The Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) is certainly worth looking into. It offers fiscal advantages including a low tax rate, tax and cash incentives for hiring and training graduate and other staff in Botswana, a beneficial regime when it comes to work and resident permits, and generous discounts on telecommunication costs. But why are the Botswana authorities making these facilities available?
Because Botswana has realised its mineral wealth isn’t infinite. Consequently, the government wants to ensure the economy is diversified. The country’s natural and geographical attributes are there to be used to investors’ advantage, which is why scientists and researchers in the region are being encouraged to network. This idea comes from a Finnish firm that consulted with the government and which has established numerous similar innovation hubs or technology parks throughout Europe.
The BIH itself is an aesthetically pleasing set of buildings close to the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport and was designed by a firm of architects from New York. It blends in with its surroundings and much of it is below ground. Like a university campus, it will house offices, laboratories, testing facilities and so on. A shared reception area will be available to smaller firms and manufacturers, and research and development businesses can also rent warehouse space.
The 440ha park will be a free-trade zone and will operate under the auspices of Botswana’s ministry of trade and industry.Although it’s acknowledged that firms want to protect their intellectual property, the BIH will facilitate technology sharing.
The five basic operational lines catered for are:
- information and communication technologies (ICT) and ICT-enabled services,
- mining technologies,
- energy and environment,
- the knowledge-intensive business services that support all this.
The BIH prefers a business registered with it to have a presence in the hub itself, such as an office at the least. But it also accepts that companies in the process of designing top-secret technology might want to set up a base in a more remote location – another major advantage of operating from Botswana. The tax rate for BIH companies is currently at 15%. Combined with the other advantages, that’s a very attractive rate.
And the fiscal advantages might well be improved in the future.BIH companies can also marry up their output to the tax-friendly Botswana International Financial Services Centre companies, which can propagate the results of the efforts of the BIH companies into the region and internationally.Funds generated by the firms that operate in Botswana can be repatriated or invested anywhere in the world.