Founders Spotlight: Marang Mbaakanyi (Founder & CEO, Drones for Africa)

As founder and CEO of Drones for Africa, a one-stop shop for the retail of all types of drones, Marang's journey to getting the company off the ground, pun intended, is one of perseverance, faith and passion.

With goals to capture the drone technology market beyond Botswana, the Serowe-native is prepared to put in the work with her team to achieve this. In this interview, she talks about her early love for tech, challenges she has faced in her journey, and goals she has for Drones for Africa!

In your own words, please tell us who Marang Mbaakanyi is

Marang is a 31-year-old young lady from Serowe who is incredibly passionate about the tech industry and wants to see Botswana develop and thrive in that field. She is the founder and CEO of Drones For Africa, a company that offers all kinds of drone technology solutions and is rapidly developing. She is also the chairperson of the non-governmental Botswana Drones Association, which works to include young women in the innovation and tech domains.

Briefly take us through your journey to a career in tech

My interest with technology dates back to a very young age. It all began as a dream really. When I was still a little girl but already quite computer literate, my elder brother used to ask me to assist him with things like editing his resumes. I later came to the conclusion that I truly enjoy doing this and continued to study computer systems engineering at the University of Sunderland via BAC before earning my master's in computer science from BIUST. My passion for R&D in drone technology motivated me to enhance my credentials and acquire a Level 2 Pilot Certificate from the Malawian Civil Aviation Authority. Also, I received a LEVEL 2 Top Operator certification from AUVSI in San Francisco (USA) and a DJI-UTC Drone Instructor certification. 

I registered Drones For Africa in 2019 and, as is customary, there were a few bumps in the road. However, I persevered, and Drones For Africa finally began operations in 2023.

What stoked your interest in tech?

You can do very little without passion. Technology has always sparked my interest, notably the use of drones. I tapped into it since it hasn't been  researched in depth. It is still very new on the Botswana market, which inspired me to take a risk, stretch my abilities, and go down an untrodden route.

Please tell us more about Drones For Africa

As a one-stop shop for the retail of all types of drones, Drones for Africa is a 100% female citizen owned company offering training for drone pilots, repair and maintenance services, data analytics, as well as last-mile services in agriculture, mining, real estate, insurance, public safety just to name but a few. We also have a Research and Development Center where we keep looking for new approaches to investigate and develop the drone market and we are working with different stakeholders to see how we can best grow the drone space in Botswana and eventually be able to fabricate and assemble drones locally.

What was the motivation for starting Drones For Africa?

There have always been expectations and biases in society, and there is a perception that women's abilities are limited. Women are typically appraised based more on their gender than their capabilities. I thought it was important to lift the confines that society has habitually imposed on women. I chose a male-dominated environment to show that gender has nothing to do with a person's abilities or passions. This wasn't only for me; it was also intended to inspire other women who might be interested in the tech sector but are apprehensive because of how our society is structured.There are young girls out there also who are into STEM , they need role models. They need people in the industry to look up to, and this is one of the best reasons why I went for this space to give these young girls a reason to believe that their dreams are valid and attainable.

What challenges have you faced in scaling up Drones For Africa?

  1. Lack of Information on Drone Usage : Although drones are still a relatively new technology in Botswana, few Batswana are familiar with their application. Even though they don't know much about drones, a lot of individuals are nonetheless dubious about their use.
  2. High Taxation - The tax on the products  we import is way too high this means we are not able to bring in as many products as we could have wanted to , we believe these prices can be subsidized so we continue to grow the tech space in the country.

How have you been approaching those challenges?

Given that the majority of these issues call for extensive regulatory analysis and change, it has not always been simple to find solutions. Nevertheless, because we are committed to Drones For Africa's mission, we keep pushing forward with our efforts to increase the uptake of drone technology in Botswana. Also, it is part of our responsibility to spread knowledge about drone usage and capabilities among Batswana.

What has been your proudest moment with Drones For Africa so far?

To many people, the ability to begin operations may seem minute , yet it is my biggest achievement with DFA. After Drones for Africa was registered in 2019, there were a lot of difficulties. At one point, I considered giving up, but I persisted because I was so committed to my vision. Drones For Africa did, however, finally start up, and this was my "We Did It Joe" moment.

What is your vision for Drones For Africa in the next 3-5 years?

Expanding outside of Botswana's borders is one of Drones for Africa's goals. We want to be regionally and globally integrated and have the ability to collaborate with various stakeholders in various nations. With the help of our research and development center, we hope to be able to assemble and construct drones locally, go beyond being a one-stop shop, and supply these drones to the Botswana market

Are there any Drones For Africa feature launches coming soon that you would like to share with our readers?

There is so much that is in store, but I don't want to talk about it now lest it mar the moment . All I can advise is to watch this space since there is a ton of amazing work on the horizon.

What advice can you give young people, especially women and young girls, looking to get into tech entrepreneurship in Botswana?

My advice to women and young people looking to venture into the tech space is that they continue to believe in their dreams as they are very much attainable. They should keep pushing, working hard and always remember that perseverance is key.Above all they should not let society dictate to them what they can and cannot do .

Lastly, please share your contacts with our readers who might be looking to get in touch with you

  • Facebook : Drones For Africa 
  • Twitter : @africa_drones 
  • Instagram : Drones For Africa 
  • WhatsApp / Contact: +26773732910

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