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.
Botswana Railways hit by fuel theft
Botswana Railways lost fuel business due to continuous incidents of stolen fuel from the tanks and delays mainly at Mafikeng, in the north Western side of South Africa.
Botswana Railways Chief Executive Officer Leonard Makwinja said, during 2017/2018, their biggest failure was in this area. “Our biggest failure in this aspect was on imports, transporting of fuel from South Africa proved to be a challenge.
There have been incidents of fuel loss on tankers, sometimes a delay in Mafikeng when trains changed and when it arrives in Botswana the tank would be half empty, “said Makwinja. He said this was worsened by allegations that road transportation was cheaper. Currently, they have employed a fuel consultant to look into the whole fuel transportation. “We believe a solution will be found soon.”
The BR Chief explained they heavily rely on the relationship with Transnet to successfully execute its freight mandate. Most of the imports through rail come from South Africa and the main export through rail which is salt and soda ash is transported from Botash to Mafikeng. “Going onwards we have to depend on Transnet for connections to the respective destinations. Our strategic plan going forward is to improve our services to the oil companies so that we are more reliable, timely and profitable.”
During the period, Makwinja said they had to focus on cost containment. The main cost drivers are staff cost, fuel and maintenance of the locomotives. In his statement on Botswana Railways 2018 annual report, Makwinja said the organization’s performance was subdued due to lack of capacity to meet the demand. “In terms of tonnage, our target was 2 million tons but we only achieved 1, 5 million tons. This adverse variance can be attributed to a number of factors including lack of sufficient locomotives and practicing conservative business initiatives and marketing,” he said.
Calls to improve crop yields with technology
Greenhouse Technologies managing director, Amanda Masire has urged entrepreneurs to venture into agriculture as it is a lucrative business and more beneficial to the national economic development, despite climate change challenges.
Speaking to Business Trends, Masire said there is a need for more training and knowledge on modern agriculture technologies for the country to have sustainable food production. “I am passionate about agriculture and food production. I want to help my country to produce food for itself and reduce dependency on imports. I have learnt that despite all the challenges of climate change, we can still produce our own food through the use of modern technologies,” said Masire.
Masire is an agri-business developer, specializing in horticulture, beekeeping and fish farming. She currently operates Greenhouse Farmers Academy offering training and mentorship on horticulture farming. “Agriculture is the most lucrative business that young people should be looking into. Currently, we depend much on South Africa. We should rise up and develop the sector because as Batswana we have rich land that we are not utilising.” Her services include horticulture starter kit, which includes business plans, lessons, fertilisers and all equipments necessary for a particular horticulture project.
She is currently working with the Ministry of Agriculture Development and Food Security to develop the ISPAAD Program. She said government would embrace modern farming technologies to improve food production. “Most Batswana have lands which they are currently not ploughing because of climate change conditions while the government gives out fertilizers and seeds every year to subsistence farmers yet there is no yield. I have come up with solutions, which include testing soil and supplying lime treatment to reduce acidity. This will help improve crop yield when adopted with other technologies,” she said.
Speaking during Stanbic Lionness Lean In Africa, Masire said with the challenges in the agriculture sector, Batswana should stop looking much into the problems and getting discouraged but should rather think of solutions. “Government is trying but we individuals also need to be innovative and assist government in improving food security. Young people should take opportunity of the agri-business market and reduce unemployment,” said Masire.
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