Bilateral ties between Botswana and Namibia are good and frankly speaking they are excellent. The best illustration of this is the number and frequency of High Level visits that take place between the two countries.
The Editor of The Patriot Mathias Haufiku last week sat down with the High Commissioner of Botswana to Namibia to reflect on the quality of the bilateral relationship.
Botswana and namibia have forged a strong relationship based on mutual respect, which has been manifested in cooperation over the years. How should this relationship be maintained?
It is important that we continue to leverage on our existing bilateral cooperation mechanisms, such as the Joint Permanent Commissions to broaden the scope of our cooperation.
Regular meetings of these bilateral mechanisms is crucial as they help in addressing emerging concerns as well monitoring implementation of agreed programmes and interventions.
Regular Contacts at official level is key to maintaining good relations in between regular and formal meetings of Commissions. Further, people to people interactions can be even more effective than official interactions. It is for this reason that my office puts premium on swiftly attending to issues that may disturb the smooth passage of Batswana and Namibians between each other’s country. In this area I must point out that we have good, effective and dependable partners at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration.
My Nationals continue to visit the Namibian coast and other places of interest in large numbers every year and I expect this to continue.mibians for being hospitable to my compatriots and implore them to continue to be neighbourly. I also encourage Namibians to sample our Tourism as well!
My Office has, particularly during the build up to the commemoration of the Anniversary our Fiftieth Independence in 2016 facilitated cultural exchanges and collaboration of artists between the two countries.
I am convinced more than ever, that this is a very good avenue of promoting understanding, mutual respect and a sense of togetherness. I am working hard at ensuring that such exchanges are enhanced.
Despite the abundance of resources such as diamonds in both countries, both countries are still battling high poverty rates. Why is this still the case?
It is not uncommon for resource rich countries to have such challenges, especially those with relatively undiversified economies such as Botswana and Namibia. The diamond industry by its nature does not create many employment opportunities nor many linkages with the rest of the economy. But the two countries have many programmes to improve the life of the poor.
Botswana will be hosting an International Conference on Poverty Eradication on the 20-21 March, under the theme,’ Leaving No One Behind –in the Fight Against Poverty, Exclusion and Inequality’.
This Conference will provide an opportunity for countries that are seized with this problem to reflect on how ambitious and challenging it will be to leave no one behind, by exploring the extent to which the policies and strategies implemented so far have been effective and what kind of interventions are required , going forward.
The fight against poverty has always been a priority in Botswana since our independence in 1966. Government programmes together with assistance by the international community has seen poverty levels in Botswana decline.
Sadc has suffered the worst drought since 2013, what do you suggest should be done to find a lasting solution for both countries?
The region has faced drought emergencies in the past and it was only due to the concerned joint action that a catastrophe was averted. It is only, by working collectively and jointly with partners, SADC Member States, the Secretariat and the longer International Community that common problems can be addressed.
It is therefore, my believe that the implementation of short, medium and long-tem measures of the regional preparedness and response strategy to address the impacts of El Nino on Agriculture and Food and Nutrition Security in Southern Africa which was developed in February 2016 will indeed prepare, respond and build resilience to mitigate future disasters.
The implementation of existing plans such under the SADC Water Sector, in particular the fourth phase of the Regional Strategic Action Plan, will go a long way in dealing with most of the regional water challenges. These plans will indeed address issue of :-
a. Better contribution of the water sector to the SADC regional industrialisation initiative and value chains.
b. Improved capacity of Member States and River Basin Organisations to develop and manage their water resources;
c. Increased access to funding for water infrastructure development in the region; and
d. More integrated planning and management of water resources (both surface and ground water resources).
Can you give us an update on the plans to construct the Trans –Kalahari railway?
This issue was discussed at length by the relevant Ministers as well as by the two Presidents. Commitment to the implementation of this important project is unwavering.
Having signed the Bilateral Agreement on the Construction of the Railway Line in March 2014 the two Governments had hoped to have a full-fledged Project Implementation Office up and running immediately thereafter.
There have been delays, but fortunately issues that caused these have been resolved and we should witness a lot of activity at the PMO, leading to the construction of a railway line that is not only dedicated to the transportation of coal from Botswana but a regional Corridor that would further unlock the potential of this Economic Belt that runs from Gauteng in South Africa through Botswana to Walvis Bay.
Our invitation to Namibians…..
Having talked about the excellent relations between our country and our people I wish take this opportunity to invite more Namibians to visit Botswana. There are a number of activities that take in areas that are accessible to most Namibians:
The Khawa Dunes Challenge and Cultural Festival
Ever year in May all roads lead to a small village in the Kalahari District of Botswana, a few hours’ drive from the Trans Kalahari Border Post, for a Sports Festival.
This epic event takes place on 10 to 13 May 2018.
TDR Toyota Kalahari 1000 Desert Race
The diamond Town of Jwaneng along the Trans Kalahari Highway will on 22-24 June host the Desert Race. This event should not to be missed by off road driving lovers and I know there are plenty in Namibia.
The Race For The Rhinos
The beautiful LEKHUBU Island will host this important event on 28 June to 1 July 2018.
Lekhubu is a beautiful large topographic depression within the Sua Pan in the Makgadikgadi Region.
For more information on these and many other activities that will be taking place just across the border, details are available from our High Commission at 061 221 941.
Lastly, I wish to draw the attention of Batswana and Namibians to the beauty of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, popularly known as, KAZA. Last year in November the High Commissions of Botswana and Zambia, the Embassy of Zimbabwe, The NWR and the United Nations Office organised an Excellency Tour of the area we were accompanied by colleague Ambassadors and High Commissioners from Ghana, Nigeria, Algeria, France, Angola, Libya and other diplomats based in Namibia.
In a period of five days we covered Popa Falls in Namibia; Chobe National Park in Botswana, Livingstone in Zambia and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
It was an eye opener in terms of how beautiful this part our world is and above all, it provided a peep into what can be achieved if our countries work together, complementing one another and pursuing common goals. I recommend this route to any discerning traveller.