The Tech and STEM pioneer of Botswana

The goal is to have a national coding competition where all the students will come to Gaborone and showcase their projects. 

Captain Kgomotso Phatsima is best known in Botswana for her pioneering work as one of the few women pilots in the country. Her career began in the military, and she diligently worked her way up to becoming a real force to be reckoned with. 

Captain Phatsima’s work as a pilot and her passion for youth development led her to discover that there were very few girls who were adept at – or even interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, which are key for the aerodynamics space.

Not only are STEM subjects integral for becoming a pilot, or engaging in the aerospace industry, they are also essential for the development of human capital and the future of business in Botswana, Africa, and the world.

She founded the Dare to Dream Foundation (of which she is the President) in 2008 which deals with the advancement of youth, women and girls in STEM, aviation and aerospace as well as entrepreneurship development, with the intention to get young people interested in STEM-preneurship and the aviation and aerospace business.

Connect with Kgomotso Phatsima and her business on social media.

Why I founded Dare to Dream…

When I was growing up, I never had the chance to sit like this with a pilot or get into an airplane until I had the chance to fly one.

After I qualified as a pilot, I sat down and thought: ‘What can I do to give the upcoming generation – especially those who grew up in a village, like me – an opportunity to do that?’.

I started Dare to Dream to give back to the community and to try and open up their eyes to opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to.

On the ‘barrier’ to girls’ entry into STEM & traditionally ‘female/male-dominated’ subjects…

I will talk about myself and my own experience here.

When I told my parents that I want to fly and be a pilot, my mother said ‘In our time, a girl could never fly a plane. You cannot be a soldier!’

Sometimes it goes back to our upbringing and the culture. A girl must be domestic, and boys also have prescribed activities.

So we separate ourselves from engaging in these things. The same mindset goes on to say that ‘Some things are hard, and are only for men’, like piloting or engineering.

With some of our families, their backgrounds are what can hinder the involvement of girls in certain subjects and limit girls to certain careers.

But as the times and technologies change, and with other women and organizations such as ours showing that it’s possible, there is more of an acceptance that you can be and do anything you want.

Is Africa / Botswana in a good position to keep up with the world’s “breakneck’ speed?

I think so because the demographic dividend of the youth in Africa indicates that young people make up most of Africa at 60 percent.

I think that the whole of Africa is at a good advantage to participate in the technological changes that are taking place right now.

There are a lot of young people who are interested in technology. I also think that Batswana are in a good position to take advantage of what is happening.

We just need to channel the youth in the right direction to take advantage of the technological era, and prepare them for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the businesses of tomorrow, which will be different from the businesses of today.

How Botswana (and Africa) can prepare for ‘The 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR)’…

In other African countries such as Rwanda, you’ll find that coding and robotics are taught in schools and they are part of the curriculum.

Recently, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa stated that coding will be taught in schools. We in Botswana are a little slower in catching on to these developments.

At Dare to Dream, we partnered with Airbus to sponsor 1,500 students across the country in rural places and trained them in robotics in order to prepare them for 4IR.

We need to channel the youth in the right direction to take advantage of the technological era and prepare them for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) – @KPhatsima Click To Tweet

It was also important that they know that there are careers in the aerospace industry that are STEM-related that they can take advantage of.

We are looking forward to partnering with the Ministry of Education, but there have been some delays, which I hope will be overcome in the future.

Dare to Dream’s most engaged stakeholders…so far…

We have engaged Airbus and also partnered with Botswana Innovation Hub, the University of Botswana and Botswana International University for Science and Technology – BIUST.

BIUST created an initiative to encourage young girls to get into STEM subjects because they realized that the number of girls applying for these subjects was low. They had called 100 girls from Central District schools to participate. 

We form partnerships with organizations with the same mandate as us. For example, Debswana is interested in the 4IR and getting young people engaged in it, so we have partnered with them and they have assisted us to roll out our programs.

We have also done work with Major Blue Air, who own planes. The girls get a chance to get onto the planes, and I fly the children.

It’s not just about STEM, it’s about exposing the girls to new experiences and igniting the passion within them. There are other organizations doing work in the same area, and we are looking forward to also having them on board.

There is something very powerful about collaboration.

We have also recently partnered with EcoNet, who have chosen me to lead the Youth Development Programme in coding and entrepreneurship.

What we are doing differently is that we are teaching the kids how to code and build websites, but also entrepreneurship and leadership skills. We have enrolled the first 500 participants and we are starting in July this year. 

The role Dare to Dream is playing in the conversation (and action!) towards Africa’s readiness for 4IR…

Even though we have trained 1 500 students, we realized that there is a gap with the teachers, and so we are preparing to train teachers in order to fill that gap.

After going around the country and doing work in 40 schools, I realized that the teachers themselves don’t know about 4IR, coding or robotics. Coding isn’t part of our curriculum at the moment; only a few schools have robotics kits, but they don’t know how to use them.

So, then we pulled in Debswana and other sponsors to train the teachers for a week at the University of Botswana. From there, the teachers will go back to their respective schools and train the students.

The goal is to have a national coding competition where all the students will come to Gaborone and showcase their projects. 

How young African women can be a part of The 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR)…

We want young people to solve African problems using technology – @KPhatsima Click To Tweet

Also, we want to teach them that they can look around for themselves, and identify where the problems are, and create devices and apps to overcome them, and make money out of them.

The fact that we are training teachers and students is a good step because we are pushing them towards appreciating the importance of 4IR and the power of technology in building businesses.

Botswana is one of Africa’s success stories, from one of Africa’s poorest countries to a vibrant, developed, middle-income African state.

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Kgomotso Phatsima: From a young age I knew I was born to fly

Kgomotso Phatsima is the Ambassador of Youth in Aviation and Aerospace, she is a social entrepreneur who assists with the empowerment of youth in aviation and aerospace, STEM education awareness and equipping the upcoming generation with business entrepreneurial skills.

She is among the first female military pilots in Botswana Defence Force and she won the Botswana Youth Awards Best Female of the Year 2017.

She is part of the Obama Foundation Africa Leadership Program 2018 as one of the exceptional young emerging leaders in Africa.

Kgomotso conducts professional coaching, team building exercises, and motivational talks, speaker events for corporate, schools and universities.

As a small little village girl, growing up I used to see airplanes flying over our house, from an early young age I knew I was born to fly -Kgomotso Phatsima Click To Tweet

What led you to choose a career as a pilot?

I am Captain Kgomotso Phatsima. I was born in a very small village called Ledumadumane from very humble beginnings near Sir Seretse Khama International Airport.

A village so close to the Capital City of Botswana Gaborone so much that you could almost touch it with your bare hands. As a small little village girl when I was growing up I used to see airplanes flying over our house, from an early young age I knew I was born to fly!

You are part of the military, what has that experience done for you and how has it shaped you as a person?

When I finished my high school, I applied for piloting at 43 Air School in South Africa, my family did not support my dream, my mother said it was too risky and way too out of the norm for a girl child from very humble beginnings to fly an airplane.

” We are too poor my child, during our time a girl child would not even dream of flying planes, Go to the University and study to become a teacher” my mother lamented, with a 45 years old age difference; almost close to five decades indeed we came from different generations

Instead, I gave up my dream to fly and went to pursue a Bachelor of Education Science degree specializing in mathematics at the University of Botswana

When I finished my degree I was immediately hired at Goodhope Senior Secondary School to teach mathematics. After 8 months of teaching senior secondary students mathematics, I realized that it was not challenging enough for me, that I was not fulfilled.

What challenges have you faced with your career and what did you do to overcome them?

In April 2009 the Botswana Defence Force decided to enlist its first female military pilots. This time around I knew nobody was going to stand on my way, now I was going to follow my dreams.

My mother cried. I told her “No mother, this is my dream, this what I want; this is what resonates in my
heart.” I left home for a year-long basic military training to the disapproval of my parents. The training was one of its kind. The most mind-blowing, painful, challenging yet excitings sometimes deeply intriguing experience ever. I learned martial arts and tactics, leadership, unarmed combat to shooting a gun and working as a team.

You have undertaken a few philanthropic projects, why has that been important for your career or personal growth?

Fast forward to now since I became one of the first female military pilots in Botswana Defence
Force 10 years ago. When I was growing up as a dusty little village girl, I never had the chance to sit down with a pilot nor see the inside of a flying machine until I had the opportunity to fly it.

Therefore, seven years ago I started Dare to Dream, to give the upcoming generation a chance I never had!

Dare to Dream is a social enterprise aimed at advancing the empowerment of youth women and girls in STEM Aviation and Aerospace as well equip them with business leadership skills.

We use the power of flight to ignite dreams, to impact communities and change lives. We offer robotics, coding, leadership and character building sessions and airport visits for the upcoming generation.

At Dare to Dream, we travel far and deep in rural areas to give the upcoming generation a sense of purpose in their education! Our motto is to leave no child for behind for African development.

My dream is to set a STEM Aviation Business Leadership Centre in Gaborone at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport-Kgomotso Phatsima Click To Tweet

What passions do you have or explore outside of your career as a pilot?

Due to my contribution in advancing youth, women, and girls in STEM Aviation and Aerospace Business Leadership, I won the Botswana Youth Awards Best Female of the Year 2017.

I also won the Scholarship of Commercial Drone Pilot Licence which I am currently doing with UAV Industries, South Africa.

This year I was selected for the Obama Foundation Africa Leaders Program as one of the exceptionally talented brilliant young emerging African leaders who will be groomed to serve and lead positive changes in their communities, their country, and the African continent.

I have also been selected for the 100 Most Influential Young Africans by Africa Youth Awards 2018. I will be leaving for the United States of America Washington DC for yet another amazing Leadership program – International Visitors Leadership Program for Women leaders promoting peace and security.

Lastly, I have received a donation of two bodies of Aircraft Fuselages RJ85. My dream is to set a STEM Aviation Business Leadership Centre in Gaborone at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport. The Aviation Academy will be the home of Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

It will offer an introduction to aerospace sciences, robotics, coding, and drone technology to the upcoming generation as well as equipping them with business and entrepreneurial skills.

We are currently looking for strategic partnership and investor opportunities to assist us to realize this dream to develop the Next Generation of STEM Aviation Business Leaders of tomorrow and only in Botswana but to serve the rest of the African Continent.

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