The image that the world has of our country is of vital importance to a much needed boom in our tourism sector; that’s a fact.
Earlier this year, the Travel and Tourism competitive Index had reported that Botswana was down by 12 places from its 79th spot for places to visit the world over. Botswana‘s popularity as the world’s place to visit might have been dampened by factors such as the new alcohol levy, the short time schedules imposed on the already mediocre entertainment industry, and the fact that people in developing countries think that most of the population in Botswana is dying of HIV/AIDS.
BEDIA has its work cut out in terms of convincing investors that Botswana is an attractive destination for them to deal with, business wise.
The public sector strike has also not done the country any favours because it was perceived as a political disaster in which attention was called to the fact that we call ourselves a democracy even though we can’t even vote for our own president.
During my fellowship with the International Journalists Programme (IJP) in Germany, where I was based at the country’s international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, I had an opportunity to interact with people from different parts of the world.
It was in this position that I was able to gather a lot of feedback on how the world perceives our country.
The general consensus, however, for those who don’t think Botswana is a village in Africa is that the country has a strong economy, which is heavily dependent on diamonds. Some of the business men who deal in automobiles, technology and construction industry believe that Botswana would be a good place for them to conduct business, “if only it didn’t have most of its people dying of AIDS”.
Who exactly is responsible for the perception that the world has of our country? Do we blame the Botswana Tourism Board for not being aggressive enough in selling our country? Or do we blame our citizens who go out there and turn a deaf ear to what people said about our country?
I fail to count the times I had to argue the fact that statistics of AIDS in the country have reduced and that the country is at the forefront of the fight against AIDS. Sometimes the people I interacted with stopped short of asking me if I have AIDS as well, seeing as how people in my age group were apparently the most affected.
As it stands, I took it upon myself to be an unpaid ambassador for my country, making it my business to talk about the amazing tourism ventures we have back home, the road we travelled to get to where we are today, our people’s peaceful nature and the continuous fight against AIDS, even though most of the time I took a defensive stand against those who believed Botswana was susceptible to all things associated with other African countries.
Being defensive has a lot of vices in its own way because you don’t want to admit that your country has its own problems, which is not viable because the truth is no country is perfect.
There were times when people couldn’t believe that I was from Africa because of my complexion, they way I spoke and the grasp I had on issues as a whole.
The image that most of the ignorant people had was that Africa was one big country, where everyone is supposed to be poor and dark, unless they are from the Arab nations of North Africa.
I once mentioned the fact that one day on my way to work, I came across a group of primary school students selling cakes and muffins; they asked me if I wanted to buy some. It was a school project, they said, and the money would be given to kids in Africa. Where in Africa I asked and they had no idea what I was on about? They were just kids, given a project by their teachers, who also probably knew nothing about Botswana being a country in Africa.
We can do so much better.
My suggestion would be that we take an aggressive approach in taking our country to the world; it’s about time and I am only saying this because I have taken an initiative to do something about it myself. In this project, we can also get the youth involved because the easiest way we can sell ourselves is through the social network, and we all know how our youth love the social networks.
Let’s give them something to work with, which they can enjoy while helping put their country on the map.
Who is with me?