The founding rationale of SABCO is to ensure that South African businesses operating in Botswana remain mindful of the historical relations that have existed for centuries between the two countries as well as common family, clan and tribal ties that continue to bind them.
“They must therefore conduct business in this country with that at the back of their minds. The economies of both South Africa and Botswana have benefitted tremendously from the business relations that have been cemented between our two countries,” said His Excellency Lembede.
The mandate and main objective of SABCO is to enhance the ability of South African companies in Botswana to fulfill their business aspirations. The Council is designed to provide a forum for business people to interact, dialogue and exchange views among and between themselves and other business organisations in the country.
“Whilst doing and making profit, they must never lose sight of the importance of creating a positive image of South Africa and generate tangible outcomes to enhance national prosperity,” said Lembede.
He believes that SABCO is a platform through which the South African business community contributes positively to the attainment of economic growth, skills development, knowledge and expertise sharing and transfer as well as social transformation of Botswana and the SADC region. Asked about his role in forming SABCO, Lembede explained that even though the South African High Commission played an active role in facilitating the formation of the Council, it has a very limited role in its day to day activities. He stated that the role of the SA High Commission will remain supportive, as one of the primary roles of an embassy or a diplomatic mission is to protect the interest of its citizens as well as its business community operating in the host country.
“This will purely be a business organisation, run by business people for their own business interests. As the saying goes, the business of business is business. We’re not going to interfere as the High Commission,” said Lembede.
He added that the South African High Commission has a much bigger role to play in the broader concept of economic diplomacy and bilateral commercial diplomacy, in which they are expected to pursue their country’s own domestic economic objectives using foreign policy instruments.
“Economic diplomacy can therefore be defined as a foreign policy and diplomatic tool that is utilized to realize a country’s political economic objectives. The establishment of this Council will ensure that South Africans sing from the same hymn book in pursuit of their collective economic diplomacy and prosperity,” he said.
High Commissioner Lembede further said Botswana’s retail, hospitality and financial sectors have over the years benefited from ties with South African businesses. The emergence of shopping centers and brand new malls in Botswana has also resulted in a number of South African retail and services giants setting up shop in the country.
“In the financial sector, three of Botswana’s top four banks and its largest insurance company are majority South African owned,” said Lembede.
While investments by South African companies are a welcome contributor to Botswana’s economic growth, Lembede cautioned that if left unchecked South Africa’s dominant role in Botswana’s economy will draw a lot of criticism and resentment. He added that South African business people are fully aware of this phenomenon, and the SA Business Council hopes to address the issue together with other stakeholders such as Business Botswana. Botswana and South Africa conduct their bilateral relations through the Bi-National Commission (BNC) which was established in 2010. The BNC is coordinated at the highest level and is presided over by President Ian Khama on the Botswana side and President Jacob Zuma on the South African side.