TechnoServe Launches Business Plan Competition for Swazi Tourism Operators

Latest Believe Begin Become competition aims to foster growth in Swaziland's blossoming tourism industry

FEBRUARY 20, 2008 — Mbabane, Swaziland - In preparation for the FIFA World Cup to be held in neighbouring South Africa in 2010, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), TechnoServe and local sponsors officially launched the Believe Begin Become tourism business plan competition today at the Mountain Inn. This programme, which combines business training with cash prizes for the best business concepts, will help Swazi tourism enterprises get ready for business opportunities associated with this international event.

Keynote speaker, Mr. Mahandra Naidoo of MATCH, FIFA’s key service provider, stressed the significance of the 2010 World Cup to the Swazi tourism sector.

"The World Cup provides an unprecedented opportunity to market the region and the continent to a global audience. In particular, MATCH through its tour operator and accommodation contracting activities provides a unique vehicle through which to showcase Swaziland’s abundant tourism assets to the world. It is an opportunity that Swaziland should not miss,” Naidoo said.

The event brought together stakeholders in the tourism industry including representatives of the Ministry of Tourism, Communications and Environment, the Swaziland Tourism Authority, the U.S. Embassy and over 50 Swazi tourism operators.

"The 2010 FIFA World Cup is an exciting opportunity for countries like Swaziland,” said TechnoServe Country Director Leslie Johnston. Swaziland has a lot to offer - a rich culture, strong traditions and values, stunning mountains, and open and friendly people. “However, in order to benefit from the thousands of people expected to visit Southern Africa, Swazi tourism operators need to improve their linkages with their South African counterparts. The 2008 Believe Begin Become programme can help by linking at least 30 Swazi operators with experienced tourism mentors from the South African tourism industry.”

Believe Begin Become is a competitive entrepreneurship development programme implemented by TechnoServe that identifies promising entrepreneurs and assists them in creating sustainable businesses. Qualifying entrepreneurs receive intensive business training, personal coaching, and assistance in writing compelling business plans as well as the opportunity to interact with a network of entrepreneurs and compete for cash prizes.

With the core support of USAID, TechnoServe first launched Believe Begin Become in Swaziland in 2006 as a national business plan competition and entrepreneurship development programme. This year, the programme is focusing on a specific industry - tourism - and encouraging existing tourism operators to enter in order to grow their own businesses.

Key to the success of this year’s Believe Begin Become is TechnoServe’s partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group. TechnoServe has combined the Believe Begin Become training on business fundamentals with the IFC’s practical tourism training through its SMART (SME Market Access to Regional Tourism) programme.

According to Adrienne Harris, IFC Program Manager, “The SMART program was developed to provide SMEs with access to the growing market of internet users through the travel website, (http://www.whl.travel). In addition, technical assistance is given to these small tourism operators to ensure that they are able to provide a competitive offering to the global market.”

The programme would not be possible without the support of the American people. The United States’ Ambassador to Swaziland, Maurice Parker, said that the U.S. government is committed to improving the lives of the Swazi people.

"Tourism can be a significant economic catalyst in even the most rural parts of Swaziland. By helping to strengthen the country’s existing tourism companies, we hope to improve the quality, quantity and diversity of Swaziland’s tourism offerings. This will, in turn, bring more tourists to the country, which will create more jobs and income for the Swazi people,” he said.

The application period was launched today and will remain open until 4 April 2008. Applicants must be Swazi or Swazi permanent residents, at least 18 years old, and have an existing tourism business in order to compete in one of the four categories. Each applicant should demonstrate in his/her three-page business summary how (s)he intends to expand or innovate his/her business:

Accommodation (B&Bs, hotels, tented camps, etc.)
Attractions (cultural villages, rock paintings, handcraft stands, etc.)
Activities (caving, boating, quad biking, etc.)
Tour operators
A fifth category - Innovation - is open to any aspiring entrepreneur with a good tourism business idea who meets the minimum criteria. Five cash prizes of E75 000 will be awarded to the entrepreneur in each category with the most compelling, innovative and viable concept. Each of the Top 10 finalists will also receive E20 000 in business support services (such as accounting, marketing, advertising and training) and the opportunity to feature their business on the new Swazi tourism website: www.swazitravel-link.co.sz which was presented today by Swazi Trail’s Darron Raw.

Interested applicants are encouraged to access the eligibility criteria, rules and application form online at www.believe-begin-become.com or to pick up the full application guide from the TechnoServe office on the 4th Floor of Lilunga House, Mbabane.

About TechnoServe: TechnoServe helps entrepreneurial men and women in the developing world to build businesses that provide jobs, income and economic opportunity. Since its founding in 1968, the U.S.-based nonprofit has helped to create or improve more than 2,000 businesses, benefiting millions of people in more than 30 countries. TechnoServe has been recognized as one of the world's "Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs" by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. A 2007 Financial Times survey rated TechnoServe as one of the world's top five non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for corporate partnerships.

About USAID: The American people, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, have provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for nearly 50 years. USAID is an independent federal government agency that receives overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State. USAID supports long-term and equitable economic growth and advances U.S. foreign policy objectives by supporting 1) economic growth, agriculture and trade; 2) global health; 3) democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance. With headquarters in Washington, D.C., USAID's strength is its field offices around the world. USAID works in close partnership with private voluntary organizations, indigenous organizations, universities, American businesses, international agencies, other governments, and other U.S. government agencies. USAID has working relationships with more than 3,500 American companies and over 300 U.S.-based private voluntary organizations. http://www.usaid.gov