Saturday, October 24, 2020

What was in for Botswana in Kenyatta’s visit?

On Monday Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta touched down at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKA) accompanied by his cabinet for a three days state visit. Upon arrival on Monday Kenyatta and his crew were hosted for state luncheon at the GICC and later held trade and cooperation talks at the Office of the President. On the second day, the Kenyan delegation, as the norm visited the Diamond Cutting and Polishing Centre before proceeding to Orapa diamond mine accompanied by minerals minister Kitso Mokaila. 

By all account, the visit seems to have been successful one for the Kenyan delegation for more than one reason.  We shall expand on that. Before we do that though, there is a quick question; can we say the same about the host nation? 

We understand that the visit, just like all other presidential states visits was meant to see to it that the bilateral relations between the two nations grow from the strength to strength. 

While we cannot easily point at any achievement Botswana can claim from the Kenyan President’s visit, there are quite a few deals that we feel will greatly benefit Kenya. This is not to say Botswana has nothing to gain, but we have not been told anything specific that Botswana will get out of the said visit. Even if there is something for Botswana, there is high likelihood that it is of less value. If it had any value, by now we could have heard the government enclave proudly speaking about it. The government enclave’s silence on what transpired during the talks between the two cabinets says there isn’t much for Botswana. Or atleast there isn’t anything extra ordinary. 

As part of his key achievement of the visit, Kenyatta says he “pushed” President Ian Khama to consider reviewing our immigration laws. This could mean that more Kenyans could now find it easy to come and work in Botswana. Another question that we do not have a question to is whether President Khama has negotiated a similar deal for Batswana who wish to work in Kenya. His facebook page or rather his office and other offices at the government enclave had not said anything regarding that issue as yet. We can only speculate for now. 

Secondly, we hear that Kenyatta inked another deal on behalf of his country’s national airline ÔÇô Kenya Airways. Once again Kenyatta “pushed” Khama to review the bilateral air services agreement to allow Kenyan Airways to fly to more destinations within Botswana. We hear that the KQ, as it is widely called will now fly to places like Maun, Francistown and Kasane in the not so distant future. Where is Air Botswana? Are we ever going to see it flying it to Nairobi or anywhere in East Africa? Can it negotiate some sort of deal with KQ to share these anticipated passengers? 

Kenyatta whose presence in the social media is visible proudly shared with his Facebook followers that the KQ deal will help improve the free movement of the people of the two nations. That is partially true; more Kenyans will soon land here and make money. Given the nature of the locals, few of Batswana will travel to Kenya to start businesses. Negative as it sounds but it’s the hurting truth, nothing else. 

We hear that during one of the closed session Kenyatta called on Khama to support him to inspire the Botswana business community to exploit the existing investment opportunities in Kenya. Once again we can only speculate on Khama’s response as well a way forward for such a noble invite. 

The truth of the matter is that over the years Kenya has seen enviable success and growth in the service, agriculture, agribusiness and manufacturing sector. But Botswana has been struggling to penetrate some of these. Even Botswana’s trade minister, Vincent Seretse admitted at the Tuesday business forum. Seretse noted that Botswana is currently on a drive to develop the same sectors amongst others and which will pave way for profitable partnerships and exchange of information between Botswana and Kenya business communities. The last question that one can ask though is whether we have financially empowered Batswana to equally trade with their Kenyan counterparts? 

The #Bottomline remains; while we wait to see what Kenyatta’s visit had in store for our people and the domestic economy, we should be working towards ensuring that we exploit the immense business opportunities on offer from both countries. 

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