Tuesday, December 7, 2021

New EU envoy hit the ground running

BY PORTIA NKANI

A new European Union ambassador is in town ÔÇô and he is ready to hit the ground running, looking at ways to improve bilateral ties as well as maintain relation between Botswana and his native land.

As part of his office’s self introductory program, Jan Sadek this week hosted a meet and greet with the local media where he deliberated on a number of relations between Botswana and member states of the EU trading bloc. Sadek is taking over from Alexander Baum whose term came to an end on August 31st 2018.

He told journalists that the European Union wants to look into business investment trade with Botswana as some of its market remains untapped.

He therefore called on Botswana to maximise the opportunities to increase its exports to the EU market.

Sadek is concerned that there is still not much that is being exported to EU except the beef and the diamonds. Even so, the beef still has an opportunity to explore more markets in the EU, he said. It is therefore for these reasons that, EU has committed to spare 6million Euro to help facilitate export to Europe. “We need to strengthen Botswana economy in that regard. Beef and diamonds are also long hanging fruits and need to be increased. We have a big market that is not being explored. I would be interested to see other companies exporting to EU,” Sadek said.

With a population of only two million and a diamond rich country, Botswana has a huge market of beef consumption and tourism attraction from the EU market.

In his last interview with Sunday Standard when leaving office four months ago, Baum was also of the same view that the beef and tourism markets are not being exploited optimally in the EU market. He suggested that the willingness should have to fully come from the country seeking market opportunities itself rather than otherwise.

By economic sector beef and tourism have the biggest potential in Europe which is still not explored much . “Though we are the lucrative market; we have investors in the region in downstream beef processes and the technical expertise, some countries in Europe are more interested. We have not gone far. We have not done much as a country in pursuance of these opportunities,” he said.   

This week when asked by Sunday Standard what key sectors Botswana could benefit from EU, the new Ambassador indicated that an assessment is still being carried out on other sectors.

His colleague, Paz Velasco Velazquez, Deputy Head of Cooperation also added that in part of the assessment is the inclusive of economic growth and job creation.

“Botswana mining has not been able to create more jobs. We therefore have to target the development of value chain sectors and build clusters around economic activity such as the leather park in Lobatse amongst others, at the end creating more jobs. Services’ sector in future also stands to be an outlet for entrepreneurs,” said Velazquez.

Economic Partnership Agreements was signed in 2016 According to John Taylor, Trade Advisor, just like his colleagues from the embassy was of the same mind that, “we have not seen a significant trade from Botswana. This agreement opened up opportunities for EU to export to Botswana and Botswana export to EU. There are constraints in policy development trade investment, and that have to create playing field for investment in Botswana. There still remain challenges to provide reliable water supply, foreign direct investment. We have a big market that is not being explored.”

Anything produced in Botswana can be exported to EU duty free and quota free that is; market forces permitting, you can export as much of your produce to the EU market as you can (both industrial and agricultural goods). From the EU delegation, Botswana could even double, triple the amount of beef that is currently being exported.     

Nonetheless, it appeared that EPA currently does not cover for services sector, but according to Velazquez, Botswana requested to negotiate a further chapter. Services stand to benefit from EU in future.

In addition, the delegation adds that more creation of jobs can come from the private sector. In 2017 funds were provided to strengthen private sector participation in African countries. The idea is to invest in crowd funding to reduce risks. 1,5million Euros was also disbursed for financial sector to support SMMEs, according to Taylor.

A lot more could happen for Botswana but it needs more proactiveness seeking of research cooperation, and it may not come easy for Botswana but this small country should be protecting its interests. The institutions’ proactiveness should also show full commitment.

There are niche markets, for instance the Botswana Vaccine Institute could export its vaccine to other markets.

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