The university challenge which was launched this week will focus on innovative fresh ideas and proposals with a focus on adoption of new and emerging technologies. The challenge is an initiative between CEDA and Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) to tackle issues of unemployment in Botswana. The challenge was offered by chairman of the Association of African Development Finance Institutions (AADFI) and the CEO of DBSA, Patrick Dlamini during the World Federation of Development Finance Institutions (WFDI) hosted by CEDA late last year. Dlamini had offered to pay out P100, 000 to any student who could come up with an implementable solution to address any of the issues facing Botswana and an additional P25, 000 if a female came up with the solution. According to Thabo Thamane, CEDA CEO, Botswana matched the offer of DBSA, and as a result the winning solution will receive P200, 000. In order to encourage entrepreneurship amongst women, if the winning candidate is female they will receive an additional P50, 000, making it a total of P250, 000. Speaking at the launch, DBSA executive, Dr. Zwelakhe Tshandu said Africa’s youth bulge or demographic dividend is an opportunity that needs to be harnessed for success of the continent. “In Btswana, 60 percent of the population is of working age of which 32 percent is between the ages of 0-14. Education programmes will play an important role in preparing Batswana for an Africa that is productive, purposeful and integrated into regional and global value chains,” said Tshandu, Knowledge management and innovation manager at DBSA.
Tshandu said – according to the World Bank, 2016 – 21 percent of Botswana population is between the ages of 15 and 24, which represents a challenge to the Botswana economy. “Productive, decent jobs that will drive economic growth and create sustainable development and changes the way Motswana live their lives are required.” He said it is important that programmes that address the needs of society and economies are developed and for this reason Tshandu said the education sector has to provide kinds of skills that economies need in order to develop sustainably and equitably. “Africa requires skilled citizens to meet the challenges of Africa 63, the Sustainable Development Goals and the National Development Plans. Botswana needs skilled and engaged youth to implement NDP 11,” said Tshandu. Tshandu said one of the main drivers of growth would be a diversified economy and industries. Government, trough the new Industrial Development Policy will facilitate easy access to the Economic Diversification Drive by youth, women and small scale farmers.” Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi welcomed the University challenge, saying it presents youth with an opportunity to be part of the solution to the challenges faced by the country. Masisi said institutions such as CEDA are playing a significant role in funding.