H.E. Mr. Gilbert Shimane Mangole, High Commissioner of Botswana to India

by Kanchi Batra - 22 June, 2021, 12:00 2969 Views 0 Comment

1. Excellency, you have completed six months of your tenure in New Delhi. What were your first impressions of the city when you got here?

This is my first Diplomatic assignment. I spent the last 10 years as a member of the National Assembly of Botswana. As a Member of Parliament, I travelled quite extensively through membership of different Parliamentary Committees. But in all that traveling I have never been to this ASEAN side of the world.

So my expectations were largely based on the perceptions I had constructed about India as a result of what I heard and read about the country.

Having been in the City of New Delhi for slightly over six months, I can’t stop admiring the friendly and welcoming nature of the Indian people in all their diversity. Within three months of my arrival here I was already feeling at home away from home. Starting with the hardworking and dedicated informal sector, through the ever-resilient businessmen and women, the bustling and never sleeping large industries churning out goods and services to the entire world, all supported by massive road, rail and air infrastructural overhaul and construction, one gets the sense that India is a country with a Mission and a Purpose.

My impressions about India; A country with a Vision and a Purpose, thrusting forward with pride and dignity to its destination of occupying its rightful place in the family of world economic superpowers. The beauty of it all is that even in its march to that destination, India is holding steadfastly, and does not forget its responsibility to humanity and the poorer nations of the world. INCREDIBLE INDIA INDEED!!!!!!! 

2. What is the economic outlook of Botswana today – and what are the prospects for the country?

Botswana is a land-linked country located in the centre of Southern Africa, between South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The significant mineral wealth, particularly the diamonds, coupled with good governance, unparalleled political stability and prudent economic management has helped Botswana’s rapid development over the years to become an upper middle-income country. As in other countries, the known negative repercussions of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic have similarly had a negative impact on economic activities in Botswana. The challenges posed by the pandemic, have led to a significant contraction in the gross domestic product (GDP) by over 8% since 2020. The contraction reflects the impact that reduced global demand, emanating from international travel restrictions and other Covid-19 related measures have had on output in key production and export sectors, such as the mining industry and tourism. Other sectors most affected are construction, manufacturing, hotels and restaurants, and transport.

In response, the Government of Botswana has introduced measures such as the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (ERTP) and the Covid-19 Relief Fund. The former’s major objective is to complement the ongoing National Development Plan (otherwise disrupted by the onset of the pandemic) and speed up the country’s economic recovery, and the latter is aimed at cushioning the private sector’s economic players and thereby minimise the otherwise inevitable closures and job losses. Of course, the funding of these measures means that the government would have to dig deep into the country’s strategic foreign reserves and minimise to the extent possible, borrowing from the International Financial Institutions.

With the implementation and success of these measures, it is projected that the Real GDP growth will be restored in 2022, based on a revival in domestic demand as the effects of the pandemic recede and a rebound in commodity prices as economies reopen globally. The Inflation rate is also expected to be restored to the Central Bank’s medium-term 3%–6% target range. 

3. How do you see Africa growing and what is your perspective on Botswana’s role in its development as an economic and political power?

Botswana´s membership in the African Union (AU) is premised on the fundamental need for a shared approach in ensuring sustained economic growth and development, peace and security in the continent.

The need for a transformational agenda for the continent is important as Africa is undergoing renewed economic growth and social progress, infrastructural transformations, a reduction in the number of conflicts, an ever-changing global context with increased globalization, as well as advancements in ICT and the fourth industrial revolution.

Botswana’s engagement within the African Union thus enables the country to work with others to realise the collective vision of an `integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa’ as envisioned in the AU Agenda 2063, which is a blueprint for the continent´s transformation.

The increasing show of unity within the AU amplifies its voice as a global power and is truly supportive of the continent’s development aspirations to advance a people-driven agenda to realize their collective prosperity. Areas such as agri-business, infrastructure development, health and education, as well as the continent’s export commodities value addition show great potential and thus need to be invested in.

Botswana continues to play an active role in advancing the transformational agenda as envisioned in this blueprint, by advocating for a transparent and inclusive reform process of the African Union. In this regard, Botswana is a member of the African Peer Review Mechanism, a self-monitoring mechanism which promotes good governance and transparent economic management and thus provides a conducive environment for the development aspirations to be reached.

With respect to inter-continental trade, Botswana has signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Once fully implemented, the AfCFTA will assist in accelerating inter-continental trade. A robust inter-continental trade will serve as a powerful engine of economic growth and sustainable development for the individual African states and catapult the continent to become an important and influential global market player. In this regard, Botswana is committed to ensuring the implementation and success of the AfCFTA in its entirety.

Agenda 2063 also aims to end violent conflicts and wars in the different parts of the continent by setting up structures for dialogue promotion, conflict prevention and resolution. To this end, Botswana is currently the Chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security. As such, Botswana is participating fully in matters of peace and security promotion in the continent such as the ongoing insurgency in Mozambique. Botswana is a strong proponent of the Peace Fund and has reiterated her commitment to efforts to silence the guns during the 14th Extra-Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union held in December 2020.

Botswana is also active in contributing to efforts aimed at strengthening SADC’s regional integration agenda and peace and security architecture, in order to attain the goal of sustainable development for the region. The country also remains vigilant in ensuring that SADC and its institutions remain on course to deliver a regional order that benefits all stakeholders.

In past, Botswana has participated in the mediation processes in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as South Sudan, led by the late Former President Sir Ketumile Quett Masire and Former President Festus Mogae respectively. Such involvement is illustrative of the country’s dedication to peace and security within the continent.

4. India has a good history of cooperation with Botswana in a number of areas. Could you talk to us a little bit about this track record and the latest developments?

Botswana and India’s bilateral relations come a long way since 1966 when Botswana attained its independence. Since the establishment of relations between the two countries, more than a dozen agreements and MoUs have been signed, to strengthen amongst others cooperation in trade, mining, health, defence, education, capacity building between the two countries. Botswana and India have continuously had high-level exchange visits in the past years including the recent virtual meetings recently where Botswana participated in the 15th Confederation India Industry- Export Import Bank of India Conclave and further held webinars for trade and investment opportunities for the Indian business community.

Currently, there is strong cooperation in education and capacity building where a lot of Botswana students are trained in different areas of study through the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Indian Technical and Economic (ITEC) short and long programmes.

Furthermore, India is a strategic partner to Botswana in the realm of economic development – it is one of the biggest trading partners in the mining sector, particularly the diamond industry, which have benefitted and continues to benefit Botswana and the country’s economy in general.

5. How do you assess the current relationship, with regards to a shared commitment to an international public good like climate change and fighting terrorism?

Botswana has always placed a high priority on multilateral cooperation, and such cooperation is more relevant than ever before in helping to forge a collective and shared vision for the future. We further believe that smaller countries can collectively and through closer cooperation, play a greater role at the table of world affairs especially in advancing issues of mutual concerns such as mitigating the impacts of climate change, fight again global pandemics, terrorism and its financing amongst others.

Recognizing the importance of multilateralism, Botswana supports the clarion call for the democratization and reform of the United Nations Security Council. In this regard, Botswana aligns itself with the Ezulwini Consensus for a more representative UNSC that reflects the current global economic and political realities.

On issues related to climate change, Botswana is fully committed to combatting climate change as evidenced by its quick response to ratify the Paris Agreement on the 11th November 2016, and it is also a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Tokyo Protocol since 2003. Furthermore, Botswana’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) targets are intended to achieve 15% carbon emissions reduction by 2030 (taking 2010 as a base year). Now that these agreements have been secured, there needs to be a mind-set change towards implementation and the stepping up of commitments.

With respect to terrorism, today we see destructive terrorist and violent extremist groups in some parts of Africa. These flagrant attacks in multiple targeted African countries such as Mozambique on our doorstep, Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, Chad and Cote d’Ivoire, demonstrate all too clearly that the threat to peace and security in Africa remains a challenge. In this regard, Botswana is joining India’s voice in calling for the speedy adoption of a global Convention on International Terrorism.

6. What efforts are being put in by your government to attract Foreign Direct Investment?

The Government of Botswana has developed and adopted several policy documents to re-direct the country’s positioning on trade and investment. Key among these are Vision 2036, which is the country’s blueprint in our transformation agenda of becoming a high-income country by 2036.

Part of the Vision 2036 driving tools includes the Transformative Strategy: the revised Economic Diversification Drive (EDD), the National Trade Policy, the Industrial Development Policy, the Ease of Doing Business Roadmap, and Implementation Plan, amongst others.

The 2009-2016 National Investment Strategy, which is currently being considered for review, seeks to among others, attract increased levels of Domestic Investment and FDI flows as a strategy for diversifying the economy away from diamonds, whose revenues were projected to sharply decline by 2018. The Strategy further aims to facilitate the creation of new sources of export revenues to replace the envisaged decline in diamond revenue, as well as the creation of employment opportunities through upstream and downstream beneficiation of minerals and other locally available natural resources.

FDI attraction is driven by a number of Government agencies that include Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC), the Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZA) and SPEDU. These organisations have investment incentives ranging from tax incentives and preferential Government procurement and non-fiscal incentives which are all aimed at making investing in Botswana attractive. Botswana continuously reviews the doing business environment to facilitate investment through the update of laws and policies which are considered unfriendly as well providing one-stop facilitation services for speedy assessment, appraisal and approval of investors.

Botswana is also in the process of enacting Investment Law which will address among others investor rights, protection of investment and address some of the challenging areas identified through Doing Business ratings such as contract dispute resolution, starting a business in Botswana, and harmonisation and providing cohesion among various authority agencies.

7. What are the new sectors of cooperation that Botswana is looking to deal with India?

Botswana has prioritized a number of key sectors for cooperation with India, and these include, among others, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Agribusiness and Food Processing, Financial Technology (Fintech) and general Manufacturing with a deliberate bias towards Automotive Components and Parts.

Regarding BPO, Botswana’s value proposition as an offshoring destination for global business is underpinned by the country’s huge pool of highly-skilled, neutral-accent English speaking graduates in key business-related industries such as information technology, financial and legal services. This makes Botswana an ideal destination for establishing voice contact-centres with a global reach to countries like the UK, Australia, and increasingly the US.

Opportunities, therefore, exist in a number of industry-driven markets such as setting up healthcare desks, financial and legal services desks that would be able to benefit from favourable incentives like very low corporate tax, training rebates and low operational costs as part of Botswana’s specially-built and robust Special Economic Zones.

On Agribusiness and Food Processing, Botswana remains a net food importing country with opportunities to boost production of basic commodities, particularly cereals (grain sorghum and maize) and pulses. For example, White maize demand exceeds 100, 000mt per year as compared to the local production which on average is lower than 10, 000mt per year.

There are therefore opportunities to invest in almost all agriculture sub-sector value chains, as the bulk of the country’s massive import bill of roughly US1 Billion comes from processed commodities, indicating an urgent need for value addition through the establishment of processing centres in the country.

There is also a need to establish strategic grain storage facilities across the country to reduce post-harvest losses, as well as facilitate the development of the local private seed production sector to substitute for the 27 000 tons annual seed imports valued at USD10.9 million.

Other opportunities include the need to establish processing plants across the country to facilitate the import substitution process in chicken meat which stands at around USD3 million annually, as well as commercial production of small stock for export to the Asian and EU market. There is also the dairy sub-sector with the annual local milk production accounting for only 15 percent of the national demand.

And finally, opportunities exist in Horticulture where local production currently satisfies 54 percent of the national demand, and the rest augmented through an annual import bill of USD 63 million. There is also Fruit Tree production where citrus is estimated to be around 17 percent of the local demand, and Aquaculture as well as Ostrich farming to take advantage of the country’s EU certified state of the art export abattoir.

Regarding Financial Technology (Fintech), Botswana has set forth a Financial Inclusion Roadmap that was first conceived through the Financial Sector Development Strategy 2012-2016 to support household welfare by extending financial inclusion to lower-income households and target groups that are currently less well served or simply unbanked.

Opportunities, therefore, exist in the overall development and expansion of the payments ecosystem, facilitation of low-cost accessible savings products, digital payment platforms, cross-border remittances, development of accessible risk mitigation products and investment products for pensioners, collections and e-commerce space.

Manufacturing, including automotive components and parts, textiles and clothing are increasingly targeted to drive Botswana’s industrialization prospects. Botswana has identified automotive components and parts as a priority area for investment to supply both regional and international markets. Existing raw materials such as leather for example allows for opportunities to design leather car seats amongst others.

The Automotive components sub-sector provides for new entrants to supply parts and components to South Africa’s automotive sector, supply of replacement parts for vehicles of large scale projects, expansion of existing component manufacturing industries, R&D services, diversification of after-sales services for private and commercial vehicles and the establishment of skills development and training facilities for auto mechanics and technicians.

8. How do you see Botswana-India relations evolving after the pandemic?

A few initiatives such as the use of new technology are already in place to advance the economic recovery and development between Botswana and India. With the current state of technology, interaction and collaboration through the virtual platform is set to become the new normal, hence facilitating Botswana-India trade and other relations in real-time and in a cost-effective manner.

As Botswana looks ahead to move forward post COVID-19, she will build good relations with India in a bid to explore the growth of different commercial sectors moving to a knowledge-based economy as espoused in the National Vision 2036.

Botswana is a net importer of food, most consumable products, and other essentials. This has led to Botswana facing supply shortages on most goods resulting in a disruption of the supply value chain. Post the pandemic, Botswana would, therefore, attract manufacturing companies from India with the view to shift to manufacturing locally to the needs of the people. Furthermore, new trade negotiations and arrangements including investment promotion will be initiated to attract new investors.

Botswana also stands ready to attract and facilitate Indian investors into climate-smart agriculture and admonished the country’s development partners for support through capacity building, development, transfer and dissemination of smart farming technologies.

With regards to the healthcare sector, Botswana would collaborate with India to rebuild and strengthen the primary health systems by accelerating the use of technology and learn from India which is already doing well on the use of tele-medicine to support sustainable systems. Botswana would also support innovators and industries in the production of essential medical supplies by getting transfer of knowledge and skills from India.

9. What is your message for Indian investors and entrepreneurs interested in venturing into Botswana?

Botswana is at the centre of the Southern African Development Community and (SADC), with access to a market of 16 countries that has a combined GDP of more than US$725 billion. SADC’s Free Trade Area (FTA) launched in 2008 provides zero tariffs for at least 85% of goods traded among member states. As a member of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), Botswana’s products enjoy duty-free access to a market of more than 61 million people in five countries with a combined GDP of more than US$60 billion.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement further opens the door to an estimated 1.3 billion people across Africa, with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion. The AfCFTA is expected to boost intra African trade and Botswana is looking to explore her geographical position to establish the country as a launchpad for new investments that are looking to create a supply chain for this robust market.

Botswana is also eligible for trade benefits with the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and enjoys duty-free quota, free market access into the EU under the SADC-EPA agreement.


Kanchi Batra
Kanchi Batra is the Business Editor of The Diplomatist.

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