Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Outgoing EU ambassador discusses Botswana’s potential

The outgoing EU Ambassador to Botswana, Alexander Baum has advised Botswana to be more tactical in its dealings with fellow African states as well as the outside world.

Baum, who has been based in the capital Gaborone over the past four years, says it is important for Botswana to have credibility in the continent.

“I am more concerned about the economy, as we live a life which is not sustainable. We need Botswana as a friend which shows that it can be a success story. Many of the other African countries perceive Botswana as an arrogant state. It is important that Botswana has credibility within the continent and is accepted as another country that can share experiences and gives advice without compromising its values, principles but show its positive stories that can be perceived as teaching lessons.”

According to Baum, the diamond rich Botswana has unsustainable life thus the need to stand up for itself and show course that it can be a successful economy.

With a population of only two million, Botswana has a huge beef production potential as well as tourism attraction. However, Baum is of the view that the beef and tourism markets are not being exploited optimally in the EU market. He suggests 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 that much.

“Although 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 however, added that, “to push for other opportunities of trade to be exploited, I would like to see more in research and development, where Botswana could compete comparatively. In terms of global economy apart from beef and tourism, Botswana is not comparative.”

He suggests that, “Botswana has no comparative advantage. There is plenty of sunshine in Botswana which could be utilized in a longterm to transform into cheap energy and could be used for other industrial processes. There is need for a proactive research and build capacity so to build knowledge based economy. More collaboration in research is vital. I would like to see institutions such as BIUST being more involved with real top of the line research cooperation with European countries.”

A lot more could happen for Botswana but it needs more pro-activeness 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.

Baum ÔÇô who leaves Botswana at the end of August 2018 also added that there are niche markets, for instance the Botswana Vaccine Institute could export its vaccine to other markets. “There are many facets where there could be centers to go into and look for niche markets, Vaccine is the another product where you can use air transport.”

REGIONAL INTERGRATION

Coming to Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional integration, Baum said this requires a political will from the SADC member states. The market he said is big enough to start building the regional economy. “This is a political debate that has to be made with a sense of urgency. It requires political will. As EU we are now trying to look at the supply side- for instruments that have been developing at macro level and foster into investments. We have initiatives that are slowly coming up and could be benefited by the African countries, Botswana included. We have guarantee schemes in place.”

ZIMBABWE TRANSFORMATION

Zimbabwe which has been hit by economic turmoil for two decades now, is trying to find its feet back into transformation with the new President Emmerson Mnangagwa having recently taken over form the long ruler Robert Mugabe. All regional players and the International players are looking up to Mnangagwa to revive the dead economy after a total collapse during the Mugabe era. Baum indicated that EU has a will to help Zimbabwe to transform. What is needed he said is to start building trusts. “What I sense is that people are waiting and even some of the external forces with interests in Zimbabwe are waiting with eager. We must not be impatient, not everyone is happy with Zimbabwe coming around. However, I do not expect radical change. EU will be looking at the developments attentively.”

As he exits the ambassadorial office, Baum said he was hoping to see more cooperation. “I wish we could have more. The dynamics have to come from mutual interest. We are not a big service by international standards but our network is big.”

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper