Feature: COVID-19 inspires appreciation of local products in Botswana

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GABORONE, April 6 (Xinhua) -- Organic cold-pressed juices, honey, perfumes, hair products, jewelry, and designer clothes are some of the distinct products being made in Botswana. More so following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Thato Chuma-Mogotsi, founder of a social enterprise called the Local Slice which started as a digital campaign to raise visibility around local products and services in 2018, the growing appreciation of local brands is plausible as Botswana has imported over 80 percent of its goods requirements for decades.

COVID-19 has been a sobering, painful wake-up call for Batswana to invest in their local economy and nurture their sectors and entrepreneurs, Chuma-Mogotsi said.

"With our borders restricted, it has become imperative to manufacture our own products. With the right support, this will also reduce our high import bill," she said.

What has hindered the visibility and acceptance of local brands over the years has been quality and pricing issues. But this, Chuma-Mogotsi says is fast becoming a nonissue as proved by the fact that local companies such as Kalahari Honey and House of Divinity are now competitively exporting their products.

"The quality has drastically improved and continues to do so. With an aggressive regional strategy we could have more businesses exporting," she suggests.

While manufacturers are striving to offer competitive products, Chuma-Mogotsi's award-winning social enterprise, shortlisted as a National Finalist for the 2019 Southern Africa Startup Awards under the Social Impact category, is pushing to normalize Botswana-made products in the local market so they dominant in the average citizens' shopping basket.

She said this takes aggressive effort, as consumers are accustomed to products from South Africa and China, among other countries. "However, we have seen great interest from Batswana and the willingness to buy from their own through our platforms," she said.

The Local Slice created a #RekaLocal display shelf rolled out in various malls after realizing that it was quite difficult for people to identify local products in stores and that the retail value chain was not actively inclusive of them, with the exception of stores such as Food Lovers.

Because of this, Chuma-Mogotsi said her platforms have significantly grown in numbers and Batswana have become more receptive to their own products.

With time, she wants her social enterprise to become a bridge between Small Micro and Medium Enterprises and various industries, with the hope of enabling sector growth through a number of avenues, beyond just advertising them.

On April 13-14, Thato Chuma-Mogotsi will be attending the Buy Africa, For Africa conference, where she hopes to pick up various strategies Botswana can use to become an export player and a contributor in the African market from an entrepreneurial perspective.

"As it stands, the market interest in Africa continues to grow and spending is predicted to be valued around 3.5 trillion U.S. dollars by 2025. We need to then find ways of having Botswana become an active player via its entrepreneurs," she said.

Her role-play in the local economy has since seen her mentioned as one of the Botswana women leading the way to the country's economic recovery by the World Bank recently. Enditem

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