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A burning passion

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A burning passion

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.

A burning passion
ACCEPTING HER PRIZE: Ntshiwa

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!

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Simply the greatest

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*THE HUMBLE HISTORY MAKER

With her career seemingly drifting into oblivion, stained by a failed drugs-test six years ago, the country’s most decorated athlete produced arguably her greatest comeback earlier this month.

On 14 March, at a low key University of Botswana Athletics Club meet, former 400m World Champion Amantle Montsho qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (now postponed until 2021).

Displaying the determination and guts that has defined her time on the track, the 36-year-old defied her aging limbs, clocking 51.22 seconds to smash the required qualifying time of 51.35. In doing so, the Maun native once again carved her name into the history books, becoming the first Motswana to qualify for four Olympics.

Having missed out on a place at the last Games due to suspension, for Montsho it represents redemption of sorts and a final shot at a medal she was .03 of a second away from claiming at London 2012.

The current Commonwealth Champion sat down with Voice Sport’s Portia Mlilo to look back over her eventful career, a career that might contain one more incredible high.

Who inspired you to become a professional athlete?

I joined athletics when I was doing Standard Three in 1992 and by then I was doing it for fun. Our Coach at Bonata Primary School, Thobogang recognized my talent and nurtured it.

I started running 100m and 200m but by junior school I focused on 400m. When I finished my Form Five in 2003, Botswana Athletics Association called me for out of school camps and that was when I started to take it seriously.

I started competing in regional competitions. In 2006, International Athletics Federation (IAF) called me to train at their high performance training center at Dakar in Senegal.

Why did you choose to be a runner?

Athletics is the number one sport in the world followed by football. In football, when you win as a team you share the prize money while in athletics the money is all mine (laughing).

There are also many athletics competitions in a year in different countries and that is why I decided to be a professional runner.

I used to play softball but after one of my teammates got injured I decided to quit and focused on athletics.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

I run! (laughing). I wake up, take a shower, eat breakfast and go for training.

Is there any athlete who motivates you to do your best during competitions?

There is a lady who makes me take athletics seriously, the American track and field athlete, Allyson Felix.

She is the 2012 Olympic Champion, a three-time World Champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist. She really inspires me.

I always wanted to be a champion like her!

What do you regard as your most memorable race to date?

The World Championships in Daegu 2011 when I won the Gold medal. When approaching the finishing point I really enjoyed the moment.

It was very competitive and I was fit. I was with Felix at the front and I managed to beat her.

What is your favourite part of being on the track?

I enjoy it when I compete with the best athletes and when the fans cheer us on.

Most Batswana used to follow and support football and were not too bothered about other sports codes.

But I made them like athletics and take it into consideration!

I enjoy most when I approach the finishing line because I go all out from 150m. I also enjoy when there is an athlete who gives me competition.

Massive congratulations on being the first athlete from Botswana to qualify for four Olympic Games. How much does this mean to you?

This really means a lot. It shows I am doing something right. I had so many challenges in this career but I remained focused and do what I love most.

I am very thankful to our government, Botswana National Sport Commission, Botswana Olympic Committee, our association for giving me the necessary support to become a professional athlete.

This should be an inspiration to others, especially female athletes, because we go through a lot of challenges. You are expected to be married, have kids – people forget you also have other interests like sports career!

What makes a great athlete?

Discipline, determination, dedication and focus. You must have goals and set targets to achieve them. You have to follow your coach’s instruction.

Growing up, I was very disciplined. I missed out on a lot of things that young people considered ‘cool’.

I did not drink alcohol or smoke. It was only two years back when I could have a glass of wine, drinking not to get drunk.

You should be careful what you eat and drink. You must be disciplined, otherwise your career will be very short!

You mentioned your Gold medal World Championship winning run as your most memorable race. How did it change your life financially, professionally and socially?

My life changed. I was now the country’s diamond, a role model so I had to do things professionally.

I even had to be careful what I shared on social media because now I had a large following, both locally and internationally.

Amantle Montsho

After winning Gold, I had a few endorsements and Nike increased its sponsorship. We have seen a lot of athletes struggling with life after sports so I decided to invest in property with the money I was making from athletics. So far I have six houses in Block 7 Gaborone.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a top athlete in Botswana?

Lack of facilities! Athletics is a big sport and it is high time the country establish a high performance centre.

The other challenge is when you do not deliver as the nation had expected during major competitions.

People will start bashing you and put you under a lot of pressure.

Money and fame often make people lose focus – how do you ensure you are not led into temptation?

Like I said, discipline is important. Refrain from things that will ruin your career. Avoid unnecessary trips and misusing money.

Invest for the future and do not lose focus. In life you should know what you want then it will not be easy for someone to shift your focus.

Just remain humble, respect others and manage your finances well.

How do you relax during the off-season?

I love travelling so I visit my friends in other countries. I also go shopping, especially when I have stress.

I make sure I spend time with my parents and my siblings.

The 2020 Olympics have been postponed until next year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. How is this going to affect your form and what are you going to do to ensure you remain fit?

It is unfortunate that the games are postponed to 2021 due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

I am on form and I was ready to compete. Now facilities, stadiums are closed and we do not have access to the track.

The President has also announced social extreme distancing, which is going to make it difficult to do roam work.

I will be indoor training at my house to keep fit – fortunately I have a gym.

Realistically, what was your target for the Tokyo Olympics?

My target was an Olympic medal. I had trained very hard to win a medal. This was supposed to be my last competition.

I believe I have done my part in sports and it is time to quit. I still have to talk to my coach and see if I will compete next year since I have qualified.

We’ve touched on some of the highs of your career. At the other end of the scale, what has been your most disappointing experience as an athlete?

Eish, the doping case! I tested positive for a prohibited substance methylhexaneamine at Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

That was the worst experience I have ever had. In 2015 I received a two-year ban.

I couldn’t go home because I was afraid; my father was very angry. I also had to hide from the media and the public.

I will be forever grateful to the government for engaging a psychologist!

I stayed at the hotel for two year and I even changed my number. I couldn’t go to the mall or interact with people.

At some point I thought of quitting. The psychologist advised me not to and I also believed I can bounce back.

After three months I started training on my own because one of the conditions was that the association was not suppose to help me with anything.

I made a great come back and in 2017 I qualified for the World Championships.

How did it happen?

I went to a pharmacy in Gaborone to buy an energy drink. The pharmacist recommended the drink and said it does not have any prohibited substances. I was so depressed.

How do you intend to spend your retirement?

I want to start my own academy. I want to turn one of my houses into an athletics academy.

This is a way of giving back to my country and contributing to athletics development. I was supposed to start athletics coaching course after this year’s Olympics.

And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

Extreme social distancing. I will be locked in my room.

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Masisi ‘s look east policy

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PRESIDENT MASISI

In the wake of the corona virus scourge, President Mokgweetsi Masisi has hinted at financial assistance from China.

Prior to the 2019 general election Masisi also received, “ no strings attached” funding from the Chinese.

Shaya however, knows that contrary to what the president would like us to believe there is no free lunch.

Anyhow Shaya will not say I told you so when the moment of reckoning arrives.

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