Botswana’s minister of trade and industry, Dorcas Makgato-Malesu, said the brand will help create a new national identity.
(Image: Shamin Chibba)
Letsebe Sejoe, acting chief executive of the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre, wants to make South Africa a primary trade partner.
(Image: Shamin Chibba)
• Rita Rama
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Botswana is positioning itself to be the next big economic powerhouse in Africa. This was the sentiment expressed at the launch of the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre’s brand strategy at the Michelangelo Hotel in Johannesburg on Tuesday, 21 May.
According to the high commissioner of Botswana to South Africa, Kenny Kapinga, the country is on an upward journey to economic prosperity. “We are well rated in credit worthiness, integrity and ease of business. It is a stable democracy and it has a good environment to do business.”
He said it was one of the top 12 safest countries in the world and was first on the Global Peace Index in the sub-Saharan region.
Botswana’s minister of trade and industry, Dorcas Makgato-Malesu, said the new brand strategy came from a need to forge a unified national identity. “When I first became minister I decided it was important to deal with issues of fragmentation in investment and promotion.”
Her department had great ideas of attracting investment but no way of co-ordinating them. It was important, she added, to have a common definition of what Botswana was. “We felt it was necessary to come up with a national brand.”
The acting chief executive of the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre, Letsebe Sejoe, said Botswana aimed to make South Africa a major business partner because it was the economic heart of Africa. “The Johannesburg Stock Exchange is in the league of leading exchanges in the world. It is also an exporter of foreign direct investment. So it is very difficult to have an investment strategy without involving South Africa.”
He offered another reason for Botswana’s need to engage with its neighbour: the two countries were connected by the Tswana population they shared. There are more Tswana people in South Africa – approximately eight million – than there are in Botswana, which has about two million inhabitants.
Botswana eye-catching for investors
Botswana’s lenient trade policies have made the diamond rich country an attractive place for South Africans to do business. Sejoe said there were no foreign exchange controls and a double tax avoidance treaty between the two countries was still in existence. “We are providing South Africa with a resource to connect with any sector they wish.”
He said the country would fast track residence permits for foreign businesspeople, though he admitted that relaxed migration laws could bring unwanted immigrants. “We would have to keep all the good guys in and keep the bad guys out. The way we can do that is by screening individuals and checking if they have technical experience and skills which can add value to our economy.”
He hinted at the introduction of a points-based system, which major Commonwealth countries used to screen investors and individuals. They would be allocated a specific number of points depending on their level of experience, skills, education and language proficiency.
Sejoe acknowledged that Botswana needed an influx of technically skilled people for its economy to progress. “We are slowly opening up. You cannot have economic growth without importing technical skills.” Apart from attracting outside investors, Sejoe said Botswana was looking to develop its foreign export market, particularly with beef products and minerals.
Ekurhuleni, potential trade hub
Chris van Biljon, the chief executive of Ekurhuleni Business Initiative, said Ekurhuleni wanted to engage with Botswana in the sectors of industry and tourism. With the establishment of Africa’s first aerotropolis in the municipality, Van Biljon said the city could become an important hub for trade between South Africa and Botswana.
An aerotropolis is an urban area in which the layout, infrastructure and economy is built around an airport. In Ekurhuleni’s case, OR Tambo International Airport will form the hub of the airport city, which will comprise aviation businesses and related enterprises.
Economically strong, politically stable
Makgato-Malesu said Botswana’s economic strength came from it political stability. The Botswana government has some of the lowest levels of corruption in the world. “We are committed to progress and integrity.”
She saw the country’s resources as a blessing, which the people had managed well enough to turn into an economic advantage. On a recent trip to a first world country, which she refused to name, Makgato-Malesu was questioned as to how Botswana happened to have a better credit rating than that country. “I had to explain that it did not matter where you came from but how well you managed your resources.”