The European Union (EU) shrugged off concerns that its funds to be injected into the Selebi Phikwe region to breath new life have dried up saying it is working jointly with Botswana government for a more diversified economy.
In a letter written to Sunday Standard as a squeal to a report that came out of the Selebi Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit’s (SPEDU’s) conference ambassador, Paul Malin said: “European Union will agree with Government on the use of P600 million, generated by the first phase of the project, for a limited number of projects to promote diversification in the region.”
“It is agreed that we should support technical education and training in fields relevant to the local economy and we are examining with government a proposal to dramatically reduce pollution from smelter through sulphur capture and the production of sulphuric acid,” he said.
“It has always been understood that the financing would finish at the end of 2009. However, we still have the means and commitment to contribute to diversification of the economy of Botswana at national and regional level,” Malin added.
His comment followed a statement last week where the Coordinator of SPEDU, Kago Moshashane warned that lack of funding threatens the survival of his organisation and its long term objectives.
“This afternoon I had thought to hear something different but it was just like business as usual. I had thought to hear something along the lines of business unusual,” Moshashane said.
“There is no money,” he said, adding that the needed to hear more since the European Union funding has dried up.
SPEDU was born two years ago as a squeal to a European Union sponsored research that pointed out that up to 80,000 are likely to be affected by the closure of the country’s oldest copper/ nickel.
Although the mine directly employs around 4000 people but as many as 80,000 or more within the Bobirwa, Mmadinare, Selebi Phikwe and Tswapong North have their lives somewhat linked to the mine.
The report had warned of a possible social unrest and the likelihood of a ghost town if billions of pula are not injected into the area in the form of investment.
EU which has been the chief sponsor of SPEDU out of the initial seed money of P 500 million seems to be pulling back on the long term objective that is geared towards turning the region into “ economic diversification model “ for Botswana and at the same time pushing it to the point of being the ‘bread basket” of the country if not playing a significant role in the region’s ambition of food security.
However, last week a delegation from European Investment Bank met with the key players in SPEDU urging them to move fast in dealing with the emission from the mine ÔÇô an exercise that is expected to cost close to half of the allocated money.
Some of the things which the diversification of the town and the area is to work on its image and present itself as the best place of doing business in the country. The ambitious plan is partly borrowed from the Limpopo region in South Africa which has adopted a strategic vision that will help it stand out in South Africa.
The move will include the improvement of skills available within the region, reduction of unemployment and inequalities while at the same time improving on infrastructural development and access to services.