For the first time on the African continent, the Forbes Under 30 Summit Africa kicked off in Botswana’s capital Gaborone yesterday, April 24, with 600 entrepreneurs in attendance for the five-day event.
At the opening night in Gaborone’s historic Main Mall, an outdoor shopping and commercial hub in the heart of the city, an audience of about 2,000, including summit delegates and members of the public, cheered and swayed to live music.
The country’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who took to the podium for the welcome speech, was greeted by more applause and celebratory ululations.
“Some of the finest under-30s that the world of entrepreneurship has to offer [are here], with 200 from Botswana, 200 from the rest of Africa and another 200 from the rest of the world… We will witness for the first time how Botswana harnesses the power of the entrepreneurial spirit and promotes conversations that foster innovations and creativity… In Botswana, the youth, being change-makers and future leaders, are continuously encouraged to play a leading role through various funding mechanisms from public to private sources… we have also embarked on digitization as the epicenter of our national development agenda and young people are being empowered through several initiatives,” said Masisi.
For the many watching, this was “a people’s concert” held in a place of significance.
“The Main Mall is the original mall built after independence. A lot of us grew up here,” remarked Pat Dambe, Head of Corporate Affairs at the De Beers Group of Companies in Botswana.
The crowds gathered outside the Cresta President Hotel, overlooking the main stage.
“The President Hotel is a legacy hotel. And our President wanted to bring everybody back to where we started and it really is a renaissance. It’s a rebirth. And it’s all about young people, so it’s also the future. We are so excited to see the buildings around that have been upgraded,” added Dambe.
In the crowd, Kemo Kwadiba, the Managing Director of Care Medicals Botswana and one of the 200 entrepreneurs from Botswana sponsored by De Beers and the country to experience the summit, was ecstatic as local hip hop artist ATI took to the stage for an energetic performance.
“I am very keen to meet with entrepreneurs from Africa and the world at the summit; I want to share notes with them, all the way from here to Kasane, where I will be attending the second leg of the summit,” said Kwadiba.
Yet another young businessman in the crowd, Botsile Tshepo Moreba, the owner of Sanctified Delights Bakery in Bobonong, a small town in the country’s Central District, drove five hours to get here.
“I am not an Under 30 lister, but I feel like one,” he said.
Lenny Motshodi, a small-scale farmer who mainly sells lettuce, said he too was looking forward to mingle with other agri-preneurs in the audience.
Similar sentiments from summit attendee, Busi Pooe, the CEO of Tshimong in South Africa and also FORBES AFRICA’s 2019 30 Under 30 lister: “Tonight was hugely inspirational. I had the opportunity to reconnect with past FORBES AFRICA Under 30s from all over the African continent who’ve been recognized for their potential, and have actually gone on to realize it. President Masisi commented that Africa’s time is now and the youth are in the driving seat. I’m excited for the next few days of networking as it will continue to build on the momentum set tonight.”
Just before Ghana’s DJ Black made his way to the stage for his much-awaited show, President Masisi concluded his speech, summing up the mood of the night: “My wife and I are in our dancing shoes and we are ready to rock!”