Thursday, September 24, 2020

Attempts to allocate Batswana concessions in Okavango-Chobe aborted

BY CALISTUS BOSALETSWE

Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism ,Tshekedi  Khama has pronounced that attempts to sub-divide concession areas in most of the tourism hot spots areas to empower Batswana has hit a snag before it could even take off.

Responding to Sunday Standard question at a media briefing this Friday, Khama said the idea could not go ahead since there were some who were against it even within the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

The government’s intention was to give indigenous Batswana a stake in tourism industry which is foreign dominated.

“It was their view that the issue will bring issues of litigation against the government. Some within the ministry of land feared that some of the companies will view this as a bad move.” added Khama.

He felt that the move to reject it on the basis that the foreign owned companies could rebel against the idea was not making sense to him.

He however, indicated that all is not lost as they intend to subdivide concession areas once leases of those concession areas in hot spot tourism lifespan come to an end. In that regard, citizens will then be allocated land on those concession areas to venture into tourism.

 “We are not talking about mobile safari, driving a mokoro dugout canoe or driving a safari vehicle. We want Batswana to own and run the tourism industry,” added Khama.

University of Botswana Okavango Research Centre academic Joseph Mbaiwa, has long dismissed Khama’s promise arguing that the foreign owned companies owning concession areas will not allow that move.

“I do not see any Motswana having access to prime tourism hot spot areas such as the Okavango Delta and Chobe. Batswana  will have access to areas in the periphery of the tourism sector where such areas have no value and are not considered as a tourism destinations,” added Mbaiwa.

According to Mbaiwa in the absence of strong empowerment legislation the indigenous Batswana have no chances of owning and running tourism establishment in prime areas.

He also strongly calls for the need to come up with a different model of funding that will empower Batswana who want to go into tourism since financial institutions such as Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) play a little role in terms of funding tourism business.

He said that there are leases agreements that have been signed some which goes up to 50 years which is going to be difficult for government to subdivide the concession areas.

He said that there is a need to give a percentage of shares to locals for any company intending to set up tourism establishment in Botswana.

 “I am not talking about naturalized citizen since there is a notion that a foreigner who gets citizenship is regarded as a citizen. This should be given to indigenous citizens,” he added.

Almost a year after Khama‘s promises; there has never been a single concession that was sub-divided to allow Batswana to have a stake in the tourism sector.

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