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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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Market Street day supports local products

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Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo has encouraged citizens to promote and support local products thus contributing to employment creation and economic development.

Speaking during the ministry’s Market Street day on Saturday, the trade minister said the ministry came up with the initiative to expose local products to the national market. “The plan is to keep growing so that we get Batswana products in the shops and get Batswana to know the products in the shops,” said Kenewendo. Market street day was initiated last year as a platform to add on to the continuing efforts to grow local businesses. This year, retail sector, including Shoprite, Choppies and Ackerman’s from South Africa participated in the exhibition.

Kenewendo pointed out that supporting local products helps reduce export of jobs. “Most of Batswana will say they don’t want to buy locally produced goods because they are of low quality, we need to buy from them so that they grow. When we buy products from other countries we are exporting jobs, why should we export jobs?” she asked rhetorically. Economic diversification drive should not be a Government initiative alone, only but all citizens should contribute, she concluded.

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Botswana behind in ease of doing business

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Botswana has been challenged to improve easy of doing business for the country to remain competitive amongst its peers.

The Director of Investor Facilitation and Relations at Special Economic Zones Authority’s (SEZA), Neo Mahube recently told delegates at the two- day investment symposium dubbed Doing Business in Botswana, Transitioning Botswana that the country needs to be globally competitive.“The world is growing better than we are, there is something that we are not doing right, despite our political stability and sound economic policies,” said Mahube.

Currently, Botswana lags behind Mauritius, Zambia, Kenya, South Africa on the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report. Mahube said bottlenecks that investors and local startups face to register a business should be resolved.

“We need to transform the way we are doing business, if we are to bring businesses to Botswana,” said Mahube, adding that the country needs to be as efficient as possible to start a business, apart from improving credit efficiency.

She however applauded government for legislation amendment initiatives that have already been put in place ahead of the transformation journey. Mahube said through transforming the ease of doing business the country has potential to create employment.

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