In June 2016, Franchise Expo Botswana presented Botswana’s first ever franchise expo and summit. The expo itself was off to a slow start but the Franchise Summit was an outstanding success. Deliberations were interactive and lively. Most importantly, delegates gained a good understanding of the franchise mechanism. Feedback received after the event suggests that they are determined to become actively involved in franchising in the near future. Kurt Illetschko was there and submitted the following report.
Franchise Expo 2016
Sadly, the exhibition was a bit of a washout. About 15 exhibitors attended but not all of them offered franchise opportunities. Visitor numbers were low as well. During several periods throughout the two days the number of people manning the stands outnumbered visitor numbers.
The main problem was insufficient marketing but is being addressed. Fortunately, some of the exhibitors have sufficient foresight to recognise the potential of the event and negotiations with sponsors have commenced. Moreover, a local business magazine has indicated interest in running a series of articles on franchising during the period leading up to the next expo. There is indeed light at the end of the tunnel!
Franchise Summit 2016
The summit was an unqualified success. Based on advance bookings, the organisers had expected 100 delegates and made arrangements accordingly. However, about 120 people turned up on the day and extra chairs had to be found to accommodate them.
Although the programme focussed on franchising, general entrepreneurial topics were addressed as well. My presentation focussed on the advantages and disadvantages of franchising while local attorney Dr Bucs Molatlhegi spoke about the legal aspects of the concept. A talk on funding options for franchisees presented by James Noble of Barclays Africa followed.
Next on the agenda were presentations by several local entrepreneurs who had managed to build successful businesses from scratch, with virtually no capital of their own and no access to external funding. These entrepreneurs’ stories motivated me to assist local experts in the quest to create a professional franchise package on a shoestring budget. Only time can tell whether we’ll succeed.
Every presentation ended with a Q&A session. Questions posed indicated sound understanding of and a genuine interest in franchising. They also revealed that there are several existing local businesses that are ready to expand via the franchise route.
Disillusionment with the perceived closed shop policy
Most of the franchised brands that are represented in Botswana originate from South Africa. This is common knowledge and the delegates had no problem with it but questioned the fairness of the franchise model used. Most franchises are awarded to master licensees or area developers who then open a string of company-owned branches. The proverbial man in the street is effectively locked out.
Seen from the franchisor’s viewpoint, this model makes sense. However, it would boost the standing of franchising if some franchisors would link area development licences to the obligation to operate a mix of company-owned and franchised units. Indications are that funding for the establishment of franchises of credible brands would be available.
Botswana Franchise Association
In another promising development, Mr Moanamisi Gadile is busy forming the Franchise Association of Botswana. He attended the most recent meeting of the PAFF last April and indicated his desire to register FAB as a member soonest. PAFF in turn has expressed its willingness to render assistance wherever possible.
Although the relatively small size of the market and the vast distances between towns constitute veritable hurdles, potential for the development of franchising in Botswana does exist. This includes the development of some local franchise concepts which, in time, could be exported into the rest of the southern African region and beyond. Anyone wishing to explore the franchise scene in Botswana is welcome to contact me regarding the contacts I have established there. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.