Driven by innovation

Innovation has been identified as one of the principles of development that will take the African continent to a first world state.

To get a further understanding of this thought, Voice Money Reporter, Lame Modise sat down with Gaborone born and bred, innovation captain, Allan Phemelo Boshwaen, the Chief executive Officer (CEO) of the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) at his office at the Fairgrounds in Gaborone.

The man, whose family relocated from Borolong South Africa long before independence, spoke of transformational concepts that will ultimately propel Botswana into a more creative, competitive globally oriented nation.

Q: Who is supposed to be at the helm of innovation?

A: Young people are the drivers of the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) mandate; their ideas are the ones that will drive the economy in the future.

Q: How are they to achieve this?

A: Through the involvement of the private sector. BIH’s mandate is to facilitate a breeding ground for the partnerships so that new solutions (technologies) are created and made cheaper.

Q: What is BIH doing to achieve this?

A: We are actually in a critical week as we are moving to the new BIH premises at the Science and Technology Park located on the fringes of the Botswana Diamond Park in Block 8 Gaborone.

The move is a significant milestone as I believe it means we are coming of age. The park will provide an incubation centre where all solutions are to be found.

We have a partnership with the De Beers Stanford Seed Transformation and Stanford Go-To-Market programmes where young entrepreneurs go through intensive entrepreneurship boot camps.

Q: Which areas would you say are of interest to BIH?

A: BIH’s interest is in the Information Communication Technology sector, Mining and Agriculture and Health, where we are looking at employing clean technologies such as solar and hydroelectric power.

Q: One of BIH’s mandate is to facilitate partnerships between up and coming entrepreneurs partnering with big companies in the same field, how is BIH ensuring that these ‘big’ companies do not swallow or overshadow these start-up companies?

A: There is always that possibility in any situation, but we also need to understand that countries like Israel are called startup nations because they develop and sell off business ideas to big multinational companies in US Dollars.

That can also be a great business opportunity for locals. With innovation, one can never really control every variable.

Q: How is the BIH protecting people’s ideas from being stolen? There have been instances where people have been afraid to approach organizations such as the BIH?

A: We have an intellectual property framework affiliated to the World Intellectual Property Office. Once an idea has been disclosed to us, it is legally protected at a legal level.

So there should be no such fears as they hinder growth.

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