Chicco Marlon Mokhe Interview

Please tell us about yourself.

I am Chicco Marlon Mokhe(25 years old). I hail from Kang, a small but rapidly growing village in Kgalagadi North. Although I spent most of my childhood in Gaborone, my heart is warmed by knowing that my roots are fully traceable! I did my junior and senior secondary education in Ledumadumane CJSS and St Josephs College from 2002- 2006 collectively.  I then swiftly moved to Malaysia (South-East Asia) where I did my Bsc(Hons) Software Engineering with Multimedia at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology; Cyberjaya campus. I completed this four year course in 2011 with a distinction. This was after choosing information technology over a law degree I was offered in University of Botswana. I quickly found my identity in the technology arena and its ferocious dynamism. With ICT, your thinking is re-invented every minute, literally! I still strongly believe in the noble profession that is law.

My first taste of the more nobler assignment that is leadership was back in Ledumadumane where I was a prefect (just a prefect!) and the leader of a more disciplinary inclined Student Affairs Management Team (SAMT). My first ever speech was during a form-3 completion farewell dinner. One nototious teacher Mr Mosetlhi brought the “bad news” in an intonation of a command; “you will be giving a speech tomorrow” to me when I was relaxed, enjoying my typical Tswana medium lunch that day. At night, I watched the ceiling as the night and time sped by like I was up in line to a hang-man’s noose. Ne ke bone story! (laughs!)

On the day, I stuttered on my first few lines only to be spurred on by constant applause from the audience. I had done it! Rre Mosetlhi saw something in me that I was never aware of. He believed in me when I did not even have a clue that I had to do it for myself. For that I shall squeeze in a shout-out to him. I hope he is still showing young Batswana- wherever he is- what they are supposed to be to this reverential nation.  It was after this humble experience that i felt a sudden need to be and do more for the other person beyond just myself. I used words that day but soon I got the realization that I needed to DO much more that just speak.  Leadership felt like what other people deem as a “calling”. In St Joe- as affectionately known; I was the school headboy. My calling was beginning to catch up with me! It was in tertiary where I decided to avoid “politics” altogether and drive my focus solely to my scholarly duties and this turned out to be equally rewarding.

 Tell us more about TakingITGlobal society. Are you part of any other organisation?

T.I.G is a web-based interaction platform for young change agents all over the world who share experiences, bring forth solutions to global problems and advancements in socio-economic, geo-political, preventive strategies to diseases and war, global charitable campaigns and many more. T.I.G emphasizes the need to influence lives from behind your PC or laptop from your small comfort zone at one corner of the world. This is a platform which extends my duties well outside the borders of my own country because in the now era, global citizenry beckons. It warms my heart to be able to influence a positive precedence with and in young people as far as Nepal (instantaneous case) by simply moving the muscles of my hands! Geographical issues are nullified altogether because we cannot continue to use distances and borders between us as an alibi not to touch and move lives. We have all witnessed the abundance of possibily brought about by social media with regard to the Arab Spring. Young people from all regions of the world lead to a litany of leadership changes using media such Facebook and many others in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen and what is currently happening in Syria. I believe former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak curses the day Facebook was conceived!

I am currently also involved with another international organization called One Young World. This org boasts one of the largest multi-cultural youth involvement arena outside of the Olympics. In 2011, I got sponsorship from MTN Group (a telecommunications company) together with other 23 youths from all over Africa to represent Botswana at the 2nd annual One Young World youth summit in Zurich, Switzerland. It was after this summit that I assumed the role of O.Y.W-Ambassador in Botswana. My role is to initiate, mobilize and help sustain local youth empowerment initiatives and campaigns in Botswana and liaise directly with O.Y.W-Africa Headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa. This also means I voice the stance of young Batswana in all O.Y.W platforms regarding international youth issues such as leadership, social entrepreneurship, ICT, health, environment, academic development etc.

O.Y.W boasts some of the world’s most high-profile tireless citizens and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates as its Counsellors such as former US president Bill Clinton, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate- shared with the UN in 2001), BBC celebrity chef jamie Oilver, Sir Bob Geldof, Muhammad Yunus (Nobel Peace Prize Laurate), Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate), singer and song writer Joss Stone and many other global corporate executives. I had never thought I could ever share a platform with these prominent citizens of the world. To be able to shoulder this mammoth responsibility on behalf of my generation is indeed an honour I can never be able to reciprocate. OYW went on to host another youth summit in Pittsburgh, USA in 2012. This years’ summit shall be hosted just across the border in Johannesburg- South Africa, 2- 5th October 2013.

I am a founder and president a youth organization dubbed “Young Achievers Botswana” in 2011 which endeavors to empower the younger generations of Botswana in corporate leadership affairs, entrepreneurial skills development, business establishing, innovative & progressive business idea generation, financial literacy (in private & public academic institutions), narrowing of the divide between corporate firms through building collaborative platforms, business funding institutions, the youths and international youth business institutions.

We are in talks to collaborate with Global Business Labs,a Swedish business incubation org based locally at the University of Botswana Faculty of Business. This collaboration is focussing on the need to open European markets and beyond through GBL contacts to our small youth-owned entrepreneurial ventures. Nowadays to have anything done significantly, networking forms a very large piece of the “cause- effect” puzzle. Through the mother organization Young Achievers Botswana, we continue to extend our hands to the rest of SADC & Africa as an outreach strategy to the rest of the world. I am proud to say our efforts have and continue to bear fruit.

What drives you?

More than anything, it is the passion and the love for what I do. I never have a boring day because as I continue to meet and converse with other youths (physically and online), my life get re-shaped and re-calibrated with each experience. I know its cliché but its very true. “love what you do and you’d never have to work a day in your life”. Somebody new they were onto something with this statement. I can testify and its my wish that a lot of today’s youth can find something to one day testify to the world about.

My family. These are the people I go back to at the end of a hectic day and I am trully blessed to have them. They are always on my speed dial. They have find it in their hearts to accommodate a free-thinking being that I am. I find my strength in their presence. I could write a book about how pivotal they have been to my cause.

The lives I touch. Doing some of the simplest acts as smiling to a stranger can instantly transform their day to an upward trajectory. Standing on a podium infront of expecting ears and hearts is a duty well above any human being’s pay grade. I have read so many books but the experience is not the same when the message is delivered from soul to soul. For any person seeking to be a change maker, touch somebody’s life. You do not have to have Carlos Slim-Helu amount of riches to donate tangible items to Somalia. Dedicate a short message to them on your blog, Facebook page, Tweet, Youtube channel etc. It could be all you are needed to do.

I usually read life-changing books on quiet days. My phone has a long list of ebooks that I have read and yet to read. This is where I have come across books like: Acres of Diamonds- Russell Conwell, The Science of Influence- Kevin Hogan, Think & Grow Rich- Napoleon Hill, Negotiate to Win- Jim Thomas, Habit Busting- Pete Cohen and many others. I am currently reading “The Intelligent Investor”- Benjamin Graham described by Warren Buffet as; By far the best book on investing ever written”. Ebooks come in handy when you are on that long bus ride to Kgalagadi or any geographically distant place you could afford time to travel to.

Can you tell us about some of your achievements?

I received an award for “Best in Mobile Programming” from Hewlett-Packard- Malaysia in 2011 after successful research and development of an Augmented Reality mobile application based on a Nokia mobile software platform. Augmented Reality Logo Analyser (ARELA). This was a final year major project.

I am currently sit on the Board of Directors of a local software development giant Codeplan Incorporated as Managing Director. Codeplan Inc plans to be to Africa what Microsoft is to the world of computing. We offer software solutions to individuals, private firms, parastatals and the government. Software consultancy, mobile appilcations, custom software, cloud computing, web-presence management, server security, hardware optimization, database management and software licensing. Our Research & Development (R&D) department periodically hosts “Hackerthorn” events to encourage young technology specialists to research, develop and launch groundbreaking ideas and innovative products.

I also headed a team that organized the annual Young Achievers Botswana’s “Youth Business Summit-2012”. This is statistically presently the single biggest youth-led national business initiative in the country. The next summit is scheduled for November-2013. This summit expands Y.A.B mandate by consistently planning, organizing and hosting national youth empowerment activities in collaboration with various stakeholders suh as Botswana National Youth Council, Ministry of Youth, Sport & Culture, local business funding and mentoring institutions such as CEDA, LEA, KBL-Kickstart, the Indigo Trust (United Kingdom), One Young World and many other local youth organizations. The summit serves as platform for announcement of newer funding opportunitities, quirying existing frameworks, exhibitions of products from various youth businesses.

Y.A.B shall be announcing the monthly ‘Young Entrepreneurs’ Exchanges’ soon. Preparations are at an advanced stage. These every end of month round-table entrepreneurial dialogues shall bring together Botswana’s business success stories, CEOs & Managing Directors, consultants, private companies, youth companies, investors, funding institutions and young people with efforts geared at levelling the business playing field. The Y.E.E shall be the “Main Kgotla” of Botswana’s corporate cycles side-by-side with the youths. It is not exclusive. Anyone can join. I will leave my contact details at the end of the interview.

It should be known that personal achievements alone do not make for a successful life if the plate of the person sitting next to you has nothing to show. I have therefore made it my lifelong goal to pull with me 10 or more hands and venture into self-fulfillment and personal discovery. My elders preach “Tshwaragano & Neelano”. I would have failed them and the world if my life endeavors do not eternally inscribe these morals on my footsteps.

I therefore have no business sitting and talking about my achievements if I do not build progressive platforms to help the youths of Botswana to sit in boardrooms to do business. Watch a colony of ants carefully, if ever they do talk, then you have never heard them do it. All you have ever seen is relenteless back and forth movement; DOING! I have a Christian upbringing and it does not harm to count your blessings once under a bright moon, but it should not be all you are known to do. You have all the time to rock your chair and do it when you are 75 years old!

Any young idea generator, mentor, leader and youth empowerment advocate out there, wherever life has taken you, Botswana has never needed you more than it does this second,this hour, today! Your involvement can be indirectly through local institutions. Any predicament has its fine tuned solution. You just have to make one.

“Anything your mind can conceive and believe, you can DO.”- Napoleon Hill (Think & Grow Rich).

chicco 2

Are there any challenges that you have faced in your journey and how did you deal with them?

Challenges in my line of work can be very emotionally scarring and discomforting, but I live with a notion that ; “in any business endeavor, leave your feelings and emotions at home”. It is the best thing you can ever do to yourself.

Problems I face everyday are not any different from those faced by other youths. Try walking around Gabs knocking on doors of ministries, departments, private companies, societies and individuals soliciting sponsorship to represent the nation at one international convention or summit. Chances are you won’t even make it to the CEOs’ office! This problem resonates with a lot of local youths and its the one most detrimental to many youthful ambitions as many young people simply give up. With my experience with organizing the Youth Business Summit, we managed to amass a lot of support from corporate structures because we knocked & knocked on their offices until our fingers went numb. Other local stakeholders jumped into our small boat after seeing others getting involved. A very familiar Botswana story.

A truly burning passion and desire should never be extinguished by a couple of shortsighted “NO” without itself becoming suspect. A single “No” should instead fuel you to continue to be more relentless. Not many people will understand your vision at first, but that last door you did not give yourself another chance to knock on could have been the breakthrough you have been looking for. Thomas A. Edison failed close to 10 thousands times before he made the light bulb. One of the world’s greatest inventions. Temporary defeat only becomes permanent failure when you let a few obstacles stop you.

I personally recommend a book called “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. It vividly describes the scenario I just outlined to you.

Friendship. It can be a blessing and unecessary all at some time. Really! I have been involved in a lot of project brainstorming with people I consider my friends only to realise that some people are meant to be “just your friends” not business-partners or platoon members in your quest to conquer the world. Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing your futuristic ideas with a cycle of friends, you might need to look beyond that cycle in order to get actual traction in whatever you want to do. All I do these days is go online, throw a few ideas around and the results have been phenomenal because not only do you get local youths interested, youths from all over the world can share similar philosophies with you. Facebook might ask how you are doing today,  I usually just login to tell “what I’m doing” instead! As I mentioned earlier, anything is possible with the internet. LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ etc are where you should be looking for co-drivers when you are at your wits’ end.

The quest to get busy. I am one person who over-streaches myself until my own personal life starts to falter. I am constantly dealing with chronic- fatique. Friendships I have worked hard to keep tend to dissipate with time. Yes, I am very much aware of this and absolutely no excuse is available to me! This is one challenge I am still dealing with and currently seeking professional help to unravel. It might not be medical now, but if I don’t act quickly, it might just get there. CEOs need personal assistants for a reason. If you are well placed to get one, do not hesitate. Somebody needs that job.

What do you think are the major challenges that young people in Botswana face and what do you think can be done about them?

“Challenges,problems, hurdles, impediments…” This is all catastrophic language I try to break affinity with. The sub-conscious mind has a quick propensity to store those than general positivity. Blaming the government, others and everything that lives never sulvaged any dire situation. I normally just focus on what works well for the initiative, the team and myself. It would however be ignorant of me to not appreciate and confront problems a lot of us face in our adventures.

Project implementation. This problem is also synonymous with most government initiatives. Our government and other empowered institutions are doing an apalling task when enforcing Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR should be an inherent responsibility accompanying business establishment. Once you are in business, of whatever form, you are automatically endebted to the people living around your business not just your clientelle. Y.A.B has therefore found it fitting to shoulder the responsibility of explicitly outlining CSR on any initiative we are involved with. CSR in Botswana is quickly establishing itself as an activity coming into play only when donating blankets (or packets of sweets,if you will!) during winters. Business owners cannot continue to wait for winters (& accompanying the president) to be seen to be involved. Life is not seasonal!

Lack of Collaboration. The idea of “going it alone” has been troubling our youths for many years now and it is one of the reasons why well thought out projects and initiatives hardly reach their core objectives as far as general public mobilization and outreaches are concerned. The sooner we join hands from our varied disciplines and mandates to make robust moves towards human capacity development starting with our generation, the more we pave the road for wider national objectives. We always as Y.A.B, whenever presented with the chance, emphasize the need for unity. Our political echelons of power are showing no unison, and it would be detrimental to our future if we opt to go the same route. With our varying experiences and disciplines, there is no slight doubt about what we are collectively capable of. I still believe there is time to forge collaborative platforms through.

There is also a general necessity to forget the spotlight and work. People who appreciate the work you have dedicated your life to doing shall come forth to commend your selflessness, nevetheless. If it’s spotlight, it shall come in its own time. Although it sure feels good and it is good to make news headlines for the all the delicate tasks we do sometimes. We cannot let them rubberstamp our cause for it doesn’t come from any indvidual outside of ourselves, its turmoil we should never glance at a watch when doing it. The media can make and break you as quickly as it came at the sound of your drum beat. Lets place the turmoil that comes with humanity first. This is the same advice I am always glad to digest.

We should remember to also pray when the going gets too much to bear. Our God lives!

These are the two quotes I live by. Maybe they could make you ponder on a few things.

“We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.’- Albert Einstein

“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”- Colin Powell

What are your plans for the next 5 years?

I have plans to make Codeplan Inc. sysnonymous with the rest of the African continent as a long term strategy. Africa does not only have immense potential from resources dug out of her, the ICT roadmap is still very much up for the taking. Penetrating Africa’s three largest ICT markets of South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria with our products and services is well within our core market placement strategy. This unexhausted exercise is taxing as equally as it is extremely rewarding. I say “extremenly rewarding” because as I mentioned, the feeding your subconscious mind with the seeds of posibility is quite important.  The Internet resources are still very elusive to the African population even in my own backyard Botswana.  This is where we shall look to form foreign partnerships to make tech services and products affordable to our target markets. Establishing substantial online presence is key to reaching a good number of Codeplan objectives. We have several Internet based projects in the pipeline to be run con-currently. Unfortunately I can now only give a more generalised perspective of our online growth stance as per company short term procedure.

Looking at current Botswana statistics, mobile and Internet subscriptions have been on an exponetial upsurge. The Internet has had a 132.2% growth whereas mobile subscriptions rose at 6.3% in the 2011-2012 period. In 20111, mobile cellular usage grew from 2 900 263 to 3 081 726 in 2012. For Codeplan, these are some good news because a sluggish market growth provides more headaches than an up-spiralling one.

I have my sights on diversifying my entreprenurial endeavours and portolio from ICT to other areas such as insurance, real estate, logistics and electronic billboards services. These projects have been envisaged with a few SADC-wide connections I have and currently still building. I have a desire to aggressively pursue serial entrepreneurship because as I said, Africa is still very hungry for ground breaking and state of the art product development and service provision. Existing markets are not heavily congested and more markets are opening up as major companies look to enter the African business diaspora. A spetacle of incessant hostile takeovers shall be the order of the day in the next 10-15 years in this very African soil. For young entrepreneurs like myself and for Botswana, our resolve and forte shall be felt.

As usual, Young Achievers Botswana has a lot of scheduled projects to be run for well over 5-years. This is because as we build more collaborative platforms, our mandate grows beyond Botswana borders. SADC- Entrepreneurial Innovation Bootcamp is scheduled for February 2014. Y.A.B is collaborating with South Africa’s ZAYRAH. An org involved with socio-economic development and empowerment of youths in Fragile States. ZAYRAH is also the organizer of East African Business Summit. More partneships shall be announced before the end of 2013. The event is to be hosted in Gaborone and this is one of many opportunities we shall continue to bring to young Batswana.

The bootcamp shall run for a week bringing a maximum total of 30 SADC’s most enterprising young entrepreneurs. Voting for bootcamp entrants and delegates shall be done publicly in individual countries.  This shall not be another talk-only forums our leaders have been running for decades. For the first time, there will be strong emphasis on a gender-balanced international platform.  Promotion of SADC wide youth business collaborations, innovative idea-to- concept developments ( launching actual products and services), ICT, familiarizing of young entrepreneurs with internation business practices, ethics and ethos, building of internationally competitive young SADC corporate leaders, corporate governance, Corporate Social Responsibility promotion, gender-balanced business operations etc.

I have no immediate future plans of moving away from the Botswana unless its business related. I believe my acres of diamonds are on the very soils I am very familiar with and I shall keep digging for them. Progressive emancipation of Batswana is my lifelong charge.

You’re such a huge inspiration and I believe there is a lot young people can learn from you. How can they get in touch with you?

Facebook: Chicco Fizz Marlon Sr (Drop an inbox then we can take it from there).

Twitter: @ChiccoFizMarlon

I am always appreciative of making new connections and expanding my base. I’m therefore very thankful of the opportunity you have presented to me.

What advice do you have for young people in Botswana?

I wont say much. A lot has been said by people before me, during my time and I know a lot shall be said even when im no more.

To any avid, enterprising, change agent and ambitious young citizen of Botswana (& Africa). FIND SOMETHING YOU LOVE AND DO IT. Do it like its your alibi to existence. Do it like your life finds sense in it because one day you shall be remembered by all of it. If its seeming too out of reach, find someone who can lift you till you reach it. Go ahead and believe in something. Your life depends on it!.

I know we might not all be fanatics of reading but this book could prove invaluable to you. Find and make time. Its zero excuse straight talk smacked some sense into me.

‘Think & Grow Rich’- Napoleon Hill

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