Ian McCartney, Britain’s minister for Trade and Industry, on Friday pledged support for Botswana’s economy as he rounded up his African tour that took him to Botswana and South Africa.
In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Standard before his departure, McCartney said Botswana and the United Kingdom must work together to attract foreign direct investment in the country.
He said Botswana is at a very interesting point given the government’s initiatives of public private partnership and mineral extraction exercise. On the two issues, he said Botswana need to be supported in terms of capacity building so that they can be some genuine form of empowerment. Further, it comes at a time when outgoing British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, described Botswana as an exception in terms of political stability and economic management.
“Given the huge minerals extraction exercise which is going on, the two countries should work together to bring foreign investment to Botswana,”
McCartney said. “I would like to engage with Botswana and one of the things that I would like to see happening is that they should talk to investors in the UK who are interested in Africa.
“The Botswana government is looking at refurbishing the public sector (through PPPs) and we have companies that would help to build that capacity.”
Botswana, which is a former British protectorate, is currently looking at ways in which it can reduce government’s dominance in the running of the economy by way of the privatization of some of its public institutions and at the same time embark on joint projects with the private sector.
Some of the big projects which Botswana will need some assistance with relate to the development of the Mmamabula power station which aims at exporting electricity to South Africa.
Further, he said Britain welcomes the move to devolve some of the diamond trading from London to Gaborone. According to the plan, DTC Botswana should start operating by the beginning of next year with the hope of trading up to US $ 550 million worth of diamonds by 2009.
“I welcome the move of DTC Botswana and it demonstrates that the country is going into down-stream activities and we have a well defined supply chain. I welcome what is happening in the diamond industry. And everybody who buys diamonds will always think of Botswana and that will help in attracting foreign investors,” he added.
McCartney said there are other challenging issues such as SADC- EU Economic Partnership Agreement and Doha Talks which are aimed at uplifting the developing countries from poverty.
“The SADC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement will have to be completed before the end of the year because the current programme is coming to an end this year. The whole intention is the opening up of the markets.
“SADC goods should have immediate access to big markets of Europe but one of the things that we have to do is to build capacity (in these countries) and infrastructure,” he said.
The SADCÔÇôEU Economic Partnership Agreement is aimed at giving goods from the SADC region preferential treatment in the EU zone without tariffs.
However, he stated that tough negotiations will be on world trade negotiations where different countries have different interests but urged the Group of 5 countries, namely Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa, to take a different approach from the one they have adopted.
On Sino-Africa relations, he said the current situation is likely to end up with “China being a new type of colonial“master.
He said China should not invest in corrupt countries and its investments should be transparent.
“China is giving African countries some cheap loans, I think the situation is going to end up with China coming with a new type of colonialism,” he said.
Regarding the G8 commitments which were made in 2005 to uplift Africa from poverty, he said those commitments have to be fulfilled but added that attention is being diverted by conflicts that are ravaging Africa and the economic and political situation in Zimbabwe.
“These are complex issues which have to be addressed by the international community,” he added.