passion.“People are hungry and trying but they are not putting any effort,” said Bragiel, cautioning technology engineers to avoid designing products without doing any market survey first.“Typical engineering problem is we like to build things without identifying a market.”Through Savannah Fund, Bragiel has collectively invested in seed rounds of over 250 plus companies which includes holdings in other billion dollar companies like Niantic (Pokemon Go), Unity and Zappos.

Bragiel’s experience in internet entrepreneurship has also been utilised by Uber where he sat on the advisory board of the car-sharing service from 2010-2016.In addition to his work, Bragiel started regional funds in Silicon Valley – Bragiel Brothers and in Asia – Golden Gate Ventures and vertical funds in gaming – Sisu.

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Local chalk manufacturer eyes African market

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Je Me Presente, a chalk producing company that has been in operation for a year and has ambitions to position the country, as a chalk production hub, hopes to reduce unemployment figures.

“Our plan is to supply the whole country and eventually the entire continent of Africa. We want to become Africa’s hub of chalk production so that someone in Malawi or Kenya will know that chalk is made in Botswana,” said Maipelo Tshoso, Je Me Presente, Director.

Presently, the company produces 20 000 boxes per week on request and has plan to increase to at least 100 000 per day. “We are working on developing a plant that will operate on a shift basis that will supply the entire continent,” said Tshoso, highlighting that the company’s current market is mostly private schools in and around Gaborone. In addition, the business supplies to some stationary shops in the northern part of the country.

Quizzed why the company is not utilising the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) programme, Tshoso said the company came into existence when government tenders were already running in the previous year. She is however optimistic that the company will benefit from EDD, this year.

Produced from gypsum, the dustless and non toxic chalk, production at Je Me Presente has other by-products which are manure and a cleaning chemical that gives white shoes their original colour.
Gypsum is a soft sulphate mineral composed of calcium sulphate dihydrate, with the chemical formula, widely mined and used as a fertilizer and as the main constituent in many forms of plaster, blackboard chalk and wallboard.

Tshoso said the company’s most pressing challenge at the moment is distribution, especially to school in the remote part of the country.“Our product is mostly used in rural Botswana and reaching such areas can be quite challenging for a start-up but we do try,” said Tshoso. Despite competition from large retailers that source chalk from outside the country, Tshoso hopes legislation would soon encourage the retailers to source local products.

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Lucura Q1 sales impressive

Keikantse Lesemela

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Lucara Diamond Corporation has recorded an impressive and improved performance with 0.76 million tonnes ore in its Karowe mine during the first quarter of 2019 and the first sales of the year exceeded US$ 47 million.

The company also recovered an unbroken 1,758 carat diamond which is larger than the 1.109 world’s second largest diamond, Lesedi La Rona, which was recovered from Karowe in 2015. During the period the company sold several diamonds larger than 10.8 carats which resulted in quarterly sales revenue of $48.7 million compared to $25.4 million in the same period last year.Lucara President and Chief Executive Officer, Eira Thomas, highlighted that they expect the total stones mined in 2019 to be between 8.5 and 11.8million tonnes.

“While guidance is unchanged, the average strip ratio is now expected to be lower than originally anticipated due to a higher percentage of ore mined during the first quarter of 2019,” she said.
The operating cost for three -months period was 30.52 per tonne, a decrease from $39.97 per tonne in the first quarter of 2018. Thomas explained that operating cash cost per tonne processed was positively impacted by a reduction in waste mined and an increase in tonnes processed during the first quarter.

“Lucara’s focus on operational excellence has delivered another strong quarter, having met guidance with respect to ore mined and processed as well as carats produced. Costs were significantly down quarter over quarter in line with expectations,” said Thomas.

She pointed out that in 2019 the company forecasts revenue between $170 million and $200 million, consistent with the forecast for 2018. In 2019, diamonds recovered are expected to be between 300 000 carats and 330 000 carats and diamonds sold are expected to be between 300 000 and 320 000 carats. The company has approved a budget of $14.8 million evaluating the potential for an underground mining operation at Karowe. “In 2019 efforts will focus on follow up geotechnical and hydro geological drilling and related studies. Exploration expenditures are estimated to be up to $3.0 million”.

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