BIH touts private sector involvement
The Botswana Innovation Hub, an impressively ambitious IT institution, has seen meteoric growth from the date of its inception many seasons ago. Today, with technological advancement reaching echelons beyond any man’s imagination, the image of BIH must evolve as well so as to remain relevant. Biztechafrica sat down with the Chief Executive of BIH, Allan Boshwaen, to glean some of the signature milestones, both past and present, at BIH.
He started by explaining that BIH must refine some of its strategies so as to attract more partners and become “The location of technological giants, which will enable us to become a better innovation nation.” He explained that as BIH they would like to be able to take homegrown start-ups that would be able to list on the Botswana Stock Exchange.
According to Boshwaen, even though the government supports the hub, there is still a gap and that where stakeholders like the private sector should come in. “So far we have managed to seed investors in the form of Angel Investors. We should continue partnerships with private capital, we greatly need private sector feedback outside the government as well. And if that capital can be sourced outside botswana, that is well within our desired goals as well,” he says.
Another broad area that the innovation hub is looking to enhance is the development of its science and technology park. “However, we need to make the environment more optimal. This innovation is not a solely Botswana effort, so we need to go regional and the special economic zones is so important to us as this will also spur growth.”
The CEO is also alert to the fact that the market is changing in Botswana. “We need to be bold in taking Botswana out there, we need to transition to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) if we are to remain relevant in this space.”
People are demanding innovators who can come up with the most compelling solutions, so said Boshwaen. He commended the President of the Republic of Botswana for his unwavering support for anything innovation, as well as his support for the hub in particular. “The president has put innovation at the centre of the country’s development and he has promised to create an ICT ministry to consolidate his podium promises of moving the ICT envelope a rung up.
“As we speak, the team at the innovation hub is ready and we are looking at putting in one of the critical building blocks which is data. We need to start by thinking about how we get around this massive digitalisation that is all around. That is why we are advocating for open data, as long as it isn’t sensitive. We have spurred this innovation from a low area. We have moved the bar to where we are able to hold our own. As far as the growth path of this institution is concerned, I am very happy with what we have achieved so far and the direction that we are driving to.”
Meanwhile, the innovation hub and another parastatal the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) signed a memorandum of understanding which the BIH CEO described as a welcome development. “WE are in the process of working with international entities and working with SEZA is an element of investment which is a welcome development. With this MoU we are now going to pitch our ambitions much higher, we want to make sure that we work with our other our colleagues like SEZA that will enhance our relevance.”