Mastercard’s Index of Women Entrepreneurship (MIWE) revealed that 34.6% of businesses in Botswana are owned by women, making it one of the top-performing countries highlighted in this global index. We talk to two businesswomen in Botswana about their success.

Following the release of Mastercard’s Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship (MIWE) in March 2017, it was revealed that 34.8% and 34.6% of businesses in Uganda and Botswana respectively, are owned by women – making them the top two performing countries in the world highlighted in the index.

Uganda and Botswana managed to oust 54 other global counterparts like New Zealand (33.6%), Russia (32.6%), China (30.9%), Spain (30.8%) and United States (30.7%). The 2017 MIWE based its findings on women’s advancement outcomes, access to knowledge and financial services and supporting entrepreneurial factors.

These are inspirational success stories about women who have beaten the odds and overcome the challenges in the field of entrepreneurship. Botswana’s Tshepang Chilume, currently the treasury sales manager of Barclays Bank Botswana, is one of those women.

Along with other business partners, Chilume is involved in several successful business ventures, including a Kauai franchise, a lifestyle event company called Symbiotic Lifestylz and a carwash company in Gaborone.

As an entrepreneur, Chilume has used her drive and commitment to engage in a social venture to raise awareness and expand the treatment option in Botswana for bilateral talipes (clubfoot) after her son was born with this congenital deformity.

Together with Karen Moss, Chilume established a strong private partnership between the Botswana Ministry of Health, US donors’ Miracle Feet and STEPS South Africa – an organisation focused on advocacy and innovative treatment for clubfoot. The two women successfully operate the clinic in a public hospital in Botswana.

Young, female agripreneur: Mavis Nduchwa

Mavis Nduchwa from Francistown in northeastern Botswana is an Estate and Hospitality graduate with a passion for food production. Growing up on a farm fuelled her love for agriculture and this young agripreneur is on a mission to demonstrate that women farmers in Africa can make a difference.

Nduchwa is the force behind the successful agribusiness, Chabana Farms – a family-owned enterprise in the Tutumwe sub-district of Botswana. Chabana farms are focused on non-GMO dairy products and environmentally friendly production. Vegetables, beef and pork are organically grown and produced. The farm also produces grains like maize, sunflower, sorghum, beans, groundnuts and lablab (a legume that produces high-quality feed for livestock).

The Botswana government recently awarded the 247-acre Chabana Farms a $2- million contract to supply jugo beans to the local market. During a good rainy season, Chabana Farms can make up to $1.5-million in profits.

Nduchwa’s entrepreneurial journey started in 2011, when she won funding from an initiative known as Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. She used the money to start Chabana Farms, providing training and work for unemployed young people and now counts herself among the less than 1% minority of African women who are landowners.

Nduchwa describes Chabana farms “as classrooms where lessons come to life”. According to her, the objective is to give people a better understanding of where their food comes from, why proteins and vegetables are important for our bodies and how to build a healthier community.

She says that men have always dominated commercial agriculture. “Most societies are of the opinion that agriculture is reserved solely for men. That prohibits many women from taking that brave step and venturing into agribusiness.”

“Traditionally, women farm purely for domestic consumption, using old-fashioned methods. We’re trying to pass on our knowledge and experience of using new technology. The climate is changing, so we need these new techniques to introduce smart farming in Africa.”

Born out of necessity?

The Index revealed that female entrepreneurs in developing countries are driven by resilience, determination and the desire to provide for their families. Women in these emerging markets tend to tap into local business opportunities – effectively allowing them to avoid financial, regulatory and technical constraints.

“Female entrepreneurs in Botswana are born out of necessity,” says Chilume. “However, recently, equal opportunities in education and employment have made it easier for women to pursue interests that are usually reserved for men in other countries. Our women’s resourcefulness is underpinned by survival.”

Nduchwa says that systems and policies within government must provide equal opportunities for both men and women. “We have departments such as Gender Affairs where women get the support they need, be it entrepreneurial, financial or through mentorship. With such support, Botswana has seen an influx of female startups.”

Chilume says that the Botswana government is committed to ensuring that its gender agenda is top of mind in business and government. “Women are definitely seen to be more reliable and committed than men in the sense that they have children to feed. This tenacity helps women who eventually climb up the corporate ladder to executive positions and also run successful businesses.”

She points out the changes that need to happen in Africa for more women to take up similar powerful positions across various sectors. “There’s a new definition of feminism, particularly feminism in the African context. African women need to see other African women achieving success and realise that similar success is possible for them too.”

But what makes a strong female entrepreneur? Chilume says that self-awareness is the first thing that comes to mind. “You need to confront yourself, know your strengths and weaknesses, because many people will use them to discourage you from pursuing your dreams.”

In response to the same question, Nduchwa says “dedication, dedication and more dedication” is what makes a successful female entrepreneur.

And what advice would Chilume give to young, aspiring female entrepreneurs in Africa: “Never ever sign a personal surety for any funding you need. The corporate veil protects your personal assets and property in the event that your business fails or you accumulate debt.”

“You also need to be able to walk away from a failing business. Do not get so emotionally invested that you cannot walk away. Build a strong network of people and opportunities will present themselves.”

Nduchwa says that the future of agriculture lies in the hands of young female farmers. “To those women out there who want to venture into agriculture, I say YES, it’s doable and YES, you can!”

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