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Mining her own business

Born and bred in Gaborone to a Mokgatla father and a Xhosa mother, Vuyiswa Mojela is fast becoming a force to reckon with in the mining and construction sectors of the economy, with a desire to tap on the international market.

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Mining her own business
WOMAN ON TOP:

With her inception of the inaugural Trade Up North Mining and Construction Expo slated for the 24th to the 26th July, 2018 at Adansonia Hotel in Francistown, the 42-year-old Mojela who characterizes herself largely as a ‘God fearing woman’ sits down with The Voice Reporter Lame Modise, who picks her brain on how she got to where she is today.

Having completed her Visual Communications in London, United Kingdom, Mojela struggled to get formal employment and turned to the only thing she had fallen in love with during her time in the UK, exhibitions and trade fairs.

She has since partnered, through her company- Soapbox Communications (PTY) Ltd where she holds sole directorship, with numerous mining expo stalwarts where she sharpened her skills to hone herself into the force she is today.

Q) Take us through your work experience since completing your studies?

A. I shattered the glass ceiling and conquered the mining world by hosting mining expositions and offering liaison services to foreign companies interested in investing in the local mining industry in Botswana.

I am the sole Director of Soapbox Communications (PTY) Ltd, (www.soapboxcomms.co.bw), a 100% citizen owned company that promotes mining in Botswana and abroad through the provision of liaison services for companies interested in penetrating the mining industry in Botswana.

Soapbox Communications also assists local mining companies and citizen investors to partner with foreign companies through Investment Promotion and Facilitation.

Q) You are arguably the first woman to create and host an expo in the world’s two male-dominated industries, Mining and Construction, how did you end up here?

A. Trade up North is a project done through my company, Soapbox Communications (PTY) Ltd, which was born in 2008.

After my studies, I realized that our country was in dire need of mining equipment and services and that very few Batswana were actually active in the supply chain of these two very important sectors of our country’s economy.

I realized that something needed to be done to change this state of affairs.

I reckoned that inviting international companies that manufacture mining equipment & supplies to Botswana and those that offer services in the mining sector through Mining Exhibitions should be enticed to come over and showcase their equipment and hopefully set up their companies here which would, in turn, benefit Batswana through job creation.

This has always been my wish. Since the inception of our mining exhibitions in 2012, we’ve continued to see an influx of international mining equipment supplies and services into our country establishing businesses and in return partnering and creating jobs for locals.

Q) How did you come into the world of exhibitions?

A. It was whilst studying in London that I was always inspired by Exhibitions.

In fact, I served my internship, (in the late nineties), at one of London’s prestigious museums, ‘The Victoria and Albert Museum’.

That’s where my love for exhibitions was triggered.

I also used to work part-time at Wembley Conference Centre during their various expositions.

Q) Why the mining and construction expo?

A. Trade Up North Mining & Construction Exhibition brings companies closer to customers.

It is a perfect opportunity for companies to share what they can offer.

It is an opportunity for contractors and buyers to meet with stakeholders in a pleasant setting and it also offers an opportunity to reach both current and potential customers in a specific region with their products.

Q) Why the northern part of Botswana?

A. The North of Botswana is a hub for mining and construction in the country and it is vast and can be both time-consuming and expensive to cover as a trader, manufacturer or procurement officer.

Trade Up North is unique in the way it brings together a large number of customers from one single region which facilitates sales work.

Through Trade Up North Mining and Construction exhibitions, we create an environment conducive for such engagements.

In this instance, we have partnered with DEBSWANA (Platinum Sponsor), TOTAL Botswana (Gold Sponsor), Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security and Botswana Chamber of Mines who found this initiative as a great opportunity to engage stakeholders in the North of Botswana and Francistown in particular.

Q) What are the ideals you hold most dear?

A. I create my own reality. I do things as I want them to be.

When you create your own reality, you experience meaning and purpose in your life.

Our country has suffered recent closure of two very big mines and this has affected a massive percentage of our population.

As a woman who is accustomed to organizing mining shows, I found it disheartening that families were shattered due to this serious setback.

Q) And what did you believe was needed?

A. I decided to seek stakeholder intervention to come together and see how we can resuscitate the mining and construction sector, particularly in the North of Botswana.

I hit a breakthrough when the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security, Botswana Chamber of Mines, Debswana and TotalBotswana agreed to come on board and work with us.

Q) How have they (ideals) helped you become the person you are today, both personally and in business?

A. I dream. I always want to ‘BE’ better than yesterday.

I always want to ‘DO’ better, ‘FEEL’ better than yesterday.

I never give up.

I long to help drive the economy of my beloved country with other great minds that I’ve interacted with in this sector.

Q) What are the challenges you have faced in your endeavor to make the event a success?

A. The closure of both Tati Nickel and BCL Mile has hurt a lot of companies.

There has been a lot of job losses and it’s really disheartening to see and hear of their everyday struggles.

It has really been so hard to survive.

Q) How has the reception of the expo been?

A. The reception has been more than welcoming.

It’s like this, when people are hopeless they tend to cling to whatever brings hope.

Stakeholders are keen to attend these seminars in order to see if they can bring the people business and opportunities.

Q) What is the one incident engraved in your memory during your preparations for the event?

A. At some point, while visiting companies that service the mining industry, it became evident that their experiences were all the same.

Their stories were almost all similar.

Q) Why, do you presume, was the case with these ‘similar’ companies?

A. The Tati Nickel and BCL Mine that recently closed were their bread and butter.

So the entire value chain has been affected.

I was also told how brave I was to put up such a show in an area that has been affected the most.

Q) In what ways is Trade up North Expo different from other expos held around the same industries

A. We are offering Free-To-Attend Seminars alongside our exhibition.

Q) How is this done and what is discussed at these seminars?

A. We involve government, (in this instance the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security, Botswana Chamber of Mines and DEBSWANA).

They are bringing their different Departments to come and share with Batswana and international investors the areas where opportunities are available within the mining value chain.

Q) How long has it taken to get the idea from inception to actualization?

A. Putting together any type of exhibition is a mammoth task and one needs the experience to do it.

Trade Up North popped into my head when I was exhibiting at a Mining Show in Sweden in 2016.

I have been working on it ever since then and I thank God I’m just a few days away from it.

Q) You have planned and the date is now confirmed, how are you feeling?

A. It’s amazing how two years of planning such a big show will eventually culminate in a two-day event!

Q) Does the expo only cater for mining and construction companies based in the Northern part of Botswana?

A. No. Any company that services or the desire to supply it’s equipment or manufactures mining and construction equipment is free to exhibit with us regardless of their geography.

Q) Are there any international players at the expo?

A. Yes. There are a lot of international companies and individual investors that have registered to participate in our show.

Q) What would you say is the biggest achievement of the Trade up North Expo thus far?

A. We have been able to attract big companies like Debswana (our Platinum Sponsor), Total Botswana (our Gold Sponsor) G4S (our Supporting Partner), the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology& Energy Security and Botswana Chamber of Mines, all major players in both the mining and construction sectors.

Q. Where would we see Trade Up North in the next 5 to 15 years?

A. Trade Up North Mining & Construction Exhibition is an annual show that will be taking place every year in Francistown, so it will have grown and still taking place even in the next 15 years.

Q. Apart from the existing partnerships, what other partnerships is the expo are you looking at making?

A. Soapbox Communications (PTY) Ltd has partnered with several organizations all over the world (Canada, Sweden, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa) and will continue to promote the mining and construction sectors in Botswana.

Q. Is there any vetting of exhibitors? If so what criteria is used to determine participants?

A. Yes. There is a vetting process for international exhibitors.

Botswana is very protective when it comes to anything to do with mining.

We usually prepare all the paperwork for our client’s customs clearance prior to their traveling.

We leave no stone unturned.

Q) Lastly, Thank God Its Friday (TGIF), what are your plans this Friday?

A. I’ll be driving to Francistown to welcome our exhibitors who start arriving today for the ‘build up’ of the show at Adansonia Hotel.