It is expected that going forward trade and investment between Botswana and China will increase exponentially. The two countries responded in kind with each having led respective business delegation to the other’s country in order to identify trade and investment opportunities.
The China business delegation, led by Chairman of the China Council for the promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), Jiang Zengwei, conducted the initial investment mission in Botswana on July 23, 2018. Following that the Botswana business delegation led by the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) undertook a similar mission in China. The Botswana-China business forum was held in Beijing, China on August 31, 2018 prior to the the Forum on China-Africa cooperation (FOCAC) which took place on September 3 to 4. Botswana’s President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, officiated at the business forum. President Masisi extended a personal invitation to Chinese businesses and investors to set up shop in Botswana, expressing that the country was the best destination for China to grow her investment. FOCAC, established by China in 2000, serves as the bridge through which China and African countries improve trade and investment among other things. The Botswana-China business forum is in that context one such way that China and Botswana make efforts to promote the cooperation as guided by FOCAC.
Five years ago China introduced the Belt and Road initiative through which it is expected that trade routes between China and African countries are improved through China’s assistance on infrastructural developments, as a way of easing access to new and distant markets. The initiative is still at an infancy stage and Botswana’s involvement in its roadmap has not yet come out clear. However one could posit that trade missions between the two countries will enable and develop such trade routes.
“The Belt and Road is renewing, expanding and broadening Chinese interests in Africa and we on the other hand reciprocate in kind by renewing, expanding and broadening Africa and Botswana’s interests in China,” said President Masisi.
It is worth mentioning that the balance of trade between the two countries presently favors China. The 2017 trade figures stated by President Masisi supported that. “I am informed that exports from Botswana to China stood at 16 million dollars in 2017, while China exports to Botswana for the same period amounted to about 60 million dollars,” he said. He highlighted the major export commodities between Botswana and China include raw hides and diamonds. Prior to the closure of BCL mine in 2016 copper and nickel was included among the major export product to China. It can be deduced from Botswana’s export make-up to China that if the commodities remain limited China will continue to have the upper hand. It suggests that in addition to trade and investment missions, the real job will be for Botswana to increase the list of her trading commodities. The development of the trade routes might benefit Botswana less if the number of export commodities continue to have a minimal count. This is especially that in comparison to Botswana China’s export commodities has a highly diverse make-up.
The Minister of Investment and Trade, Bogolo Kenewendo, commended the agreement signed between BITC and CCPIT and implored that the relationship be taken beyond the memorandum of understanding in that it will be earnestly operationalized.
“We as Botswana are very keen to welcome the types of Chinese investments that will lead to growth in our economy and that will lead to more investments and job creation opportunities and we’re working around the clock to ensure that the investment climate is to your suiting,” said Minister Kenewendo to the Chinese businesses and investors at the Botswana-China business forum.