With a colorful resume and a deep sense of interest in taking Botswana forward, 26-year-old Kaene Disepo is a future leader to look out for.
Disepo’s passion and strength lie in diplomacy and international development.
He has represented Botswana in numerous global forums that focused on education, unemployment, good governance, and social inclusion.
His background is of a Leader and Development Consultant with a work portfolio that includes UNDP, UNESCO, Inter-American Development Bank, Commonwealth, GiZ, and Victoria League for Commonwealth Friendships, and recently, AfCFTA Youth Forum.
He is the founder of two successful NGOs, Inspired Horizons Association and Change Africa, which has impacted over 15 000 communities through grassroots initiatives that focus on access to quality education to ease challenges of structural unemployment.
His newest project is Debating Botswana, a platform where young people virtually congregate to discuss key development issues whilst having relevant industry experts and policy influencers as adjudicators and mentors on each segment.
Disepo sits on numerous Boards, including the Human Resources Professional’s Society of Botswana Board; the youngest member of the Botswana Top Achievers’ Review Committee, and the Botswana National Youth Council Board.
Some of his accolades include the 2018 Young African Leader Award; BNYC’s Best Youth in Academic Excellence, Rare Rising Star Second Best Black Student in the United Kingdom, and Britain’s Top 100 Young Future Leaders of African and Caribbean Decent.
The Voice staffer, Sharon Mathala engaged the rising youthful leader in this thought-provoking interview.
Q. For those who have never heard about you or your work, how would you describe yourself to them?
I am super laid back ngwana wa Motswana, birthed by a Tswapong mother, in Seolwane and an Ikalanga father from Sebina that settled kwa Motjing, Maun.
Kaene is someone who lives by his mantra #DiplomaticMissions, which is the driving force for much of his pursuits.
He is extremely passionate about developing well-rounded and valuable leaders, 21st-century leaders that are well informed in Botswana.
Therefore, he actively engages on issues that improve the representation of young people in platforms of national development agenda setting, implementation, and accountability.
Q. You have accomplished so much in a short lifetime, what would you say motivates you?
I was raised in Botswana’s fifth largest town, Maun, and then later moved to Gaborone after my parents separated at the age of 15.
In Gaborone, I resided in a one-room, which I called my ‘four in one’ – bedroom, kitchen, living room, and bathroom.
I was bullied in school. I am a young Motswana visionary who thrived not because of my circumstances but in spite of them.
To this day, my life mantra continues to be inspired by Charles Darwin, – “it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives, but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself”.
Q. Why diplomacy and international development?
I have always been into giving back to my community and ensuring that marginalised communities are also represented in decision-making processes.
Diplomacy was instrumental in teaching me how to amplify the voices of the “Others” and learn how inclusive development impact can be sustained in developing countries such as Botswana.
Q. What would you say is lacking for Botswana to become a high-income state?
Botswana’s Transformation Agenda is not sustainable in that it is not an inclusive reform policy in practice.
The very notion of a knowledge-based high-income state requires a cultural paradigm shift to be fully realised, something that the traditional doctrines of this country greatly limit.
For instance, the Transformation Agenda requires a nationwide rollout plan, which includes even rural outskirts.
However, when you look at traditional institutions like the Kgotla, these institutions are extremely discriminatory – exclusively elitist clubs of which membership is on the basis of both age and gender.
Yet, for us to be a high-income state, human capital development must be a priority and discriminatory.
Our cultural teachings should not be teaching us to aspire for marriage when we could be aspiring to be young and innovative leaders of value.
Q. Batswana have been preaching diversity, something which has become a sort of a need with this pandemic, why is it important for countries to have a diverse economy?
If there is anything that we can learn from the recent Budget Speech (a lesson that we should have all known by now) is that when a country does not diversify its economy at the speed of the change in the world, then it ends up leaning on one-sided policies of tax increments when things do not favour its economy.
Never put all your eggs in one basket.
Q. What are some of the lessons you would say Botswana should learn from this pandemic.
That we do not need a pandemic to accelerate our pursuit for innovation and the 4th Industrial Revolution.
For the longest, the country has been praising the embrace of 4thIR yet moving at such a snail’s pace.
Now, we have proved that people can work from home, that we can use apps, that the Internet can do a lot more than just social media, that indeed a knowledge-based society can indeed be realised.
Q. If you had the opportunity to advise the Government during the pandemic, what key areas would you focus on?
Definitely educational reform and food security, I think the pandemic has really highlighted how our educational tools for instance student-teacher ratio, outdated curricular, old teaching habits need to be updated and to become more outcome-based.
I have always failed to understand why food security in this country is always talked about rhetorically.
This is a country with many of its people with access to masimo, land, yet a compulsory subject in primary school such as Agriculture doesn’t have the necessary components to yield Agripreneurs, or at the very least, successful subsistence farmers that are both self-sufficient and self-reliable during a crisis like this.
Q. You have been engaged in assisting 15,000 communities to access quality education, what would you say is the importance of this. And in simple terms what is quality education?
Quality education is holistic in nature and relevant in addressing the realities of life, as we know it.
Meaning, it is supposed to develop well-rounded and informed learners, while also adapting to the ever dynamism of life.
21st-century problems cannot be solved by 20th-century methods.
It is, therefore, important for communities to be able to access quality education; to fully become 21st-century well-rounded learners that aspire to be leaders of value to their communities.
Q. Any future in active politics?
There was a time I used to say NO, WITHOUT QUESTION, NO! Now…well you never know.
I will say this; having done a BSc in International Relations and MSc in Development Management from the second-best university in the world for politics and international studies has certainly altered my views on politics.
Q. What would you say are some of the reasons why youth, particularly from Botswana, do not aspire to become leaders from a young age?
A. Age discrimination, often propelled by culture.
We are not taught to be leaders.
We are taught stability.
“Go to school, get a degree, work (for someone), get a family, and settle down.” Where does it say, lead?
Q. What would you say are the reasons why the youth don’t participate in and or contest political seats?
There are some open secrets in politics.
Young people, many with political aspirations are deterred by what continues to be the many plights of this great country – social ills, systemic corruption, abuse of power, classism, and so on. Yes, in some regard there is an element of apathy and political disillusionment among young people, some simply do not care, but those that do care are often deterred by what they experience.
Q. What is the importance of having a Youthful voice in the position of decision and law-making?
To know that it is possible, that someone like them can be in a place like that.
It is a very powerful message that is sometimes underrated – young people have the power to enact the change they wish to see, if and when they see other young people rising to the occasion, representing them.
Q. How did the concept of Debating Botswana come about?
Debating Botswana was born out of a need to amplify youth voices that felt silenced by the pandemic, especially when it came to national development agenda setting, implementation, and accountability thus, creating a safe space for passionate young people to debate on key development issues of Botswana, with judges being leading industry experts.
Following each debate, the winning team receives the opportunity to put theory into practice through their case study by conducting a community-based project for at least 2 weeks, with the judges from the debates being their mentors during the process.
We are constantly looking for collaborative partners that can assist in the growth of Debating Botswana.
Q. When you are not all suited up what else do you get up to?
I honestly love wearing shorts and chilling at home checking on the family.
Most of the time I am with my closest friends. Luckily, they all stay within a 5-minute drive from me. LOL.
Q. Any special person in your life?
I will say this much, at the moment I am at my happiest.
Haven’t felt this great in a very long time.
Q. TGIF, what is up to this Friday?
Well, I will be preparing to launch another project of mine, Young Mothers Support Network through my NGO Inspired Horizons Association.
We are asking members of the public to join our campaign on social media, by telling us what they think #YoungMothersMatter.