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We are closed out!

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A beautician has mounted an online petition to press for policies that will compel chain stores to include local products on their shelves, pointing out that the systemic exclusion is a disincentive for Botswana’s creativity and manufacturing sector

GOSEGO MOTSUMI

In a bid to influence creation of policies that will empower the local businesses, cosmetics entrepreneur Sethunya Monyatsi of Lushly Beautiful recently launched an online petition for like-minded entrepreneurs to speak with one voice about securing shelf space for local products in chain retail stores.

“We are closed out,” Monyatsi said in an interview. “What is currently happening is that Batswana are producing quality products that are turned down at some of the chain stores. Most of us in the beauty business, including the fashion industry, want to work with these stores but we are never given the clear channel to occupy at least a certain percentage of the shelf space.

“But nothing compels the stores to accommodate us, hence our effort to persuade the government to create clear policies that will enable us to collaborate with them to support our homegrown products. These companies are benefiting from Batswana yet Batswana are not allowed to do business with them.”

The issue of creating retail space has been an ongoing battle that the fashion industry has been fighting over the years. Even so, the plea has fallen on deaf ears as retailers continue to sell products imported from neighbouring South Africa and other countries to the exclusion and detriment of Botswana products.

“This is why our local producers end up with almost no impact on the arena of premium products and custom made goods,” Monyatsi pointed out. “We do not have the opportunity to have a share of the bigger pie. This is why this petition is important for us to speak in one voice so that the ministry of Trade and Industry may see the extent of the problem more clearly. The plan is to get as many people as we can to sign the petition before we present it to the ministry.”

Asked if the industry had the capacity for large scale production if called upon for the purpose, Monyatsi said they are determined and sufficiently-driven to break any barriers. “We should not be shut out before we even try,” she noted. “We are capable and would not fail. Afterall, all these chain stores started somewhere. We need a similar experience to propel us to greater heights.”

Time Out raised the argument in certain quarters that local products do not need the retailers as they could create their own spaces to sell their products. Whereupon Monyatsi said there are stumbling blocks that hinder them in that direction on their own. “We have issues of funding and land is usually needed for security to obtain funding,” she noted. “When you start on the street, people question the image and authenticity of the product. This petition is for everyone in the industry and our children who will face the same policies if they are not changed. It should be noted that the entire economy grows when local industry grows because the money circulates within the country.”

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