Cooking Up Comfort Food in Botswana

Kgosi's Story

Kgosi is typical of many people who live and work in the city of Gaborone. They grew up in the country and then moved to the capital to find work. Most eat breakfast and lunch near their workplaces. This has created an opportunity for many women micro-entrepreneurs to open restaurants in caravans, which are similar to vacation trailers that families in the United States might use to go camping.

A woman must do several things to open such a restaurant. First she needs to buy a caravan. Most are purchased in neighboring South Africa. Because of the cost of the caravans, women often have to borrow money from parents or family members, and some have to save money for years before they can afford one. The caravan must then be converted into a restaurant. Most caravans come with a small stove and a cooler already installed. The women hire someone to build shelves for dishes and racks to hold the gas tanks needed to fuel the stove.

Finally, a woman must find a place to park her caravan. Any place where many people work and shop is a good location. After choosing a good spot, the owner removes the caravan’s wheels, creating an instant street-side restaurant. At most caravans, people eat outside under a canvas canopy, sitting on plastic chairs at plastic patio tables to enjoy a meal that reminds them of home.

Caravan Owners

Successful caravan owners can make enough money to repay their loans and then expand their business. Some save up enough money to buy a small truck, making it easier to purchase supplies in South Africa, where prices are usually lower.

As their businesses grow, some women who own caravans are able to hire workers, usually family members who help cook, clean, and transport supplies. Some of these micro-entrepreneurs also create opportunities for other women who want to start their own businesses. For example, a restaurant owner might prepare "box lunches" for another woman to sell in a different part of the city. This financial arrangement benefits both women.

The families of these micro-entrepreneurs receive many benefits. Some of the relatives get jobs. Many of the women use the money they make to send their children to school. Some have even been able to purchase land and build homes.

Micro-entrepreneurs are not only changing their communities—they are also improving their nations. The people of Botswana, and other African nations such as Uganda and Mali, benefit from the new jobs that are created when micro-entrepreneurs start their new businesses. This helps increase economic development and increase the nations’ GDP.