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Preparing for the revolution

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Preparing for the revolution

SEZA and Ministry of Trade Launch Makeathon

Engineering students from different Universities and Colleges gathered at University of Botswana (UB) this week to participate in the first ever ‘smart green’ Botswana Makeathon.

The five-day event is meant to bring together engineering students to give them practical experience as well as capacitating them in terms of innovation and technology.

Participants will pitch innovative ideas and develop software.

There will be different challenges, including designing and developing a solar-powered car.

Speaking at Monday’s launch, Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) Director Investor Facilitation, Neo Mahube explained that students will complete numerous engineering and technology challenges in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, smart automation and many others.

She said Makeathon is aimed at equipping students with the relevant skills to ensure they are ready when the electricity car investors come to Botswana.

“The event will build capacity and develop the technical skills that will be required by electric mobility industry and other smart industry. Batswana are reading themselves for the fourth industrial revolution, such that investors find them capacitated with the relevant skills. The VDMA, which is German Engineering Association of Mechanical and Engineering Association and ITQ, are helping with the technical part,” said Mahube.

For her part, Country Officer VDMA, Merapelo Maruatona revealed they have a project in Botswana with CITF in which they are trying to develop skills for future investment and bilateral relationships. She encouraged students to diversify in their science and technology engineering field.

Preparing for the revolution
PARTNERSHIP: VDMA Officer, Maruatona

Monageng Kgwadi, from UB Technical Team, noted that as technology advances, everything changes and difficulties will always crop up.

He said it is important to have Makeathon as it creates a platform for students and gives them specific challenges to solve common problems that society might face.

‘We give them time to propose solutions to these problems. The idea here is not a competition but to build capacity to let them be innovative and if at all possible some of the ideas can be commercialised. It helps students to partake and prepare themselves for the 4th industrial revolution,” said Kgwadi.

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Business

Surviving on the streets of Maun

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Surviving on the streets of Maun

Making Ends Meet

As the economy sags with the decreasing number of tourists in Maun due to the long dry spell, hawkers and street vendors are feeling the pinch.

Taking to the streets of this tourist town, which is a gateway to the Okavango Delta, Voice Money finds out how the ordinary Ngamilander battles on a daily basis to keep bread on the table.

On a ‘very good day’, all five vendors say they can make up to P500.

Surviving on the streets of Maun
THEBES FOR MY TSWII: Ngongorego Kapwe

I am in the business of selling twii, a native food of people living in the north western parts of Botswana.

I started my business in 2013 and I have been able to sustain myself since then.

Despite being able to make ends meet, the business is not as profitable as before.

Since the river dried up I now buy tswii from Shakawe unlike before where I went into the river to harvest it myself.

Tswii together with Mapakiwa are my means of putting food on the table!

Surviving on the streets of Maun
CRAFTING A LIVING: Kurika Diakuwa

I make a living from selling Art crafts. I started the business in 2016, taking over from my parents.

Most of the crafts that I sell are handmade by my wife and I.

I have been able to sustain myself and my family through this business.

The only challenge is that there is no proper wood for carving in Maun so I travel to my home village, Etsha 6, to get the raw material which is costly.

Recently, the business has not been doing that well due to the decline in the number of tourists in the area.

The main target market of my business is tourists since local people are hardly interested.

Surviving on the streets of Maun
GOLDEN OLDIE: Josephine Nlhabano

Rather than staying at home doing nothing, as an old age pensioner I believe self-sufficiency is key.

I originate from Mabudzwane village near Francistown and make a living out of dress-making.

I have been in the business since 1995 and I was able to send my kids to school and sustain myself as well as the business.

I buy cloth and sew dresses to sell.

My only challenge is that some dresses can take a long time in the stall without a buyer.

Surviving on the streets of Maun
DREAM TEAM: Livefon Maphindu and Adrien Moyo

We are partners. The two of us are in the art crafts business.

We do batik, screen panting, potato printing, metal works and wood curving to mention a few.

We started operating in 2003 and according to us the business is not doing well like previous years.

We believe that the decline in the number of tourists is the cause of our ordeal.

Ever since the river dried up, the number of tourists dropped due to the fact that attractions like boat cruising, mokoro riding, fishing and others have been halted.

We are, however, hopeful that things will get better in the festive season as some people will be coming over for their holidays.

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Amended income tax act finally in effect

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Amended income tax act finally in effect

The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Thapelo Matsheka has finally signed for the commencement of the amended Income Tax Act.

This follows the amendment of the Act in December last year,with the act now deemed to have come into effect as of 1 July 2019.

Tax expert, JonathanHore said some businesses can afford to have an early Christmas following Matsheka’s announcement that Micro, Small or Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) and Variable Rate Loan Stock Companies (VRLSCs) will not have their interest expenses limited for tax purposes as of July.

The December 2018 law limited tax deductions on all forms of interest, whether from banks, shareholders or any other source.

“This caused a lot of debate in the business world as any excess interest above the 30 percent cap is added back to profits, thereby increasing tax costs. It became apparent that most corporates would be affected as financing is pivotal to the operations of businesses,” explained Hore, adding the law was of great concern to the major of property developers who operate through the VRLSC vehicle as they naturally incur massive debenture interest bills due to their capital composition.

The SMMEs and VRLSCs were exempt through Income Tax Amendment Act of 2019, which was enacted on 28 Augustbut could only commence after the issuance of a notice, which was done on 6 December.

The tax expert says commencement brings a lot of relief to most SMMEs, as the majority cannot operate without financing.

“Whilst owners of SMMEs may afford to put smiles on their faces, their degree of relief wanes when compared to that of the VRLSC sector, which was under intense pressure from the said law than anyone else,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Hore warned that some capital-intensive sectors such as mining, manufacturing and non-VRLSC property developers need to brace themselves for interest expenses limitations and heavier tax bills.

“From an implementation perspective, it is yet to be seen whether the taxman accepts that the law will not be applicable if a taxpayer is in a loss situation,” he said.

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Lack of certifcates plague SME’s

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Lack of certifcates plague SME’s

Majority of local SMEs not certified to International quality and standards

Botswana’s Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been found lacking when it comes to quality performance.

A study conducted by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in partnership with Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) on 616 local SMEs, discovered only a small number are certified.

The study, whose results were released this week, further scored the majority of SMEs low in terms of meeting quality requirements for buyers.

Indeed, 77 percent of the firms surveyed indicated they are not certified to any quality, sustainability or other standard.

The majority of those certified are reported to hold schemes such as International Safety Certificates offered by Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS). Others hold certificates such as the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) Certificates and Horticultural Guidelines.

In terms of sectors, certification is much higher in the services sector compared to the agricultural sector.

This trend is reportedly in contrast with other countries, where certification is generally more widespread among agricultural companies.

The report found that just five percent of the interviewed agricultural enterprises were certified to international quality, safety and sustainability standards. This is said to be enough evidence to prove that Botswana farms lack the certificates increasingly required by international buyers.

Furthermore, the report states that importers of Botswana beef may prefer quality characteristics that differ from Batswana preferences such as meat tenderness, storage and safety procedures, packaging and certification.

Farmers who were interviewed for the survey reportedly indicated that water shortages prevented them from being able to meet the quality required by the market.

However, although few local firms are certified, it is believed they maybe following quality practices and communicating them to buyers in other ways.

“Some 70 percent of surveyed firms said they produced according to buyer requirements. This indicates that buyers are telling their Botswana suppliers about their market requirements, and Botswana companies are adjusting their production processes accordingly,” the report says.

This is backed up by the fact that 62 percent of the interviewed companies said they compete primarily by offering high quality products and services.

The report further notes that although most firms are seemingly aware of the quality requirements of the market and are thought to be responding to the current buyers’ requirements, their failure to adopt certification schemes means most are not signaling their quality to potential new buyers.

In light of this, the report by ITC, which is a joint agency of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and United Nations, says support for certification could help improve the quality competitiveness of Botswana SMEs for international trade.

Email:kabelo@thevoicebw.com
Twitter:@Kabelo_Adamson

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