The First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), in collaboration with the South African High Commission, this week held a dinner for the captains of business and industry both in South Africa and Botswana, aiming at forging closer collaboration in bilateral and regional economic development.
Speaking at this function, which is expected to be held annually by these two countries, the Vice President of Botswana, Mompati Merafhe, said the meeting, which built on other already existing collaborative and consultative mechanisms between two governments, has two objectives.
“With this annual forum, our aim is to explore practical ways of exploiting investment opportunities between the two countries. Also we want to encourage the spread of investment benefits to other areas outside South Africa, particularly Botswana,” he stated.
According to Merafhe, it has been proved in other continents or sub-continents, such as South Asia or Europe, that have smaller economies like the one Botswana has, can thrive side by side with larger and stronger economies in a complementary manner.
“Given the policy commitment by both governments to halve employment and poverty by 2014 and 2016, in that order, I must say that the initiation of this forum, given our present region-wide challenge, is timely,” said the Vice President. “What we should aim for is not to reduce poverty, but to eliminate it completely,” he stated
Merafhe said that the new leadership of Botswana is lucky to have inherited a very stable political system and prudently managed economy.
According to Merafhe, the government of Botswana continues to attach great importance to the role of the private sector as the engine of the economic growth.
“In his inaugural speech, the President underlined the important role of the private sector by confirming that, as Government, ‘we have to create an enabling environment for the private sector, and to actively encourage it to become the driving force of the main investor in our economy,’” he quoted. Merafhe emphasized that the private sector remains very critical in the efforts to deliver the business friendly environment relevant to time now.
He said it will not be enough to simply amend policies on paper emphasizing that implementation remains the key if Batswana are to achieve their stated objectives.
“It is, therefore, our desire to see increased private participation in major Government initiated projects,” he stated.
The Vice President urged both SA and Botswana business gurus to explore creative and winning partnerships to take advantage of the available opportunities.
In his remarks the Chief Executive for Invest North West, SA, Gaba Tabane, emphasized a need for both countries to explore opportunities that are both in SA and Botswana, and to find a logical way to link and match their businesses in both countries.
“As Africans, we have to talk about balance of trade in our region and focus on the Southern African region’s opportunities,” he said.
Tabane said it is now time for them to do business together even if it is on a small scale, to set the tone and added that Africans should learn how to diversify economic portfolio, and to create knowledge-based society.
“The reality starts when all of us stand up. So far nothing has been done,” stated SA High Commissioners, Dikgang Moopeloa. He said for both countries to achieve what they are aiming for, they have to put the necessary tools on the table that will allow them to cooperate. “We need to take ownership, and have clear strategies of how to achieve what we plan to achieve,” he added.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Neo Moroka, who was also present at the event, said it is now time for Botswana to go the legislation route, just like SA.
“Just as SA has empowered us, this will help us in many ways and help us empower others,” he said.