FRANCISTOWN: Despite its rich history, Francistown’s economy has over the years dwindled rendering it almost a ghost town.
Recently during a Special Full Council meeting in the second city, Mayor Godisang Radisigo lamented failure by the city to capitalize on its rich historical past.
Several mines in its vicinity closed business leading to high unemployment, poverty and crime. Francistown is one of the first and oldest towns in the country.
“The uniqueness of Francistown as a heritage city tells an important part of history of Botswana such as the Nyangabwe Hill and the history behind. The old Monarch mine where the first gold rush in Southern Africa began,” he said.
He said these heritage sites need to be developed into proper tourist attractions leveraging on the strategic tourist location of the city as a trade centre and the significance of Kenneth Nkhwa Interchange popularly known as the “Spaghetti”.
Radisigo said there is need for an annual major cultural festival that symbolizes and celebrates the essence of the city in terms of culture, fashion, arts, sports and entertainment. He further said that there is need to enhance major landmarks in the city in an endeavor to turn it into “The city of all things precious”
“For instance, the Kenneth Nkhwa Interchange needs to be livened up with artistic colours to make it more picturesque with murals by our talented artists. In addition the signage that welcomes visitors into Francistown on either ends needs to be enhanced with monuments made out of local natural resources to welcome visitors into the city and usher them out of Francistown,” he said.
On concerns that Francistown developments were moving at a snail’s pace, the mayor said the city council has hatched a Francistown Revitalization Plan with an objective to give the second city a facelift particularly the historic Blue Jacket street corridor. He said the plan was adopted in February 2019 and will help attract investors. In an attempt to operationalize the plan, Radisigo said there is among others, development of the multi-level parking at the busy Nswazwi Mall area which has been awarded to the developer.
“The tender for development of the Central Market plot which the Revitalization Plan has identified as mixed-use housing small scale enterprise was awarded on the 28th of July 2020 and the contract is still at the drafting stage,” he added.
He however acknowledged the fact that like any other place, the tourism industry in Francistown was hard hit by the Corvid 19 pandemic due to strict protocols on movement and interaction of the local and international community.
Radisigo explained that while the industry had shut down all commercial operations across the country during lockdowns, in April a number of them contributed immensely in the fight against the pandemic as they were used as quarantines by the Health Sector.
“It is a fact that Francistown is a regional hub for the tourism industry playing a pivotal role in the success and viability of facilities in the region. This is because Francistown is not only a major source of the market for these facilities but also contributes immensely in the value chains of these operations,” said the mayor.
He revealed that under dam’s tourism, Francistown prides itself with Shashe dam which falls under the Greater Francistown Heritage Trail. He said the Shashe Dam Tourism Master Plan was completed in 2017 by the Botswana Tourism Organization(BTO) depicting developments and activities that can be conducted within the Dam. He added that implementation began with the surveying of the approved zones in April 2020.