EU supports Botswana’s digital transformation efforts

SmartBots continues to engage development partners across the globe for support to rollout the SmartBots Strategy which aims to deliver a smart and sustainable society for Batswana and Botswana without leaving anyone behind.

These efforts are bearing fruits as beginning of last month, the European Union (EU), through its Africa RISE initiative, awarded funding to implement two (2) key projects which will result in the development of a National Innovation Capability Framework and a Digital Business Package for Women Entrepreneurs. 

These efforts coincide with President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi’s recent announcement of a reset in government in response to the COVID global pandemic targeting digitisation as one of his five revised priorities to ready Botswana to fully exploit the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

The EU Africa RISE support to SmartBots is targeted at ensuring digital inclusion targeted at local women entrepreneurs in the informal sector to build their capabilities and enable them to engage and thrive today’s digital economy. The target group has been adversely affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and their income generation streams disrupted.

Speaking in an interview last Wednesday, Dr. Mihaela Balan, Senior Monitor and Evaluation Expert and Deputy Team Leader at EU Africa RISE expressed excitement that the project was now getting underway.

She said the project is one of the first assignments to commence under the EU Africa RISE banner. The project will ensure that women micro-entrepreneurs are empowered with knowledge, skills, digital products and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Internet.

“ICT has the potential to boost women and girls’ economic, political and social standing and help lowincome women to support their families. Therefore, this package will empower women and build their confidence to run competitive and sustainable businesses” she explained. 

According to SmartBots, the project that is planned to kick-off in June is expected to increase the uptake of eCommerce by women entrepreneurs once fully implemented. In addition to developing a Digital Business Packages for Women Entrepreneurs, the EU Africa RISE says it will also provide technical assistance for the development of a National Innovation Capability Framework, which is critical to improve coordination and effectiveness of the innovation ecosystem in Botswana. 

The Framework will seek to strengthen MSMEs’ innovation capacity and make them more competitive, promoting inclusive and sustainable growth in Botswana and beyond. The need to develop the National Innovation Capability Framework has arisen due to the low commercialisation of home-grown innovations into commercially sustainable solutions. 

This has resulted in low innovation across the economy, including in the public service. The National Innovation Capability Framework is expected to be a key driver in the transformation of the Botswana Innovation Hub into a Botswana Digital and Innovation Hub as envisioned under the SmartBots strategy; to address challenges currently inhibiting the effectiveness of the local innovation ecosystem.