Saturday, September 23, 2023

9 years later, Itsose business idea competition winners still unhappy with FNBB

While for many the end results of the “Itsose” business idea competition that was sponsored by the First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) some nine years back are a thing of the past and have been swept under the carpet, for a few others the mention of the bank’s name is heartache.

Two weeks the nation ululated when the bank signed a business value proposition memorandum of understanding with Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture in an effort to promote financial inclusion and easy access to financial solutions especially for the youth.

However not everyone is not happy about the bank’s “good gesture” as some of the participants during the Itsose competition accuse the bank of initiating an illegitimate programme for the youth.

The aim of the Itsose competition was to fast track the start-up and growth of businesses with great potential and supports their long term success and to facilitate the provision of funding to entrepreneurs who meet the criteria of the competition’s funding partners.

The competition initiated under the tenure of Danny Zandamela as its CEO, saw 2,800 applicants trying their luck with their business plans and 10 emerged the front runners for the competition. The ten were Thabo Ntshinogang, Setaung Setaung, Moagi Kelerile, Tumo Kgopo, Thomas Bika, Elliot Phindela, Eric Malefu, Kefentse Masimolole, Tiroyaone  Barungwi and Darryl Ellitson who were awarded the prices including cash amounting to ten thousands Pula, a laptop and cell phone. Some of the winners however claim that they had their projects funded as per the initial agreement with the bank.

The complainant expressed that, “with this initiative we thought it was a good gesture for the youth from the bank, but instead it was just a publicity stunt by the bank. We realised FNBB is not prepared to give us access to funding.”

According to the complainant who remained anonymous, they had a couple of engagements with the Bank management on the matter but only hit a snag. “They told us that access to funding was non- committal. We never even got the LEA services neither on mentoring, coaching, record keeping or some sort. We approached LEA but they indicated that they were invited by FNBB which later chickened out. This was not a legitimate programme,” allege the complainant.

Sunday Standard has been informed that, Steven Bogatsu who is now the current CEO had in mid 2017 instructed his executive management to investigate the row relating to Itsose business competition.

Responding to the allegations painted against the bank and to give an update on the findings of his investigations, Bogatsu this week explained that the programme was designed to identify good business cases and that did not necessarily mean all those businesses were bankable.

“These 10 winners were required to further develop their business proposals to make it bankable then they can qualify to be funded. There are few who did and were funded. There were those disgruntled because they felt they were supposed to be given the funds together with the other prizes from the competition and we have been engaging them. There are two who we engaged separately. We then had to pull out the agreements signed,” Bogatsu clarified in his defence to the claims.

According to Bogatsu, this initiative was spearheaded by the bank, whereas the Local Enterprise Authority and Sunday Standard publication came in as partners in mentoring and coaching; and publicity and marketing respectively.

At the time of going for print, despite being given a week to respond, LEA had not yet responded to the allegations levelled against them that they did not offer the mentoring services as part of the competition deal.


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