Address by Dr GNM Pandor, MP, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation at the Botswana – South Africa Business Forum, 03rd August 2022, Gaborone
Celebrating 28 Years of Trade and Investment Relations
Programme Director Mr Phenyo Moroka,
Honourable Minister of Trade and Industry Mmusi Kgafela,
High Commissioners of Botswana and South Africa,
Captains of Industry and government officials,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to extend a warm welcome to you all to the Botswana – South Africa Business Forum, which forms part of our celebrations of 28 years of trade and investment relations between our two countries. The Ministry of Trade and Industry of Botswana together with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition of South Africa are to be commended for convening this High-Level Business Forum, and the Roundtable tomorrow which will be presided over by our respective Heads of State.
South Africa and Botswana share a special relationship as neighbours in a region that fought a common struggle against colonialism and oppression. During the celebrations this week we would like to honour the contribution of Botswana to the liberation struggle of South Africa and thank your compatriots for their assistance during that difficult period in our history.
Many South Africans passed through Botswana during the struggle for liberation, and in October we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the ANC Lobatse Conference, which was the first ANC conference held outside of South Africa in 1962. During the early 1960s, a number of South Africans crossed the border into Botswana in order to escape the brutal oppression of the apartheid regime. Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Ronnie Kasrils, and Mosie Moolla are just some of the comrades who escaped the security police dragnet and sought refuge in Botswana.
Our comrades were housed by citizens of Botswana, oftentimes in the home of Comrade Fish Keitseng who in the early years hid Mandela in the mountains. Madiba would spend his days reading, and at night come down from the mountains to the home of Comrade Keitseng. Batswana also played a significant role in helping comrades from our liberation movement to cross the border from Botswana into other countries. Not once did Batswana police hand comrades back to the apartheid police. We would like to use this opportunity to thank the Batswana for their contribution to our struggle for liberation.
I understand that a diverse array of events will take place this week as part of the celebrations of our trade relationship, starting with this two-day business forum which hopes to strengthen business-to-business linkages with a view to facilitate trade and investment as well as possible joint-venture partnerships. The two-day business forum will see the Botswana private sector engage their South African counterparts in roundtable sessions and business-to-business meetings. We look forward to the trade expo which will also be held over the next two days.
It is envisaged that the Roundtable discussion will provide the Heads of States with an opportunity to have in-depth engagements on issues affecting trade and investment relations between the two countries by being in conversation with strategic and select business leaders from both countries. The envisaged outcome is an improved economic relationship anchored by strategic investments in each other’s economies and collaborative solutions for regional growth.
Botswana benefits from regional economic integration and the facilitation of duty-free movement of goods with a common external tariff on goods entering any of the countries from outside the SACU. Such benefits and positive bilateral economic relations make such engagements vital for both nations.
We would like to support the implementation of the SACU regional value chain, and the African Continental Free Trade Area. Part of the discussions which will be held will explore cooperation in mining and minerals beneficiation, which are key pillars of Botswana and South Africa’s industrialisation policy. We will also look at ways to enhance automotive component manufacturing that will contribute to job creation in our respective countries. Tourism was hit hard in both countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and together we need to develop sustainable strategies to revitalise the tourism industry.
Both Botswana and South Africa will benefit from an agricultural exchange. Botswana has abundant fertile land, yet it imports a lot of the food it consumes. This is a trend across much of the continent which we can work together to address so that we can produce more of what we require without importing from beyond our shores. Through economic discussions, we could further investigate the production of animal feed, fruit processing, as well as vegetable and fertiliser production.
If we are to take stock of our trade relations in recent years, it is evident that our two countries maintain a robust trade relationship that has strengthened despite the pandemic. South African exports to Botswana were R64.4 billion last year, and South Africa remains Botswana’s number one source of imports. Botswana is South Africa’s 7th largest export market.
Since the hosting of the first Bi-National Commission in 2013, there have been 38 Memoranda of Understanding between South Africa and Botswana, and we are long overdue to hold the next BNC so that we can further explore areas of cooperation. There is great room for future growth in the area of outward investment, the creation of industrial value chains, and infrastructure development.
Let us capitalise on this opportunity to come together and build new bridges of cooperation for the future, as our prosperity depends on the economic success of each other. Just as we collaborated in the years of the struggle some six decades ago, we can move forward in solidarity as we forge a better future for our people.