Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Business Place faces funding challenges as it mulls expansion across the country

In a bid to increase its presence around the country, The Business Place is looking at ways of creating partnerships with a number of influential institutions, including the media.

The centre, which started in 2006 and was created to help the SMME sector, has only been restricted to Gaborone with people coming from as far as Maun and Kasane to access the services.

The Business Manager of the Business Place, Boitumelo Marumo-Mthupo, said in Gaborone this week they are looking at ways to take the message to other parts of the country where it has no presence.

Such organisations that can form good partnerships include the Local Enterprise Authority, an agency underpinned by government to mentor emerging entrepreneurs at a tune of over P100 million annually.
“That is something we are considering,” Marumo-Mthupo revealed when asked if they are not considering working with LEA, which has 13 branches around the country.

At the moment, the Business Place works as a referral for LEA clients, which focuses on the agriculture sub-sectors.

“We have proved that the concept and the idea is working,” she said, adding that they are in conversations with other government agencies that will carry them along, including CEDA, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and other ministries.

Already, the Business Place is working with CEDA on a number of ways. When The Business Place started, the idea was to work with these government agencies, but there has been issues that have stifled the growth of the SMME sector.

LEA’s major mandate is similar to the one of the Business Place and the argument by commentators is that government should allow the two to work hand in hand, including the latter accommodated in some of the branches across the country.

The Business Place has developed its clientele all over the country and has been serving SMMEs in all major areas like Gaborone, Kanye, Molepolole, Mochudi, Letlhakane, Mahalapye, Palapye, Serowe, Maun, Orapa and Tshabong.

The majority of the clients come from the Eastern, South East and Southern Districts of Botswana.
“This concentration of its clientele can be attributed to the fact that the centre is currently located in Gaborone only,” said The Business Place. “With only one centre in Botswana, The Business Place realises the needs for its services throughout the country. Many community-based organisations, VDCs, Youth District Offices and individuals have called up The Business Place to increase its geographic reach and assist struggling entrepreneurs throughout the country.”

The Business Place said it has a vision to be able to offer its services to those that do not have easy access to the current centre in Gaborone in Gaborone.

“Being a privately funded organisation in these economic hardships, it becomes difficult for such expansions. It would be of great assistance to the nation at large to get government assistance to see the continued services of The Business Place to the rest of the country”.

The Business Place – a franchise of Investec Asset Management – is growing. Botswana is the only country outside South Africa which has such a centre. Its original funders include Investec Asset Management Botswana, Barloworld Botswana, CEDA, Kgalagadi Beverages Trust, Motor Centre Group, University of Botswana and University of Botswana Foundation.

One time start up funding was also provided by First National Bank Foundation and Ministry of Trade and Industry. There are currently 5, 832 clients registered with The Business Place and the centre has trained 7341 clients.

The centre has also assisted others in agriculture, service, arts and craft, construction, distribution, transportation, tourism/hospitality, ICT/Multimedia, manufacturing, retail, bakery, textile and patchwork.

Marumo-Mthupo said Zambia and Namibia want the Business Place concept and they are working with Investec to acquire the franchise.

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Digital edition of The Telegraph, November 25, 2020.