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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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SMEs benefit from Consumer Fair growth

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The Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) has applauded Botswana Consumer Fair’s continued efforts to improve small to medium enterprises’ linkages.

BITC Chief Executive Officer, Keletsositse Olebile, when opening the fair, said the event has provided interactive forum for both local and foreign exhibitors. He said the shopping show has enabled manufacturers, wholesalers and traders to market their products directly to consumers, an alignment to government’s endeavors.

“As part of government intention, we continually encourage local sourcing by retailers and distributors,” said Olebile who is just few months into his new post. He further celebrated the growth of Botswana Consumer Fair over the years, attributing the expansion to quality of goods displayed at the previous shows.“Improved quality and increased variety of wares increases the interest of the visitors and makes them look forward to returning the following year,” said Olebile.

This year’s exhibitors at the 13th event still running under the banner: ‘It is more than just shopping’ have been drawn from Lesotho, Zambia, Swaziland, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt, Japan, India, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Consumer Fair is a flagship event for Fairgrounds Holdings and provides a platform for small medium enterprises (SMEs) from the different sectors of the economy to showcase and promote their products and services. In addition, the SMEs are expected to establish long term business linkages and promote local manufactured goods.Fairgrounds Holdings is already optimistic that the Fair immensely contribute to the socio-economic development of the country through supporting SMEs.

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‘Involve SMMEs in standards development’-Minister

Keikantse Lesemela

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Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo appealed to Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) to include the Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) when developing the standards to improve the sector.

She said the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry has identified three areas of focus going forward which are modeled on SMME development, investment promotion and export development apexes. “I would like to implore you to include this sector in standards development processes and assist in improving SMMEs conformity to standards and compliance to technical regulations,” said Kenewendo.

Speaking during the BOBS Technical Committee Members appreciation ceremony on Thursday, Kenewendo explained that the important roles of standards are underpinned by the aspirations and intentions espoused in both diversified export led economic growth and job creation as priority areas. “It goes without saying that the diversification of the economy requires a National Quality Infrastructure and Technical Regulatory Framework that promote competitiveness of Botswana goods and services.”

She also emphasized that an effective National Quality Infrastructure and Technical Regulatory Framework are essential as they provide crucial links to global trade, market access and export competitiveness through their contribution to consumer confidence in product safety, quality and the environment.Since inception in 1997 BOBS has published more than 1700 standards through 48 technical committees across several sectors of the economy; 109 certification licences have been issued against some of these standards. Currently 46 Botswana Standards are being implemented through the standards regulations with a view to protecting the health and safety of consumers as well as protection of the environment.

On her note, BOBS Vice Chairperson of the Standards Council, Professor Edward Dintwa said standards are powerful tools for helping organisations that implement them to realize their potential, have access and compete in the global marketplace. “In this highly competitive and complex world, issues of sustainability and productivity, viewed from economic, environmental and societal perspectives require that businesses must be more efficient in their operations, which can be achieved through the implementation of standards”.

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