RARE  RISINGSTARS - The UK’s Top 10 Black Students
rare logo
No. 2


Kaene Disepo

Bsc International Relations
London School of Economics
Business, Academics and Charity

What do Oprah Winfrey and Maun, the fifth largest town in Botswana, have in common? For most of us, nothing would seem to connect one of the most famous people in the world with a relatively obscure town in the southern African country. But, for Kaene, each acted as inspiration for him to set up his business conglomerate, Siness Group.

The child of a military officer and a teacher, Kaene’s humble beginnings were put into stark contrast when he started to attend an elite private school in Botswana, with the help of financial aid. Kaene was severely bullied throughout his time at secondary school. Alongside this strain, Kaene’s parents divorced in the middle of his GCSE exams. After his parents separated, Kaene had to move to Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana. He stayed by himself in one room, which he calls a ‘four in one’ – his bedroom, kitchen, living room and bathroom.

Kaene decided to channel his difficult experiences into creating positive spaces for others in school who faced similar challenges. His first initiative, a society called Education with Confidence, explored the ways in which children overcome challenges in school and society. Its success was picked up by teachers who helped Kaene develop the society into a fully developed project, Education is Light. Kaene’s successes extended to his academic study. He was awarded the Top Achievers Scholarship from the Ministry of Education. The Programme gave Kaene the choice of attending any sixth form educational institution in the world. Kaene was quickly propelled from his home to Cardiff where he attended a private sixth form college ranked higher than Eton.

“Wealth was unevenly shared in my town. I wanted to create better infrastructure for my community.”

The abruptness of the move and his gratitude for the scholarship means ‘Bots’ has firmly remained home for Kaene. Unsurprisingly, Kaene, who initially wanted to be a diplomat, began to develop a name for himself on the international stage. During his A Levels, Kaene became the youngest male Botswanan to gain work experience at the United Nations in Geneva. Kaene has continued to build his international experience while at the London School of Economics. He was nominated as a UNESCO Youth Ambassador for Botswana and represented the country at the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum in 2015. Kaene was appointed as the National Student Representative for Botswana’s Ministry of Education which means he now acts as the public spokesperson for the Top Achievers Scholarship Programme. He was listed as one of 2016’s top 100 Future Leaders of African and Caribbean descent in the UK, became the youngest Chair of the Individual Judges’ Speakers for the Debating Matters competition and was also nominated for the Young African Scholar at the African Youth Excellence Awards 2015.

The glitz of representing his country across the world has a deeper significance for Kaene. Growing up in Maun, the ‘tourism capital’ of Botswana, Kaene noticed the deep structural inequalities in his hometown. The wealth generated by tourists was unevenly shared meaning many in the town experienced poor living conditions. After winning the Best Youth in Academic Excellence Award at the Botswana Youth Awards in 2014 for his work at the Ministry of Trade, Kaene realised that business, not politics, might be the best way he could give back to his community. With the prize winnings of his award, Kaene bought his first plot of land for exactly £936 in 2015.

“I am the guy with diplomatic missions – providing value to different communities and tackling development issues.”

Buying this plot of land signalled the early beginnings of the Siness Group. Initially set up as a property company, the Siness Group is now a conglomerate operating across Botswana with activity in media, mining, transport as well as commercial and residential real estate. The business’ rapid expansion is in part due to Kaene’s love of Oprah. As a child, Kaene religiously watched the Oprah Winfrey show and quickly learnt about the Angel Network, her charity. The virtuous circle was completed when Kaene pitched to the foundation and secured $200,000 of funding to develop the Siness Group.

Whether he is running a tuition centre for high school students, producing a television show featuring the rising stars of Botswana or writing a book on the changing nature of academic excellence, Kaene is driven by the pursuit of inclusive social development. The Siness Group is more than a successful commercial enterprise with revenues currently at £70,000. It is a business with a social mission. By employing those living in the communities in which the Group operates, Kaene has secured employment for 50 people and has supported many others back into employment by providing skills. Kaene also founded the Inspired Horizons Association: a registered NGO aimed at improving youth literacy, social entrepreneurship and youth employment.

Kaene is a perfect example of his belief in the power of young people to secure a better future for themselves and the communities around them. In this spirit, Kaene will start an MSc in Development Management at the LSE this September before returning to Botswana to continue his mission of developing the place he calls home.

<   >