Monday, April 22, 2024

‘Canada has been a friend indeed’

We are honoured to have your Excellency and your dear wife in Botswana on your inaugural visit. I am privileged, on behalf of the people of Botswana to extend a very warm welcome to you and your delegation.

A visit by a dignitary from a country with which we have a long history of association; a country that shares similar values and aspirations with us and a country that is held in high esteem globally, renews in us a sense of purpose, inspiration and calls for a moment of reflection.

Allow me, distinguished guests, to put on record the fact that Canada was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Botswana in 1966. This was immediately followed by a timely and targeted development assistance programme.

Canada has been a friend in need and therefore a friend indeed. The pun is not intended. Canada held Botswana’s hand during the darker days of our development. For us in Botswana, night time was way back in 1966 when some analysts described our quest for independence as either, “very foolish or very brave”. In this context the second President of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire, has written a book entitled, Very Brave or Very Foolish ÔÇô therein the story of early Botswana is eloquently told. Day break is now, when we have been able to make strides in providing basic social amenities to our people. But we are not out of the woods yet. Our dawn is the opportunity to independently explore alternatives to shape a better future for the people of Botswana.

It is therefore timely to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to the leadership and people of Canada for the generosity that they extended to us in the nascent stages of our independence. Botswana has earned a respectable place in a number of categories on global ratings mainly because of the assistance that we received from Canada, and other development partners. Such assistance has buttressed our commitment and tenacity of purpose.

We attach high premium to our traditional relationship. This places you at a vantage position to understand and appreciate the necessity of staying the course, to avoid losing the modest gains made so far through Canada’s investment, particularly in the mineral sector and training of many mining engineers in Canadian institutions. My Government is therefore appreciative of the fact that while the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) no longer maintains a bilateral development assistance programme for Botswana, it continues to support our efforts through various other channels. In this regard, CIDA supports programmes in HIV and AIDS and training of Batswana health professionals.

I am confident that our deliberations in the next few days will form the basis for regular dialogue on future cooperation. There are areas with respect to which we are convinced cooperation and collaboration could and should be initiated such as youth empowerment programmes, agriculture and sport.

Botswana is enthused by your country’s economic achievements even during difficult times. We keenly observed that whilst many countries were severely affected by the recent economic and financial crises, Canada was able to minimise the impact on its economy through prudent interventions. This astute economic management has made Canada a benchmark for many countries, including Botswana.

Botswana’s major policy thrust as captured in the recent National Development Plans is in areas of economic diversification; employment creation, citizen economic empowerment and poverty eradication; continued macro-economic stability and financial discipline; education, skills development and capacity building; public sector reforms; and the fight against HIV and AIDS and the creation of an enabling environment for domestic and foreign investment.

In our effort to broaden our own economic base, we have embarked on a number of initiatives such as the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD). We therefore appeal to your countrymen and women to take a closer look at this initiative. I am encouraged that your delegation includes representatives from the Canadian business community and I hope that they will have time to explore the abundant investment opportunities available in our country. These are in sectors such as ICT, leather and glass manufacturing, agriculture, mineral beneficiation to mention but a few.

Botswana like Canada is steadfast in the belief that human dignity is the sine qua non for international peace and security. We therefore feel that the international community should not falter in its endeavor to protect human rights globally. In this regard, we pay tribute to your country for the leadership it has demonstrated in the promotion of this ideal. We particularly commend your current interventions in Syria where you have devoted considerable amount of resources towards the humanitarian needs of displaced people. We too have made a modest contribution to this unfolding humanitarian crisis through the United Nations system and in the context of our involvement with the Friends of Syria.

It would be remiss of me to conclude my remarks without mentioning the sterling partnership our two countries continue to have in the Kimberly Process. Whilst the process was borne out of the need to protect the image of the diamond industry, it has grown to be an example of international partnership in the quest to balance economic development with human rights.

Botswana is prepared to double its efforts in consolidating the coalition of entities aimed at protecting the economic value of diamonds and indeed other minerals. We do this out of self interest. Our economy, for now, is still largely dependent on minerals and diamonds in particular.

*These were remarks made by Vice President Dr. Ponatshego P.H.K. Kedikilwe at official luncheon hosted for the visiting Governor General of Canada, David Johnston.


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