Building a better Botswana

Sharon Mathala
ENTREPRENUER: Katlego Mokgethi

At the age of 29, Katlego Mokgethi has already built an impressive legacy in the male-dominated world of Real Estate.

The founder and CEO of Van De Carter Group, Mokgethi is also the Executive Director of Market Players, an entrepreneurship development program aimed at reducing the alarmingly high failure rate of Batswana-owned businesses.

Despite the magnitude of the task ahead, when the Gabane native sets her mind on something, good things normally happen.

In a bid to raise awareness of the challenges faced by local entrepreneurs, Mokgethi donned her running boots last weekend, braving the oppressive heat in a 21km solo run through the streets of Gaborone.

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With her feet blistered but her spirit still very much intact, the impressive young lady met up with The Voice’s Sharon Mathala to shed some light on her vision.

Q. How would you describe yourself in three lines?

I’m a very passionate person. I always give my best shot at everything I do.

I’m an ‘all or nothing’ type of girl, so I always refuse to stay in ‘lukewarm’ environments!

Q. Real Estate is a male-dominated industry. How did your passion for the field come about?

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I think as human beings we each have our own callings and that’s what gives us dominion in our respective spheres – gender is a non-factor.

I’m drawn to Real Estate and have a knack for selling and managing it.

I’m fascinated by how finite it is and yet its value is infinite.

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I love how it challenges me to think outside the box.

Q. Impressive maturity for someone still relatively young….

I’m 29 years old and have been in business for almost 5 years now.

When I was growing up in Gabane, my father had a brick manufacturing business and a shop.

He went on to venture into construction and waste management.

I watched him run business to a resounding success while single-handedly raising my sisters and me in a largely patriarchal society.

That’s how I learnt that impossible is nothing!

Q. Tell us a little about your Corporate Social Initiative (CSI), Market Players?

When I started Van De Carter in 2016, it was a Real Estate and business development agency.

My vision was to reduce the failure rate of locally owned businesses by offering affordable market strategies to SMEs.

This was inspired by my firm belief that by increasing the survival rate of citizen-owned businesses, we can expedite citizen economic empowerment and transform Botswana into a high-income economy.

However, my experience working with the average Motswana entrepreneur exposed a spectrum of underlying cultural, social, political and economic issues, which couldn’t be solved by market strategies alone.

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This inspired a company to restructure which gave birth to our Corporate Social Initiative: Market Players.

Market Players is a public benefit entrepreneurial development program which aims to improve the survival rate of businesses owned by indigenous citizens of Botswana by honing their business acumen.

We currently have an entrepreneurial development radio feature every Tuesday at 9:15 am on Duma FM through which we aim to expand and augment with other business acceleration, incubation and funding programs.

Q. How did the idea come about?

I was born and bred in Botswana.

I love my country and I know its strengths as I do its weaknesses.

I have observed that there seems to be a misalignment of efforts and interests between government, private sector and the general public.

I believe that the growth of our economy is the responsibility of each and every Motswana.

That is why we need to converge our efforts towards building a sustainable high-income economy.

Entrepreneurship is the backbone of any economy and the fact that our local business failure rate is somewhere within the 80 percent mark is very disconcerting; for every local enterprise that shuts down, we lose an opportunity to solve our socio-economic problems.

Market Players intends to serve as a bridge between the key sectors of Botswana’s circular flow of income.

Our key differentiator is that we are solutions-oriented, therefore we will not spend too much time passively discussing problems but focus on: actively equipping entrepreneurs, constructively engaging key stakeholders on policy reform and expediting processes that will strategically position local business owners to be highly competitive market players.

Q. Would you say you are close to achieving this dream?

I’m not anywhere near what I want to do for entrepreneurs in Botswana.

A lot of my projects are still in their infancy but I’m trekking well.

Little by little a little becomes a lot.

Q. How has Covid-19 affected your business?

We struggled a lot because Real Estate is not necessarily an essential service so my business was pretty much dormant during the lockdowns.

The uncertainty of the economic environment also forced buyers and financiers to tighten their belts.

So as much as interest rates dropped significantly, demand remained low and we struggled to move our listings.

However, we bent with the sharp curves and focused our attention on short-term leases and we are doing quite well with it.

Q. Spaces and houses are generally quite expensive in Botswana, don’t you think it’s about time we have a regulatory body?

I believe in a free market economy so anything that impedes the free flow of commodities I disagree with.

We have to allow demand and supply factors run their cause lest we find ourselves inhibiting the market.

What I think we should do is make it a policy that the specifications and last sale price in a location be made public.

That way we all know what average selling prices are in a specific location at a specific date.

I further implore Batswana to inform themselves about property value influencing factors to ensure that they don’t buy or sell under unfair conditions.

Which is why it’s crucial to buy and sell your property through professionals who are registered with the Real Estate Institute of Botswana and licenced by the Real Estate Advisory Council!

Q. Most youth can’t afford to buy homes, let alone rent. How do you think this can best be addressed?

I think as key players in the Real Estate industry we are failing the market in general.

It’s not only youth who can’t afford property in Botswana, it’s the average Motswana.

That is why at Van De Carter we are taking it upon ourselves to introduce offerings that match income levels of Batswana.

We are in the process of launching affordable smart offices in an upscale location here in Gaborone to ensure that SMEs access rental space that will not cripple their cash flow.

We intend to do the same thing with residential spaces as we are concerned by how Batswana are left with little to no disposable income after paying rent.

Q. What are your views on the Youth Tenant Scheme introduced by BHC?

I think BHC should have stuck with the Installment Purchase Scheme.

It’s not business as usual in Botswana as our people are still stuck in vicious cycles of poverty.

Selling property at open market value to the same people who are paying black tax and struggle to meet the minimum requirements of borrowing institutions is counter-productive.

Q. Tell us about the Sunday marathon.

I’m an avid runner, so #21kmFor21Reasons is a manifestation of my passion for entrepreneurship and fitness.

Building a better Botswana

Running is nine times more psychological than it is physical exercise.

I love it because it sharpens the mind, which is very important for an entrepreneur because we are constantly dealing with challenges.

The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon encourages runners to ‘run for something’, so this prompted me to synergize running and entrepreneurial development.

Q. You outlined 21 objectives you hope to achieve from the marathon. Did you achieve all of them?

Not yet.

So far I have only managed to raise awareness of the challenges faced by entrepreneurs in Botswana and why it’s important for us to invest our best energies and resources in the development of world-class entrepreneurs.

However, awareness alone is not enough.

We still need to incubate and accelerate entrepreneurs as well as engage policymakers to expedite the implementation aspect of citizen empowerment policies.

Market Players’ key performance indicator is ‘Impact’.

I’ll say I have achieved my 21 objectives once I can quantify our impact on local entrepreneurs.

Q. What other projects are you working on?

I’m working on my upcoming waste management company called Afrika Waste.

My focus will be on the haulage and safe disposal of hazardous waste with particular emphasis on waste repurpose.

Q. Away from your professional life, what do you get up to?

I love sports so I do outdoor cycling and running.

I recently picked up golfing but my swing is still a bit rough around the edges (laughing).

Q. What book are you currently reading?

I’m reading ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle for the second time.

I love it!

Q. And on that note, living in the present moment, Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

Geez! I’m a bit boring nowadays, I used to enjoy hanging out with friends but old age is creeping up on me.

I’ll be home catching up on Netflix; I’m currently watching a series called Ratched.

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