Today on ‘TEF Alumni Corner’, we shine the light on Chongo Kabwe, an entrepreneur blessed with creative hands in Gabane, Botswana. Kabwe is from Zambia.
Q: Can you tell us when you received the grant?
A: I received the grant in December, 2021.
Q: What business are you into and how do you run your business?
A: I am into the business of manufacturing table ware crockery. We use clay that is found around the anthills in the village. This clay helps our products to be different from the famous products that are sold in shops. The prints on the products are inspired by the traditional mud huts found in the village of Gabane. We have employed a number of people and most of them are single mothers and youths that didn’t do well in their Grade 12.
Our products are all handmade, from the production of clay up until the final stage.
We sell our products to individuals, government owned companies and private companies. We also use our social media platforms (Gabane Pottery Botswana) and our website (http://Gabane pottery.com/) to proper communication especially with people who are not in Botswana. We also have a shop at the airport in Livingston.
Q: As regards to the location of your business, would you say that it has been favorable to the business?
A: Yes, it has. This is because of the large number of tourists who come into Botswana to come see the great big fives.
And again, with the village of Botswana, the rentals are reasonable and it’s not very far from town, and besides we still get a chance to give back to the community.
Q: Would you say that the grant has been able to help you achieve what you set out to achieve?
A: Yes. The grant has helped me to bring in pottery supplies so that we can supply to schools and individuals.
We faced an issue when the pandemic hit, tourists couldn’t travel and it affected us. The grant really helped us to sustain our business, pay workers and pay rentals.
Q: What challenges have you graced during this period?
A: The challenge we are facing is that we lack local manufacturers of glaze (shinny finishing) in Botswana and skilled man power, lack of pottery machinery also, hence we ship from South Africa. Sometimes the anthill clays are horrible and leads to high breakage of products. The only way to handle this right now is to ship everything from South Africa like we do, except for the clay.
Q: Sometimes, entrepreneurs think money is the only issue, but some end up facing bigger issues like government unfavourable policies etc. Have you been faced with any unforeseen problems in your entrepreneurial career?
A: Yes. Unfortunately, the government of Botswana doesn’t sponsor us at all because we are not Batswana, the government only assists it’s citizens.
Q: Is there room for the non citizens to air their grievances on this?
A: Unfortunately not.
Q: Would you say that you have been able to make positive impact in your society?
A: Yes, I have. I have been able to create employment for some of the community members and also put the Gabane village on the map as a tourist attraction area.
~ Author: Chinenye Akandu