In a day that can be described as a display of ‘bromance’ between President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Zimbabwean billionaire friend Strive Masiyiwa, the youth of Botswana received the promise of Paradise on earth, writes KABO RAMASIA

Strive Masiyiwa descended on Botswana at the invitation of the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development for a youth entrepreneurship town hall meeting where he addressed young Batswana on skills of making it in the competitive world of business. 

Once there, the founder and Executive Chairperson of Econet Wireless Group promised to partner with the Government of Botswana in creating jobs for the youth, a critical demographic that constitutes 60 percent of the population of Botswana. The native of Zimbabwe stressed at some length the need to develop venture capital institutions to help youth businesses from the grassroots and proceeded to say how he would personally join forces with the government to establish a youth innovation house. “We need to give them the tools of venture capital,” Mayisiwa said. “Let’s have an innovation house.” 

Whereupon President Mokgweetsi Masisi picked the cue with the enthusiasm of one on already on the campaign trail to Elections 2019: “We will provide the space,” said the President before watering it down a bit. “Terms and conditions will apply (but) he will do it.” 

Youth enterprises were then encouraged to develop a new level of confidence in their day-to-day operations so as to turn challenges into opportunities for expansion. The telecommunications mogul spoke of three “Ps” – Product, People and Process – as pillars of a successful business that must align to set a brand apart from the rest. Young people were much encouraged to brainstorm. “When you say, ‘I thought of that idea,’ it means you didn’t have the confidence to act on it,” Mayisiwa said.

He appealed to the youth to explore relatively unexploited sectors like solar energy to diversify the economy and create more jobs. Elaborating a bit, the billionaire businessman said because of its climatic conditions, Botswana had the capacity to be an exporter of electricity to the region. The man behind Mascom Wireless proceeded to make another undertaking – this time to help connect homesteads in Botswana with broadband Internet. This, Mayisiwa said, would be done through skilled young men and women. “The amount of work to be done to fibre up every house is best done by young entrepreneurs,” he intoned. 

To indicate the feasibility of this, he named Rwandan and Kenyan capitals of Kigali and Nairobi as almost entirely connected to fibre, which he described as low tech. “Broadband is fundamental to the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he noted.

Whereupon Masisi seized the opportunity to reassert his government’s purpose of investing in the youth. “Government is tirelessly working to lure investors and to attract foreign direct investment,” he said. “To create a conducive environment is critical.’’

The President proceeded to state that the government would launch an online registration system at for the Registrar of Companies in order to help reduce congestion, speed up the process and access related services at the touch of a button. Masisi said the government was currently spending P2billion annually in allowances and tuition fees for young people. “We will turn around the orientation of government so that it reaches young people,” he said.

He encouraged the youth to identify problems and work towards solving them in order to survive the unemployment scourge. “It is not government who is going to create jobs. It is in you. You must solve problems,” he said.

According to available statistics, there are currently 1.4 billion Africans with projections of 4 billion at the turn of the century. The growth will represent almost half of the world population which currently stands at 7.7 billion as at April 2019, according to United Nations estimates. It is against this demographic background that Mayisiwa stressed that this is an African century.

At the end of the presentations that left the youth much enthused in anticipation of the promise of heaven on earth, observers have begun to question the billionaire’s motives, with some saying it is Mayisiwa as an investor who would stand to benefit from a rollout of programmes aimed curbing youth unemployment. Critics also point out that no timeline was committed for the ‘beatitudes.’