Every year, the tourism sector rakes in billions into Botswana’s GDP.
The sector is actually the second biggest after mining, specifically after diamonds.
Tourism is fast growing. And would be even be bigger were it not for the Covid 19 pandemic.
On the other hand, important as they are, they are actually growing at a slow pace, and in some years they have registered a decline.
This is because of several factors many of them outside Botswana Government’s influence.
Diamonds sales depend on geopolitics. They also depend on the level of confidence that the wealthy consumers in west Europe have looking into the future.
At production levels there are also issues with Botswana diamond mines.
They have been getting deeper. That significantly increases the costs of mining.
That has been demonstrated recently when shareholders had to put in billions to help increase the life of Jwaneng mine.
That exercise i9s now ongoing with Orapa mine.
Clearly the slogan a “diamond is forever” presumably coined by the late De beers Chairman Harry Oppenheimer was misplaced and possibly misleading.
On the other hand tourism, with a good and sound environmental management policy can really be forever.
There has to be clear and demonstrable commitment on the part of Botswana to grow tourism.
That commitment has to be shown by investments in public infrastructure, chiefly roads.
Botswana’s tourism is mainly in the north, with enclaves of Chobe and the Okavango leading.
The roads from the south of the country leading to both of these areas in the north are an eye sore.
They are a big risk to the lives of tourists driving on them.
Those roads were busy during the recent festive season.
But due to Covid-19, the roads were not at their busiest.
What was clear is that the road from Francistown to Nata is really in a state of disrepair.
A big stretch of a road between Nata and Makalamabedi is a national disgrace and embarrassment.
The state of these rods does not show the importance of these roads top the economy of Botswana.
For a longtime the nation was promised that money was coming from China.
That money has not been forthcoming.
Botswana remains a creditworthy country.
Other sources and avenues could easily have been explored.
As a country we need to show more respect to the tourists vising these countries.
The best way to do that is to appreciate the money and time they spend here.
And we should reciprocate by making their stay here enjoyable, but more importantly safe.
We should never forget that Botswana good as a it is as a destination, is not the only one.
There are other countries, not least in the region who are doing well by investing in infrastructure.
This minimizes the risks of travelers, especially those not familiar with the roads.
Given the urgency of the said infrastructure, Botswana Government could have looked for alternative sources of financing.
We are aware that China has been changing the rules under which it will be engaging African countries going forward.
This week the Foreign minister of China was in the country.
Increasingly, the number of Chinese tourists has been steadily growing, in Botswana but also globally.
Everybody wants a piece of what the Chinese offers in volumes and their growing
As always indigenous citizens have been left out.
And Batswana should unashamedly speak out and demand more especially in the concessions that are expected to be issued out.