Gaborone — Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) student, Mr Lebogang Pule had a lifeas he became the first winner of the Citizen Entrepreneurship Development Agency and Development Bank of Southern Africa CEDA/DBSA) University Challenge 2017, walking away P200 000 richer.
He outclassed nine other contestants from other universities who had taken part in the competition which was launched by Vice President, Mr Mokgweetsi Masisi in June this year.
Mr Pule also pocketed additional P10 000 which was given to all the 10 finalists.
An aspiring agriprenuer who was born and raised in Francistown and currently studying BSc in soil and water conservation engineering, Mr Pule impressed the judges with his project of producing fertilizer from organic waste by using earth worms to accelerate the decomposition of organic matter, hence reducing farmers' expenditure on chemical fertilizers.
Speaking at the prize giving ceremony, Vice President Masisi challenged stakeholders to make the event an annual project as government was committed and interested in supporting it.
Mr Masisi said he was happy to celebrate the creativity of young Batswana to come up with implementable solutions to issues affecting the country.
The challenge, he explained, was offered by the chairperson of the Association of African Development Finance Institutions (AADFI) and the chiefe xecutive officer of Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), Mr Patrick Dlamini.
Mr Dlamini had offered to pay P100 000 to any student who could come up with an implementable solution to address any of the key issues facing Botswana and further offered P25 000 extra if a female came up with the solution.
To that end, Mr Masisi explained that Botswana matched the offer of DBSA, and as a result, the winning solution would receive a total of P200 000.
He applauded DBSA for its contribution as this was a testimony of their partnership with CEDA and indeed Botswana as a whole, adding that this kind of partnership demonstrated the historical relations between "Our nations and our people."
The Vice President explained that the target group was in the age of 15-24 and statistics indicated that this age group constituted more than 20 per cent of the country's population.
He said according to the 2015/16 Botswana Multi-topic Household Survey, youth unemployment constituted 69 per cent of those seeking employment.
"It is in view of the above, that my government continues to develop policies, strategies and programmes to address unemployment.
This include, the National Development Plan 11, Vision 2036, Economic Diversification Drive Strategy, National Entrepreneurship Policy, and the Development of the Creative Industry Sector Strategy," he added. Mr Masisi said these policies and strategies aimed to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship in the country and encouraged the youth to familirise themselves with these policy documents to empower themselves.
Further, Mr Masisi said government has established CEDA to provide subsidised financing to citizens who inspired to venture into business, adding that other enterprise development support was offered through the companies and Intellectual Property Authority, Local Enterprise Authority, Youth Development Fund Tokafala and Women Enterprise Empowerment Programmes.
Notwithstanding the introduction of these programmes, the Vice President explained that there was need to find alternative means to deal with this issue as they arose.
Speaking at the same event, Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Mr Vincent Seretse said since the launch of the University Challenge in June 1, 2017, the competition has been targeted and intensively marketed to encourage the youth in academia with an innovation that could potentially provide Batswana with a solution to some of the country's pressing challenges in particular addressing unemployment.
Minister Seretse explained that the solutions received through this challenge has unearthed some viable and implementable solutions that could make social impact, adding that through the University Challenge, students could now see that there were many opportunities to take advantage of governments initiatives that could help them achieve their dreams.
He called on the private sector to come up with similar initiatives to foster innovation and self-development particularly amongst the youth.
CEDA board chairperson Dr Alfred Tsheboeng confirmed at the ceremony to the Vice President that the event would now be held on an annual basis.
The winner. Mr Pule believed that his project was cost effective as it used readily available raw materials.
These included household waste like food and newspapers, agricultural waste like dairy slurry and cow dung as well as industrial waste found from food manufacturing industries.
Waste is collected, processed and mixed with water.
Worms are added to consume the waste and later produce castings, which are used as fertilizers.
These castings contain reduced levels of contaminants and a higher saturated nutrients.
Source : BOPA