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New Innovation Fund Committee to ‘hit ground

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The implementation of the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) Fund is expected to breathe life into stifled startups in the innovation sector that have over the years been challenged by lack of funding. Minister for Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Dr Alfred Madigela last week urged the newly elected Botswana Innovation Fund Committee members to hit the ground running in ensuring that they commit the first grants during the current financial year. The committee that consists of members nominated from academia, business, private and public sector include; Prof David Norris of the University of Botswana, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, Dr George Matllho of the Botswana Vaccine Institute and Oteng Sebonego of NORSAD.

Members of the committee have a crucial oversight role in the Fund’s establishment and implementation, while BIH will serve as the secretariat. The purpose of the special fund is to support entrepreneurs by providing grand funding to deserving projects in the innovation space. According to Dr Madigela, funding of innovation has become a pre-requisite to achieving the solutions and products that are beneficial to society. “Government is spearheading the drive to use innovation as a trajectory for economic growth. To this end the establishment of the Innovation Fund would assist to close the gap in early stage financing for key projects of national importance,” Dr Madigela said at the launch of the Fund Committee.

Government has set aside an amount of P12 million to be used for funding projects in the current financial year. The grants call, according to Dr Madigela shall be accessed through competitive calls advertised to the public to allow submission of proposals. “We have put in place robust governance framework to allow evaluation and awards from this Fund. The oversight committee is the main structure that will ensure delivery on the objectives of the Fund,” Dr Madigela said. The Fund’s grant scheme is expected to follow an annual plan approved for implementations each year with agreed set targets. The criteria for funding shall take into consideration several factors including; intellectual property, sustainability and social impact.

In addition, the Fund’s guidelines will provide details of eligible and non-eligible costs. Companies registered with the BIH are advised to heed the call when the first call for proposals for funding of competitive innovation projects is made soon. According to Madigela, the turnaround times for submission will vary but ideally it should be between four to six weeks, for example, from submission of full application to receiving feedback. Upon awards, the grants disbursements shall be based on milestones.

Funding framework addresses: Gap closing support initiatives; Innovation funding Procurement of innovative products and services Facilitating venture capital and angel funding networks Crating an appetite for investments into new innovative solutions from the corporate entities and general public Cultivating a spirit of innovation in the nation

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Sefalana intensifies bottled water business

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Sefalana's Finance Director, Mohamed Osman

Foods Botswana (FB), the manufacturing arm of Sefalana Group has announced intentions to aggressively grow its bottle water business under the AStar brand.

The low level of profitable recorded by the Group’s manufacturing subsidiary for the six months ended 31 October 2019 due delays and red-tape on government feeding scheme orders is pushing the directors to think out of the box. The group’s beverage division’s government tender for children’s feeding scheme awarded to the company last year was contested by other parties and postponed, leading to FB not supplying any beverages to government.

“In particular, we look forward to expanding on our manufacturing business with fruit juice and bottled water,” said Financer Director Mohamed Osman.

In addition, the restriction on bottled water that was announced by government last year is inspiring the company’s expansion plans. “To support this, we will need to develop a warehouse to accommodate additional plant and equipment and storage,” said Osman.

On milling, Sefalana’s contracts for Tsabana and Malutu, the government feeding scheme products ended in September 2018 and the Group was awarded a four months’ interim supply, pending the 2018/19 tender consideration.

The delay has pushed Sefalana to focus on the manufacture and supply of branded products to utilise factory capacity.However, the directors remain optimistic that government will consider Sefalana for the tender and has already stockpiled raw materials for the tender.

“We are confident that our track record for delivery of a quality product in accordance with the required quantities and timetable over the years, will place us in a good position for the forthcoming award,” said Osman. Apart from manufacturing, the Group also intends to launch Sefalana Catering, a division that will focus on serving the large hospitality industry with frozen foods in wholesale size units.

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Orapa region mines pick De Beers’ output

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Planned production increase at Debswana’s mines in the Orapa region – Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa has pushed up De Beers’ rough diamonds output for the last quarter of 2018, the group’s latest report has indicated.

De Beers’ latest production report shows that rough diamond production increased 12 percent to 9.1 million carats in the last quarter of 2018. The increase is compared to 8.6 million carats recorded in the third quarter and 8.9 million carats in the second and 8.4 million carats in the first quarter.

Despite the good performances by Orapa mines, De Beers missed its production target of 35 to 36 million carats for 2018, as the total production for the year landed at 35.3 million carats. Other mines that contributed to production include Jwaneng, Namibia’s Namdeb Holdings, South Africa’s De Beers consolidated mines and Canada’s Gahcho Kué.

On the other hand, the full year rough diamond sales volumes were four per cent lower at 33.7 million carats compared with 35.1 million carats in 2017.Meanwhile, the 2019 production guidance for De Beers is 31 to 33 million carats, subject to trading conditions. “The lower production is driven by the process of exiting from the Venetia open pit with the underground becoming the principal source of ore from 2023.

“Associated with this, an increased proportion of production in 2019 is expected to come from De Beers Group’s joint venture partners, a proportion of which only generate a trading margin, which is lower than the mining margin generated from own mined production,” said De Beers’ latest production report.

Meanwhile, local analyst Econsult’s economic review for the fourth quarter 2018 has observed that the global diamond market has been performing reasonably well in overall terms, but with stress in particular segments that may reflect structural change and potential volatility going forward.

Econsult however bemoaned that the price increase for rough diamond has squeezed profit margins for dealers and cutters, as polished prices have not increased commensurately.
“The problem has been particularly acute for small, low value diamonds, perhaps due in part to pressure from increasing supplies of synthetic diamonds,” said Econsult.

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