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The relevance of International relations to Batswana

For the past five years I have written over 150 newspaper articles as a columnist for different media houses on issues that are based of my beloved academic field of International Relations (IR).

Interestingly for the past two years that I have written extensively for Mmegi, I have received some questions from certain sections of the readership who have tried in vain to make me switch from writing on international to local politics for many reasons that  they put forward to me. One of their reasons is that “International Relations/politics is alien and does not have any relevance to our day to day living as Batswana”. Furthermore “International events happening in far flung areas of this planet such as Syria, Iraq, North Korea does not have any bearing what so ever in our lives as Batswana”.

There are those who even unleashed a flurry of poisoned arrows on me that what I write only make sense to myself only as no one will ever take me seriously as a writer.

One critic even suggested that I make a quick appointment with some experts from the mental health field as I might be politically insane due to my obsession with writing on issues which he feels no one in my beloved Botswana is interested in reading about!

I however remain adamant that the field of International Relations is very relevant to Batswana and a lot needs to be written on many issues to teach or inform Batswana on the dynamics of global politics. Putting it more succinct, International Relations is a relevant branch of Political Science that examines the role of states (Botswana included), international alliances, NGOs and Multinational Companies in an increasingly globalised world.

Batswana should be made to know that this field deals with very important issues like sovereignty, environmentalism, development and most importantly human rights in the context of global affairs.

International relations is also concerned with the policies of individual states such as Botswana as far as the impact they have on the affairs of other states. This field, Batswana must know, covers not only the traditional realm of interstate relations, but also the interaction between state actors and non-state actors whether they be organisations, institutions and/or multinational corporations.

As a vast field that includes what makes much of what makes the world tick, such as politics, law, commerce as well as significant social, cultural scientific, environmental and technological aspects that has to be acknowledged and addressed, a Motswana student, scholar and/or a researcher of International Relations has a broad range of options to select from depending on their personal preferences and interest, and with one certainty, and that is to make a difference to the world.

IR can surely help these Batswana students and scholars develop highly sought after skills that can be applied to any

career including research and administrative skills, critical analysis skills, scientific methods and cross cultural awareness.

Batswana should know that IR is relevant to them as it teaches them to unravel the complex and often invisible network of factors that effectively means that events in one part of the globe can have unlikely consequences in another.

A good example will be the perpetual crisis in the Middle East that often pushes the global oil prices up.

The higher the oil prices the higher the petrol prices in Botswana become, thus pushing up the cost of transport and most dangerously food prices.

This eventually adversely affect Botswana’s national budget in the long run. So a deeper understanding of IR subfield of International Political Economy will give experts a chance to advise Botswana policy makers on how to mitigate these challenges brought about by political events elsewhere. The other example will be that of the global recession in 2007, which severely affected commodity prices the world over including Botswana’s diamond sales in the world market.

Public servants received no salary increment during the crisis and many companies retrenched their employees.

These challenging times require that Batswana should be well abreast with what was really going on so as they can find better ways to mitigate against such challenges. It is through the field of IR to teach Batswana on these life changing socio-economic issues.

Furthermore many nations across the world often face global issues that are larger than any specific country or even the continent, such as the concerns over the environment, pandemics and most importantly terrorism (9/11 comes to mind).

It is against this background that a sound knowledge of IR are required for nations such as Botswana to cooperate effectively to meet these challenges, allowing nations to share relevant information quickly and pool necessary resources. IR knowledge can also be advantageous to Batswana for promoting the advancement of human culture in a general way.

The diversity of world cultures can be promoted and shared through enlightened IR policies, allowing programmes such as student exchanges and cultural exhibitions to enhance our understanding of the variety of human expressions worldwide.

From these it can be safely said that IR has, contrary to some critics here in Botswana,   become more relevant in our Tswana society as it is an exceptionally important aspect of citizenship in a global society.

For these reason I pledge my allegiance to keep fighting from the international relations’ corner by keeping my ink busy with the overall aim of expanding the intellectual circumference of my fellow Batswana on issues of global politics. My ink will never run dry!!!!!!

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