Thirty-year-old Lebogang Pule is the winner of the inaugural Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA)/Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) University Challenge. Pule emerged victorious outclassing nine other contenders who were vying for the ultimate prize money. The Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) student’s proposal of producing fertilisers from organic waste impressed the judges to give him the P200 000 price money. The CEDA/DBSA University Challenge called on the youth of Botswana enrolled in institutions of higher learning to come up with implementation solutions to issues affecting the country. These projects had to focus mainly on areas of youth employment, women empowerment, poverty eradication and employment creation. Both CEDA and DBSA sponsored the challenge with P100 000 each with an additional P25 000 if the winner was a female. Pule’s project aims at reducing farmers’ expenditure on chemical fertilisers. It is also said to be cost effective as it will use readily available raw materials that include household waste like food and newspapers; agricultural waste as well as industrial waste. The waste is collected, processed and mixed with water. Then worms are added to consume the waste and produce castings which are used as fertiliser. “These castings contain reduced levels of contaminates and a higher saturation of nutrients which make them environmentally friendly,” explained Pule.
Speaking at the price giving ceremony on Tuesday, DBSA CEO Patrick Dlamini said they are committed to this challenge and want to see it growing. Dlamini said they would like to see this growing into a P1 million fund. He said it is up to the Government of Botswana to come up with specific sectors that will be of priority for the challenge. For his part Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who launched the challenge in June 2017, commended CEDA and DBSA for initiating the challenge and declared that government will stay committed to it going forward. Masisi said the CEDA/DBSA University challenge evoked the spirit of entrepreneurship while also creating competitive environment for the youth. “I believe that this provided a platform for innovativeness that would contribute towards the knowledge-based economy that we inspire to become. This platform will also offer real time solutions to push our economy to the higher income category that we are positioning ourselves to achieve by 2036,” he said. The challenge had attracted an initial 224 applications from which a thorough screening was done to get 50 applications. A further screening was done to choose the top 10 from which Pule emerged the winner. Each of the Top 10 finalists received a consolation price of P10 000. Being in the top 10, the contenders also had a great exposure to different financiers and sponsors for their projects.