African American in Africa: Paula in Botswana
Originally from Texas, Paula Brown along with her husband and son recently took a leap of faith, moved to Botswana and started their own company! Seven months in Paula shares how they were able to successfully break into Botswana's business scene!
Why did you and your family decide to move outside of the U.S.?
Our decision to move outside of the United States was a spiritual one. With the steady decline of basic morals and respect for human life… especially of African Americans, life in America was becoming more and more difficult to tolerate. I was becoming more afraid for the lives of my husband and 18-year-old son. We knew God was finally calling us back to the land of our fathers.
On Setting Up a Business in Botswana
Why did you choose to move to Francistown, Botswana specifically?
About two years ago, my husband and I began researching different countries in Africa. We were looking for countries with strong economic structure, peaceful government, low housing costs, and a structured immigration process.
We visited Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana last year. As we had never been to Africa before, we wanted to “see the land” and access our possibilities. Gaborone is a beautiful city filled with almost everything you would find in the States. There’s shopping, art, live entertainment, museums, restaurants, and a diverse population.
Since we were coming to Africa for investment and a change of lifestyle, we decided to reside in a smaller community. Francistown is the second largest city of Botswana and has a lot of plans for growth. We hope to be a part of this process.
What type of professional work are you doing in Botswana?
My husband and I both worked in providing technology services for an education service center in Texas. I am a graphic artist and my husband is an IT professional. It was only fitting for us to bring our skills to Botswana and create a business.
Our company is Ecubed Business Systems. We provide digital marketing for small companies and entrepreneurs. Our services range from promotional videos, web design, graphic design, and social media advertising.
While technology in Africa is slow, there is a strong interest for growth.
Can you share details on the process of immigrating to Botswana specifically as an investor? Was this a challenging process?
Our process of moving to Botswana as investors was filled with challenges and a lot of miscommunication! When we visited Botswana last year, we actually sat down and had meetings with officials about the investment and immigration process. We wanted a heads up on all business matters since we were going to be doing business in Africa. We found out that the systems in place for investors are for large investors only. Since we were small investors, we would have to manage ourselves.
The immigration process for a small investor in Botswana is very difficult; but not impossible! Honestly, I think the main hurdle is immigration knowing how to process investors when they first come into the country. We received conflicting information from the U.S. embassy and immigration (before we left the States). Consultants who are registered to help with the immigration process are not always honest or educated on the process for investors. What should have only taken a maximum of 2-3 months ended up taking 6-7 months! You just have to be patient and wait it out.
What lessons have you learned through immigrating and setting up a business in Botswana?
Actually, setting up the company was very easy. We now have a business with publically traded shares. Getting the work permits approved was the most difficult process.
The main lessons that I have learned in setting up a business in Botswana is to have patience, understand the process, network and ask questions, and know who to talk to in order to get things done!
Do you think moving to Botswana with the plans of being an entrepreneur is feasible for African Americans with this interest?
Very much so! Just do your homework first and come with an optimistic attitude. Even after all that we went through, I learned so much. Yes, you can come to Africa and work for a company as an employee, but that also comes with its drawbacks. Citizens will always get first priority on a job vacancy. If you are hired, your work permit will only be for the life of the job contract.
With just a little more investment and research, you could be a business owner. We tried to open our own business in the U.S. before. However, there were factors that we could not overcome like upfront capital investment, high competition in our field, discrimination from white clientele, and non-support from African American clientele.
On Living in Botswana
What do you love the most about life in Botswana so far?
We love the simplicity of life! The Batswana are so friendly and accepting. We live in peace now.
Please describe your housing and how much it costs on a monthly basis. How did you find your housing?
We live in a complex of 12 duplex units. Our home is a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom unit. Our monthly expenses for rent and utilities (electricity, Internet, water) runs to about 900 USD.
I started looking for housing about six months prior to moving. Most of the real estate agents post on Facebook so I was able to find an honest realtor who found listings for us. She had places for us to view as soon as we landed.
Advice for Others Considering a Continental Move
What tips can you share on how to financially prepare for a move to an African nation?
Be serious about your savings!
Set up a savings account that cannot be touched and devote a specified amount to it every month.
Eliminate or reduce unnecessary spending such as:
- Going out to lunch/dinner
- Going to the movies
- Hair and nail appointments
- Excessive shopping
- Cable/satellite TV packages (reduce to the basics)
- Cell phone bundles/packages (reduce to the basics)
- Seriously reduce holiday & special occasion spending
- Reduce to one vehicle if possible.
You won’t have all these “luxuries” in Africa. It is a good thing to adapt to a simpler way of living.
What advice would you give to someone interested in moving to an African nation but feeling overwhelmed by the idea of such a move?
The best thing to do that will put your mind at ease is to visit! Images that are shown by the media of what Africa is like are simply not true. Africa is a beautiful continent with a rich heritage that thrives in its people. Yes, there is poverty, but there is definitely poverty in America also!
Be sure within yourself to know and understand the “why” for your reason to come to Africa. Know what you are going to and what you are leaving behind. Understand that everyone will not understand your purpose… and be okay with that.
Is there somewhere we can follow your experience?
I am thinking about writing a book on our journey to Africa! Also, our website for Ecubed Business Systems is www.ecubedhost.com. You can also find us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ecubedbs/