It would seem unfathomable that a ‘lollipop boy’, a boy who paid for his school fees through selling oranges and sweets at his home village, Palapye, now spends his time working with the best research professors and specialists this continent has ever bore.
Onkokame Mothobi was raised by a single mother who sold fat cakes to keep the family afloat and where she fell short, expected her children to meet her halfway through. It was from this expectation of making a living from a tender age that young Mothobi fought his way through basic education and landed himself a top position at the University of Botswana to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics, class of 2010 and subsequently a Masters. He was awarded scholarship by the African Economic Research Consortium for best student in 2010/2011 MA Economics class in 2010. Mothobi’s dissertation paper was chosen as the best in the University of Botswana and was submitted to represent Botswana in African Economic Research Consortium Country Competitions
At the age of 34, Mothobi is currently a Senior Researcher at Research ICT Africa ( RIA), a network that conducts research on ICT policy and regulation that facilitates evidence-based and informed policy making for improved access, use and application of ICT for social development and economic growth, with footprints across Africa and the Global South. Mothobi is leading the RIA pricing department, which collects mobile prepaid telecommunication retail prices for mobile operators across 41 African countries, while pursuing a PhD in Economics at the University of Cape Town. He specializes in industrial economics with an emphasis on telecommunication demand, competition and regulatory policies. His PhD work focuses on infrastructure development, market conduct, and competition and regulation in the information and communication sector. Mothobi has also engaged in several international workshops in the SADC region and the South America region. He was part of the team that evaluated the Lesotho telecommunication sector performance in 2017 and participated in a workshop that assessed the measurement of indicators for sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Brazil. Moreover, he is also part of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) pricing expert group. Most of Mothobi’s work is focused on regulation of mobile termination rates, switching costs in the mobile telecommunication industry and on-net/off-net price differentials.
Adding to his trail of hard work and excellence is a paper that has been published by the Journal of Information Economics and Policy, an Elsivier Journal, a top Journal with a high ranking in the Industrial Organization (IO) field of academics, a paper he co-authored with Lukasz Grzybowski (Professor at Telecom ParisTech, France and UCT, South Africa). The paper investigates how the availability of physical infrastructure influences adoption of mobile phones and the use of mobile services.
Mothobi’s academic journey resembles a heroic struggle against odds, survival and eventual triumph. He says that he hopes to inspire people, young and old, giving them hope, courage to fight, and the urge to persevere. “I have a lit, never-say-die spirit and I’m inspired to become all that I can be,” Mothobi said as a parting short.