Founder of Business Woman Africa and the organization’s President, Gonaya Monei Sethora, a 24 year old holds a degree from the New Era University College of Arts, Science and Technology, Botswana. She is the former first female SRC President of New Era University College of Arts, Science and Technology and a member of the Commonwealth Youth Alliance for Young Entrepreneurs Africa Executive Committee (CAYA-Africa) appointed by the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Gonaya Monei Sethora is the Botswana National Director of International Youth Parliament and former Regional Finance Director of Southern Africa students and Youth Development Association. She has been awarded the best youth in leadership and best female youth of the year at the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture Development and Botswana National Youth Awards 2019.
Gonaya has worked with the African Union and certain United Nations organs. She has a proven track record of organizing successful youth and leadership development workshops and seminars that has afforded most young people in Botswana the opportunity to work with international organizations such as the African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
She talks to Afripreneur Conference about her leadership journey and leadership in the continent of Africa.
What was your journey like to get where you are?
My journey has been one of the most challenging as I had to balance between school and as an entrepreneur and it was not an easy flow. I had a vision then, and the vision was to be one of the recognized young female entrepreneurs in Botswana before the age of 25 and by that, I had to find strategies to win both sides.
How did you build your personal reputation?
It all started in 2016 when I became the first ever female SRC President of my University. I took advantage of the spotlight and didn’t waste the opportunity.I was speaking on platforms student issues and students entrepreneurship as a way to tackle unemployment in Botswana. I realized for me to be heard and taken serious, I had to be an entrepreneur so I registered a Civil Engineering Construction Company. I was wining government tenders and was subcontracting them to companies at the age of 22. That was enough to give me confidence to speak on student entrepreneurship and that motivated other students to be students entrepreneurs.
Can you share a brief about your organization, Business Woman Africa, what services does it render to its clientele?
Business Woman Africa aims to drive African countries economies forward by promoting entrepreneurship education accessible to African women in business for opportunities of business interest within the government offices, private sector and international business. We offer the following services;
Support young Entrepreneurs in setting up and developing their own businesses.
Support young Entrepreneurs in successfully overcoming the initial challenges of starting a business and growing a profitable and sustainable enterprise.
We realized young entrepreneurs often lack access to markets and investments opportunities and as a result, Business Woman Africa; identify markets and opportunities, and creates entry points for youth led enterprises along identified value chains.
We also facilitate creation of networks, business and supply chain linkages.
And finally, we contribute towards the formulation of policies that recognize and protect women in business with decision-makers.
You have been at the forefront of leadership since your school days having been elected as the first female SRC President of New Era University College of Arts, Science and Technology, Botswana. How did that happen?
When I started my studies, I was close to the school management and later made relations with Education Training Providers including the Ministry of Education and others. I wanted to be sure I was in the right place and doing the right thing, and during my second year, I felt like there were some issues that were not going to favour us as students after having completed University and I wanted them to be addressed. I decided to stand for elections and bring those issues to the attention of students because to a large extent, majority of students were not aware of those issues. I campaigned on those issues and they trusted me when I pinpointed out the issues and their dangers to them. It was a tough race as I was only 21 years then competing with a 28 year old. But in the end, it was not about age, I seemed to have a more appealing message, louder and powerful voice than my competitor.The student body believed l could address the issues and they elected me and I became the first female SRC President of New Era University in history and this was in 2016.
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader, maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
The former first female President of Liberia, H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has had a major impact on me. During my first ever visit to AU headquarters, I met her in that meeting of African heads of state and I had a conversation with her and she said to me; “Don’t hurry to be an employee, for the fact that you are in this meeting it means you are extraordinary.Take that one idea you have to change the world and try it first before even getting a job with the AU if you wish to”. She has been a mentor, a mother and one of the best women I ever met supporting young women and making sure they get “safe” spaces within the African Union organs.
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What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
Actually, they are two in my opinion; team capacity building and ability to create new leaders.
How would you describe leadership on African continent today?
I think a prescriptive and transformative leadership in African nation states is lacking as the leadership in Africa tends to be more like a transactional leadership whereby the leaders tend to look out and after themselves at the expense of their people.
Africa is in need of a vibrant, active and articulate middle class that is fully engaged in civics and in holding leadership on the continent to account for how governance is effected. This resource curse which ensures direct funding to the leadership elites perpetuates leadership to continue in this full disconnect from civil society.
What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today, especially in an African continent?
The biggest challenge for Africa at the present moment is lack of being united as one.This feels like a Bob Marley song but understanding why, is key. Africa is the richest continent by far but it has become dependent on the first world when it should be the other way round.
What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
I am reinvesting in profitable projects. I believe that you cannot grow without funding in your organization and it is very important to reinvest so that you can keep the organization operating and sponsor your future projects. I am also building a wide network world wide.
What are you most proud of?
All that I have archived to date make me proud.The lives of young women I have touched world wide, the impact I have made in the social community at large and the appreciated contributions I have put at the decision makers table representing my fellow African youth.
How do you measure success for you as a leader?
I think it starts with when one can be able to afford themselves basic needs and most importantly, able to reach beyond themselves and give a helping hand to another person in terms of sponsorship or sharing an opportunity that will change someone’s life for the better and that is success for me especially in line with my work.
Tell us about your experience having worked with the African Union and certain Commonwealth organs?
The opportunity to meet and work with people from different walks of life and culture.
This has been an amazing experience and overwhelming for me but as a young woman, it needs much discipline. Discipline to remain humble and not get carried away with pride and arrogance.
Do you see yourself as a role model?
Business Woman Africa has University Chapters around Botswana registered as clubs under the extracurricular regulations so by that I am a role model. The energy and excitement these young ladies possess during club activities, you could see they believe that it can also be possible for them to achieve their dreams.
What are the most significant constituents that make Botswana business culture more unique from other African countries?
Botswana enjoys a stable political environment, good governance and low perception of corruption.
What do you do to relax?
I cook to relax. I love cooking so much.
You will be speaking at Africa Entrepreneur Conference later this year.Why is it important for female entrepreneurs to attend this conference?
Yes. I feel honoured to be speaking at this prestigious event. I am happy to say I will be. It is an excellent opportunity to interact and hear from various demographics in Africa their successes and failures in business. I believe it is one of the greatest platforms created also to recognize entrepreneurs around the African continent.
What has been your greatest career disappointment? What did you learn from it?
Gender inequality.There are still men in high positions that think it still fine and normal to abuse women before they can appreciate or recognize them for their hardwork.
What are a few resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insights into becoming a better leader?
Build and invest in yourself first so that you make your own money. Despite that, it is very important as you will be building networks in your career. People invest in those they trust.
If you could meet any African leader from the present or past, who would it be? What would you ask if you had the opportunity to ask only one question?
I will gladly like to meet Rwandan President, H.E. Paul Kagame and ask him how he managed to control the political cultural transformation of his country. The current unity of Rwandese is amazing after all that happened to them and I am certainly sure the same unity also contributed to the major development of modern day Rwanda.
If you were to advise African leaders, what would be the key priorities you would recommend for dealing with poverty and unemployment?
My key priorities would be;
Firstly, they have to deal with the issue of misuse of resources within government entities.
Secondly, involvement of youth in everything and make a commitment at the country-level implementation of global and regional declarations, agendas and strategies.That they should invest in the socioeconomic empowerment and political representation, participation, leadership, involvement and meaningful engagement of young people and women. They should ensure Science, technology and inclusive innovation through education, would be a national agenda and commit to the prioritization of the health and wellbeing agenda of every woman, every child and every adolescent.
They should make commitment for the protection of human rights of all citizens and non-nationals. Ensuring their nations understand the constitution and relative laws and call for policies that are more responsive, inclusive, holistic for everyone.
They should encourage youth-led entrepreneurship, intercontinental trade, and infrastructural development by investing in holistic quality rural and township development. And most importantly, they should serve and not rule.
What will be your advise for African youths aspiring into leadership positions on the continent?
My greatest advice is that when you are given the seat at the decision makers table let us represent our fellow youths on issues affecting them.