Gifted young student wins university challenge
20-year old University of Botswana (UB) student, Ludo Ntshiwa etched her name into the history books last week, becoming one of the privileged few to win the CEDA/DBSA University Challenge.
The Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Planning scholar scooped a staggering P350, 000 courtesy of Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).
The money will go towards implementing her successful business idea, using waste to produce Bio-mas briquettes.
The University Challenge, which marked three years in existence this year, is the outcome of the World Federation of Development Finance Institutions (WFDFI) 3rd Joint CEO Forum held in Gaborone in 2017.
The challenge calls upon the youth of Botswana, specifically those enrolled with institutions of higher learning, to come up with implementable solutions to issues affecting the country.
Cheerful from emerging as a winner, a beaming Ntshiwa shares with Voice Reporter, KABELO ADAMSON her passion for seeing her idea come to fruition.
Q. Firstly, congratulations on winning this year’s University Challenge.
A. Thank you, I am really excited because I honestly wasn’t expecting to win.
But now that I have won, I am trying to find ways of establishing the business and thinking outside the box.
Q. Was it for the first time you entered the competition? What influenced you to take part?
A. Yes, it was the first time.
I saw the challenge being advertised on social media but never really followed it much.
I followed more closely at the end when the top ten was being chosen and I looked at the ideas and proposals and realised that I too as a Motswana can do something of that sort.
So, I decided to try my luck!
I went on the Internet, did some research and submitted my own proposal.
Q. How confident were you of winning?
A. Well, at first I didn’t imagine myself winning because it was really busy on my side due to schoolwork and assignments.
It was hard dividing the time.
Even the research I did wasn’t really sufficient.
I just did a proposal from the research I have carried out and submitted.
Q. Share your idea with us?
A. I proposed Bio-mas briquettes – they are an energy source used as heat and they function as charcoal but are made from waste material unlike charcoal.
After testing a few of my samples, I noticed that they are actually much better than charcoal because they burn for longer and don’t produce much smoke when burning.
Also since they are made from waste they are really affordable – 1kg will cost P4.50.
Q. And how viable is the proposal?
A. It is viable in the sense that there is a market for briquettes looking at the industries that need this kind of product.
We have breweries, plastic industries, ceramic industries and textiles – even the street vendors who sell food along the roads could make use of this product.
I am still exploring the market because I think there is a huge potential for briquettes locally.
Q. You mentioned you are studying Urban and Regional Planning. Your proposal seems linked to that?
A. There is some relation because some of the modules that I undertake are more skewed towards that.
For example, I did Land Management and Infrastructure Planning where we were taught on how to dispose waste and how waste affects the environment.
So I was very much exposed to issues of waste and environment and from that I managed to think along those lines of how we can dispose waste in an environmentally friendly manner.
Q. Now that you have won the money, how soon can we expect to see the project up and running?
A. Well, I was thinking of implementing it then and there but I was looking at the fact that this is my final year.
Yes I have got the money but that does not necessarily mean I should abandon school.
My parents have advised me to complete my studies first without other distractions so that next year I can start the business without any other hindrance.
I did mention that I need input capital, which is more than P350, 000.
I need around P34, 000 extra to implement the idea.
As I am still studying, I am thinking of a way to raise that amount.
Q. You feel this is the right amount to kick-start the business?
A. Yes, because when I calculate my financials show that most money is consumed by rent and other miscellaneous stuff.
So if I can just find a plot then I don’t have to deal with rentals.
The prize money is P300, 000 and since you are a female, you won P50, 000 extra as way to encourage female entrepreneurship in the country.
Q. Do you feel women are not given enough platforms to express themselves?
A. Botswana is making efforts because in the past there were no such platforms for women to express themselves.
But now we have the likes of Women in Engineering Botswana, Women in Energy and, even though it just a few, the country is trying to create platforms.
But I don’t think it’s enough because there are more women out there.
Q. As a child, what did you dream of doing with your life?
A. Growing up I was a creative young mind and I guess I have faced reality from a very young age that whatever you can be in life is determined by your level of knowledge.
Although you can be whatever you want, you have to set achievable goals.
For me, from a young age I have always been into Arts and Design and was getting awards at school.
This is the reason why I chose the course that I am currently doing.
Q. Looking at some of the ideas from other contestants, would you say yours is indeed the best?
A. (Laughs) Oh well, I know two or three ideas which I thought were good.
I felt these two ideas were good but I think the problem with other contestants was that they were more focused on explaining the processes of their ideas but did not concentrate on the business part of the project, which was their main undoing. Others failed because of the required input capital; one said she needed a capital of P35 million!
Q. Do you feel the local youth come up with original solutions or just copy from other countries?
A. When we look at other countries and the fact that countries are different in terms of development, it is always going to be a challenge to implement an idea which has for example worked in China.
Even factors like population play a key role in terms of the ideas.
Q. What can you say about the CEDA/DBSA University Challenge?
A. To be honest, it is a good initiative in the sense that it promotes entrepreneurship in the country because most people have a mindset of going to school, getting a degree, graduating and finding a job.
They end up getting disappointed because of lack of jobs and life can be devastating.
But if you have a mindset of doing something for yourself, you can work something out in your life.
CEDA has created that platform for young people and I hope it can continue with the initiative for the benefit of more people out there.
Q. Away from school, how do you relax?
A. I find it easy to relax by playing games with friends, mostly engaging games.
I avoid going to parties and clubs.
I find it very entertaining to have a games night and play games with friends or watch movies.
Q. And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are you up to this weekend?
A. It’s my birthday this Friday.
I don’t know, maybe some people close to me will take me somewhere but so far I don’t have any plans.
But on Saturday we have an outing with friends, I am not sure if that’s part of the birthday celebrations!