Listening to the promoters of CEDA funded projects, one deducts that there is potential, but with more government support, market access and capacity building, these enterprises can take the country somewhere.
Problems most of these projects face is either they have to compete with imports from South Africa, capacity to execute orders or limited support from government.
This week, the government’s development agency took the media for a tour of select funded projects in the Southern region and it became clear that markets are still a stumbling block.
“The problem is that of imports from South Africa,” complains Charity Molefhi, owner of GR8 Minds Industries based in Thamaga.
The CEDA funded horticultural project produces quality vegetables like tomatoes, butternuts and green pepper for sale in the local market.
Her produce competes with those from South Africa to find retail space in local chain stores.
Despite some chain stores supporting the project, some nevertheless prefer to buy where it is cheaper.
For example, chain stores buy tomatoes from GR8 Minds for between P5-P6/kg when the same can be bought for less across the border in South Africa.
The Botswana Horticultural Market does not help the situation as it buys horticultural products for less.
The situation is also found at a dairy farm in Molapowabojang, also funded by CEDA, but hardwork and the agency’s intervention has seen the project through hard environment.
The owner of the dairy farm, Bantshwari Dintwa, who previously won a big government tender, is surprised that the contract has been awarded to a foreign company.
“A non citizen company has won the tender and everyone is wondering why one company can win six tenders,” complained the owner of Dairy House based in Molapowabojang adding that they have taken the issue with the Minister of Agriculture.
Dairy House lost tender despite its track record of supplying other government departments, like disciplined forces of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and Botswana Prisons Service.
The farm, which started to operate in 2001, sits on 26 hectares of land and produces 400 liters of milk a day, but the plan is to push the number up. Its market is the retail and individuals.
Dintwa explained to the media that he paid P180, 000 to connect electricity from the power grid to the farm while he graded the road linking the farm to the main road for P15, 000.
“Dairy farming is a big challenge; it is both labour and capital intensive. It is expensive,” said Dintwa, although praising government for designating an animal doctor to his farm.
Despite these challenges, some of the projects visited, like Zismo Engineering, which already dreams big of making the first ever locally made electrical transformers, are performing well.
The electrical engineering company sponsored by Justice Moilwa and Moja Kgosinkwe is one of CEDA’s shining examples of a start-up company.
It has done repair works for big mining houses like BCL, Debswana and Soda Ash.
It has also done works for Botswana Power Corporation (BPC), Water Utilities and power stations like Morupule. The company directors state that despite these contracts, they feel it is still not enough.
The company got the first P2.1 million loan from CEDA and another one of P1.9 million and it also got support for performance bond and guarantees to execute tenders. Zismo employs 176 employees.
Another fashionable company supported by the government agency with the potential to put the country on the map is Mogomotsi Enterprises based in Gaborone.
The company, managed by Peter Mabeo, exports furniture to the US and Europe. Mabeo describes Mogomotsi Enterprises as ‘just an African company trying to enter the international market’.
The company was funded by CEDA in 2001. Although its name might not be sexy with Europeans and Americans, the company gets orders from such classy cities abroad.
Other projects visited were Pitsakgolo Restaurant and Catering Services based in Kanye. The Kanye-based company is located in the village center where there is a concentration of civil servants and private companies. It employs 16 workers.
Others are Quality Meats in Gaborone and Keorapetse Investments, an embroidery and printing company also in Gaborone, which employs 25 people.