STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY DR. MOKGWEETSI E.K. MASISI PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF BOTSWANA ON THE OCCASION OF THE 13TH U.S AFRICA BUSINESS SUMMIT HELD UNDER THE THEME “NEW PATHWAYS TO A STRONGER U.S.-AFRICA ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP” SESSION: “DOING BUSINESS IN BOTSWANA” VIRTUAL MEETING 28TH JULY 2021 GABORONE, BOTSWANA
• SALUTATIONS-Good Afternoon
1. It is an honour and privilege for me to participate in this, “Doing Business in Botswana” Session organized by the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA).
2. I cannot emphasize how important it is at this time of unprecedented turmoil in the global economy, to build confidence when the world is still in shock from COVID-19.
3. I therefore wish to profoundly thank the CCA for always finding time to prioritise the US-Africa relationship through the convening of the Business Summit.
4. The invitation to address this momentous Summit and to engage Botswana on policy dialogue during this Session, will form the basis of consultation for a future partnership agenda based on a strong political relationship and close cooperation in key areas, between the two countries.
5. Botswana comes to the Summit going through its most challenging times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We therefore continue to appeal to our friends and cooperating partners for more equity in the distribution of vaccines to the developing world in order to save lives and get our economies back on their feet.
6. We join the like-minded and plead that patents should not be used to delay or prevent Africa from accessing vaccines timeously and at affordable prices.
7. The United States is a long standing partner of and friend to Botswana. We look forward to deepening this partnership. However, Botswana continues to underperform in expanding her exports to the US, even under preferential arrangements such as AGOA. I therefore believe that the theme of this Summit, ‘New Pathways to a stronger US-Africa Economic Partnership’ under a new Biden administration is befitting.
8. Now is the time to indeed look at new pathways of cooperating with the United States of America, to deepen our existing cooperation especially in the Economic and Trade spheres. Our priority is therefore, to greatly enhance Trade and Investment between the United States and Botswana.
9. Ladies and Gentlemen, Allow me to turn to few critical developments in Botswana or shall I say some New Pathways that we have identified to move us forward in our rebuilding process. In April 2021, I presented the following priorities, encapsulated under the Reset Agenda to be pursued:
10. Firstly, Save Botswana‘s population from COVID-19, through the implementation of life saving programmes that include a successful and timely vaccination program, as the country cannot pursue its development agenda without first saving lives.
11. Botswana has adopted a national vaccination plan which was implemented in March this year. However, the shortage of vaccines in Botswana, as is the case with many African countries, is negatively affecting our roll out plan. Along with this priority, Botswana is looking for investment to build the necessary infrastructure to manufacture the much needed vaccines.
12. Secondly, Align Botswana Government machinery to the Presidential Agenda. My roadmap, including the transformational agenda, should be embodied in the implementation machinery of the government of the day. This will come with significant government reforms in the public service. Some of the reforms are already being implemented.
13. Thirdly, Digitisation- this has the immense potential to unlock and enable high productivity among our people. The global village runs on the wheels of digitisation. Digitisation is quintessential to the delivery of services to our people.
14. We have developed a Digital Transformation Strategy titled “Towards Digital Transformation for Batswana”. The Strategy aims to develop a new proposition to drive transformation across government, economy, and the society. The plan is to have at least twenty five (25) services online before the end of 2022. Rigorous efforts are underway to provide e-learning and e-health services across Botswana.
15. My Government is looking for strategic development partners who can assist the country to capitalize on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies to advance the Sustainable Development Goals through this Digital Transformation Strategy. It is my hope that we will see more US companies exploring opportunities to partner with Botswana on technologies and 4IR.
16. Fourthly, Value chain development: this will unlock opportunities for new, high-growth companies in the private sector and youth employment among other citizen empowerment attributes. The initial sectors of focus will be minerals, tourism, food, and education. We also intend to identify new sectors in the global export product space that we can successfully grow in Botswana, resulting in significant job creation for our youth, while also driving much-needed export diversification.
17. Last but not least, is the Mindset Change which places economic empowerment of citizens at the epicentre of Botswana’s economic development. I have indicated that as Batswana, we need to drastically shift our way of doing things to be more efficient. 18. In this regard, the convening of this Forum really comes very timely as Botswana is also engaging in what I call a reset. We are thus looking to our traditional partners such as the United States, to increase their investment footprint in the areas I have alluded to.
19. In addition, Botswana is on a drive to diversify her export portfolio and promote growth of other sectors for export into the USA through the AGOA response strategy. These include Arts and Crafts, Jewellery and Semi-Precious Stones, Leather and Leather products; Horticulture and Agro-processing; Textiles/apparels sector and Meat products.
20. We continue to improve the climate of Doing Business in Botswana by simplifying processes for investors. In terms of infrastructure development, the Kazungula Bridge between Botswana and Zambia was officially opened in May of this year. This presents vast opportunities for intra- regional and continental trade. We are also continuously upgrading the transport and telecommunications infrastructure to be able to attract investors.
21. It is my belief that you are looking at ways to partner with Botswana and nurture the spirit of entrepreneurship in Africa, to gain maximum benefits from economic partnership with the US. As a country, we aspire to stimulate economic growth through value addition and beneficiation of our natural resources.
22. During this Session, you will hear from different speakers who will inform on the business climate in Botswana, as well as the myriad of trade and investment opportunities presented in different sectors from Agriculture to Mining and many more.
23. To conclude, it is my fervent hope and wish that the discussions will also stimulate conversations for the U.S private sector to consider choosing Botswana as part of their Africa investment strategy or their offshore investment decision. Finally, it will also allow the Botswana private sector to appreciate and gain from the new U.S administration’s initiatives and platforms aimed at expanding U.S-Africa trade, investment and business networking opportunities through the economic partnership model.
24. I therefore thank you all for having found time to be with us today as we present to you, our vision of Doing Business in Botswana. I thank you for your attention.