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Botswana needs a policy on China

President Mokgweetsi Masisi on Wednesday travelled to Beijing, China at the invitation of the Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Masisi, accompanied by five Cabinet Ministers, will spend 10 days in China signing deals with Chinese government. We are told that during the state visit, Masisi will hold bilateral talks with his counterpart; wherein they will deliberate on various issues of mutual interest, with a view to enhance bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

Masisi is also scheduled to officiate the Botswana-China Business Forum on August 31, 2018, which is co-hosted by Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) in partnership with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT). 

From September 3 to 4, 2018, Masisi will attend the Third Summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which will be held under the theme ‘China and Africa: Toward an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future through Win-Win Cooperation’. The last Botswana President to visit China was Festus Mogae in 2006. The previous President Ian Khama initially loved the Chinese when he took over but ended up loathing them towards the end of his second term in office.

It is an open secret that he started kicking them out and refusing to renew most of their permits. This was because he nearly lost 2014 general elections and he blamed the Chinese for that. This time around, we expect Masisi to do something different from what Khama did when he reengages with Beijing. China is the second biggest economy in the world that cannot be ignored.

Elsewhere in this edition, we reported that Botswana is looking for about P12.4 billion for funding under facilities made available in the coming FOCAC.

The projects include the Mosetse–Kazungula railway, Palapye–Martin’s Drift road and Francistown–Nata–Sehithwa-Mohembo road. The country needs these projects hence Masisi’s record 10 days visit to Beijing. We advise that when Masisi reengages them, there should be a policy in place. We know that the Chinese companies here succeeded and failed in some projects. China likes Botswana because it pays back its loans. They are moving away from the neighbouring Zambia because the country owes them billions. The Chinese will offer you funds then demand that you have to hire their own contractor, use their materials and labour. In this case there is no skills transfers to the locals.

If the project fails the country remains owing them for a project that is not working. That is why we advise Masisi to be careful when he reengages the Chinese. The deals that he is bound to sign with President Xi should be win-win for both countries.


Today’s thought 

“President Masisi is travelling there to share ideas on what could be developed going forward. China has assisted Botswana in different spheres such as infrastructure and health care, exporting medical experts here. We also have Chinese investors especially in the construction field. It is thus very important for us to develop this relationship.” 

– Minister Nonofo Molefhi




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