Wilderness Safaris Local Supplies Expo Unlocks Opportunities

Long time in the making, the expo is a long-term commitment to inspire a movement towards more citizen participation in the procurement side of the tourism industry. Staff Writer GOSEGO MOTSUMI reports

With the aim to unlock opportunities for local businesses, the Okavango Wilderness Safaris Local Supplies Expo has ensured that the company does not only contribute to Botswana’s GDP, industry training, employment and conservation but positions Botswana businesses as potential suppliers and vendors of fresh produce, curios, beverages, clothing and more to the Wilderness camps.

Hosted last week at Botswana’s famous tourism capital of Maun, the inaugural expo hosted exhibitors from across the country for possible future collaboration and supply of Wilderness camps in Botswana with their products.

Said OWS Caretaker MD, Joe Matome, at the expo: “Over 110 local vendors registered met the basic criteria in terms of focus areas, citizen shareholding and values alignment.

Quality standards

“This was from submission of over 200 interested applicants who wished to showcase. They are not here because the products and services they sell did not fit into the items needed for this inaugural expo.

“It doesn’t end here. This expo will be followed by workshops for eligible suppliers to help align on expectations and quality standards, as well as to support collaborative growth.

“P1.3 billion was purchased from local suppliers in 2023, being 85% of all purchased goods. The desire is to see this increase over time.”

The expo was more than a one-day engagement with an overarching and long-term commitment to inspiring a movement towards more citizen participation in the procurement side of the tourism industry.

Cultural heritage

Also speaking at the expo, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Entrepreneurship, Kabelo Ebineng, said the government recognises the vital role that local producers and suppliers play in driving economic growth and fostering community resilience.

Supporting local businesses will not only stimulate economic activity but contribute to preservation of Botswana’s cultural heritage and the sustainability of the environment, he added.

“One key component of a good entrepreneurial ecosystem is to have efficient and resilient value chains in key sectors of the economy,” Ebineng asserted.

“I urge participants to be part of the export-led Botswana economy, take up the value chain opportunities and leave with a business idea and work on it. We can even go ahead and build cooperatives to increase production, using technology to improve efficiency and productivity.”

Funding challenges 

Among other partners, the expo featured Stanbic Bank, NDB, LEA and CEDA, which were present to affirm their support to help the exhibitors grow and scale their businesses to serve other markets beyond Wilderness and Botswana.

Kushatha Chilisa of Stanbic Bank noted that entrepreneurs traditionally face challenges of funding, capacity and access to markets. Stanbic, she said, believes in partnering for growth and provides training and mentorship for entities in need through its Accelerate Incubator programme.

“We know access to finance is a challenge because we ask for audited financials,” Chilisa said. “We ask for ITC/CRB clearing and security, which are big barriers for most. We have also looked at this, given the Citizen Economic Inclusion Act, and positioned ourselves to partner with entrepreneurs for growth where there is need for funding.”

To get bigger and better

The Chairman of the OWS Board, Kabelo Binns, revealed that the expo has been years in the making and will get bigger and better with more impact each year. Confirming contracts of up to P1 million, he added that Wilderness Safaris has been working on enhancing the company’s local procurement.

“These are all majority citizen-owned businesses employing Batswana who work hard to contribute to our economy,” said Binns. “Their products range from yoghurts to beverages, cleaning chemicals to preservatives and transport to upholstery. We are proud to welcome them into our fold.”