Information in the hands of BizTech Africa from the European Union is that the bloc is ready to help the country in its pursuance of its digital transformation programme. The European’s Africa RISE (Reform for Investment and Sustainable Economies) programme has started two key projects in Botswana in support of the Government of Botswana Digital Transformation Strategy (SmartBots).

The strategy supports the goal of transforming Botswana from an upper-middle-income country to high-income status by 2036. Botswana is aiming to establish itself as a knowledge-based economy. This is to be achieved through innovation, research and development capability, knowledge channels and development activities.

Africa RISE is a regional technical assistance facility which supports inclusive and sustainable growth, job creation and decent work in Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean region. The facility, funded by the European Union, promotes macro-economic policy and regulatory reform to create a business environment that encourages investment.

The programme was launched in January 2021 and is one element of the EU’s activities to achieve the SDGs, primarily SDG 8 (inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all).

The first RISE project is to provide technical assistance for the development of the Botswana National Innovation Capability Framework, which will improve the effectiveness of the innovation ecosystem in the country.

The implementation of the National Innovation Capability Framework will enhance the capacity of MSMEs to innovate and drive inclusive and sustainable economic growth. It will also help to turn homegrown innovations into commercially sustainable solutions that will see local firms being able to compete in regional and global markets contributing to the development of key value chains.

The second project will support the development and piloting of a Digital Business Package for Women Entrepreneurs in Botswana. SmartBots has made clear provisions to enhance the participation of women in business. This will be achieved through digital skills programmes, business support packages and developing innovation capabilities. Meaningful digital inclusion, which will result through this work, will mean more opportunities for women to engage in the economy and ensure that they are not excluded from opportunities in this digital age.

The transformational agenda based on the National Vision 2036 goal, aims to put Botswana in a strong position within Africa and the world as a “Smart Society”, with broader use of technology expected to grow exponentially in the coming years.

The Digital Business Package for Women Entrepreneurs will help to bridge the digital divide and help to ensure that women can play a full role in the transformation of the economy. Digital inclusion provides opportunities for women to engage in the economy to meet their daily needs and to improve their skills, productivity and marketability in the digital-economy age.

SmartBots aims to generate a 20% increase in the usage of e-commerce platforms by women entrepreneurs by December 2021, through training and improved access to digital products for women entrepreneurs. The support provided by Africa RISE will, it is anticipated, lead to the creation of further employment opportunities in women-led businesses.

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