Following Botswana‘s ban on the importation of bottled water less than 10 litres, the Association of Water Producers in Botswana were tasked with meeting the high demand in order to boost its low production capacity and create jobs. According to the country’s Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Joy Kenewendo, the ban is meant to reduce the exportation of jobs across the border invariably benefiting Botswana.
This is just another day on duty for the 31-year old Botswana Minister who is tasked with promoting trade and investment in Botswana. On 28 August 2018, Kenewendo signed a Joint Statement with the United Kingdom’s Minister responsible for Trade, George Hollingbery signifying the commitment to Economic Partnership-like trade agreement. Through her Ministry’s Investment Promotion Apex, the minister seeks to bring investment opportunities to the attention of potential investors who have the capacity to provide capital, jobs, skills and technology, as Botswana continues to recover from a 2015 setback which saw the economy contract 1.7 percent.
Kenewendo, who is now arguably one of the most influential young women in Africa, began her journey to Botswana’s Investment, Trade and Industry Ministry through an unusual route; the dump site. Kenewendo’s journey began in her Junior Secondary School days, where she got the golden idea that collecting trash among other voluntary services would get her a seat at the table of success.
As though being the youngest Member of Parliament and Minister is no big deal, Kenewendo wishes it was a norm for young people to be at the forefront holding more offices, given that historically, the majority of the revolutions are led by young people. Fortunately, her wish became her own reality; the Motopi born Motswana kept making giant strides in trade economics in Ghana’s Trade and Industry Ministry after her post-graduate degree before being called to serve in the government cabinet on 4 April 2018, making her the youngest African Minister and member of Botswana parliament.
Development, poverty eradication/women and youth empowerment have become more of a purpose fueled by passion for the minister, who considers women development and empowerment good economics not just another feel-good project added to one’s resume. For this, Kenewendo strives and works hard to overcome the challenges faced by every woman, especially young women like her.
It is believed that women are in the shadows of the men and that is one of the battles, Kenewendo through her Molaya Kgosi women leadership and mentorship programme fights against. Through the programme, Kenewendo plans to work on the ratification of the gender protocol in Africa and the mainstreaming of gender issues such that they stop being in a silo, ensure women are at the forefront of trade negotiations, budget allocations as well as ensuring that the needs of the disadvantaged are addressed.
Molaya Kgosi is aimed at addressing inter-generational issues through mentor and mentee engagement by bringing together seasoned professionals and young learners. The programme provides women with the platform to be empowered to overcome patriarchal prejudices.
To empower others, one needs to first be empowered, and empowerment does not happen by chance. For this, Kenewendo sought the most powerful weapon Nelson Mandela says can be used to change the world — education. After completing her initial studies, in 2005, she enrolled into University of Botswana to obtain her bachelor’s degree in Economics but that was not enough. In 2007, she was sent to Pitzer College in Claremont, California as an exchange student for about a year. Upon return, she completed her Economics degree from the University of Botswana in 2009.
In 2011, she studied at Xpert Academy to prepare for PRINCE2 Practitioner exam in Project Management and earned her certification the same year. The following year, she won a Chevening Scholarship to the University of Sussex in the UK where she completed her Master of Science degree in International Economics in 2013, specializing in trade and economics.
Economics and politics is a platform Bogolo is leveraging to give her all, for which she was honoured as a reward for her contributions. In 2012, Kenewendo became one of the recipients of the ‘Ten Outstanding Young Persons’ award. By 2016, she was honoured once again with the ‘Botswana Change Makers Award’ in Business and Leadership and the ‘Formidable Woman’ award that year.
In her bag of honours and accolades is the non-physical award as one of the first Botswana Youth Representatives to the United Nations General Assembly in 2016, where she was nominated to present a statement on the topic of “global youth” to the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon. She is also a beneficiary and alumni of the United States President’s Young African Leaders Initiative for young women, an alumnus of the 2016 Foreign and Commonwealth Office International Leaders Programme designed to forge links and build cooperation with international leaders from around the world and to offer them a unique insight into the United Kingdom.
Although Kenewendo’s career kept changing, the consistent undertone has always been her desire to impact development through policy in each office she occupies. As Minister for Investment, Trade and Industry, Kenewndo plans to take Botswana from a middle-income country to a high-income country by 2036. Her experience as an expert on Industrial Policy Research and Analysis at United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), where she assisted in drafting the 2011 Industrial Development Policy for Botswana, has sufficiently equipped her and her ministerial position gives her a platform to achieve her goal as she works towards increasing trade and boosting local and Foreign Direct Investment in the country.
In October, the minister witnessed the partnership between Botswana’s leading conglomerate of transport and logistics company, Transport Holdings Group (TH) and Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), a partnership aimed at creating a conducive environment for local and foreign investment in the transport and logistics industry.
Politics and economics are not all Kenewendo has up her sleeves, she is also a skilled writer and a certified Project Manager. This talent she showcased in 2012 when she joined the WeekendPost Botswana as a Columnist to write a bi-weekly column on current and pressing economic issues, after which she became an Economist cum Consultant for a private sector company, Econsult Botswana (Pty) Ltd.
Her journey has led her to meet many people, some of whom she admires and have made mentors. Gaositwe Chiepe, Keith Jefferis and Kenewendo’s mother are among those the minister considers as role models. Chiepe is admired by Kenewendo because she is a trailblazer and has changed many through her work. Jefferis, on the other hand, is looked up to because he gave her a chance and nurtured her to be the person she is today.
Above all, Bogolo Kenewendo is an ardent worshipper of God, a practice she has carried on from childhood. Her name Bogolo is derived from a sentence ‘Bogolo jwa modimo’ meaning ‘The Greatness of God’, a name she says gives her the burst of energy to achieve greatness. When Kenewendo is not making investment, trade and industry decisions, she spends her time travelling, doing yoga, reading or even sipping a tall glass of wine with a friend.