Remarks by the Deputy Minister of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Hon. Luwellyn Landers, on the occasion of the Botswana High Level Breakfast Forum on Thursday, 31 March 2016.
Honourable Assistant Minister of Trade and Industry, Advocate Sadique Kebonang;
Your Excellency, Mr Sinombe, the High Commissioner of the Republic of Botswana;
Chief Executive Officer of the Botswana Investment and Trade Company, Mr. Letsebe Sejoe
Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is an honour for me to be here this morning, on an occasion which embodies the spirit and aspirations of our two countries to increase trade relations between our two countries.
More than our shared history, we also share languages, borders, common goals for the upliftment of our citizens and the growth of our respective countries as well as the region.
Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen
In order to give structure to our daily interactions with our neighbour, we established in 2013 the Bi-National Commission (BNC) between our two Republics. The BNC is presided over by the Heads of State and ensures that bilateral cooperation between South Africa and Botswana is directed at the highest level. The BNC is organised according to clusters, one of which is the Trade, Infrastructure and Economic Sub-Committee. In this forum, Ministers and officials meet annually to review progress in the cluster, as well as to plan ahead to give effect to our common goals and aspirations.
We cooperate on a large number of issues including transport, trade and investment, health, education, environmental issues, water, science and technology, agriculture, justice, immigration, energy, finance, culture, security, and sport among others. Needless to say that the fact that we share 16 border posts with Botswana and a significant stretch of land border, 1840km to be precise, makes our cooperation not only desirable, but an absolute necessity.
Furthermore, we have 36 Memoranda of Understanding and Agreements between our two countries, covering most of the areas mentioned above. These Agreements provide a framework for cooperation under which specific action plans are then developed, implemented and monitored.
Concerning the economic ties between the two countries, we wish to acknowledge Botswana’s continued importance as one of South Africa’s major trading partners in the region. We are aware of the large presence of South African companies in Botswana which are involved in various sectors such as housing, food and beverages, construction, retail, hotels and leisure, banking, medical services, etc. We trust that companies operating in Botswana will continue to contribute to the growth and development of the Botswana economy as well as skills transfer.
Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen
In view of the purpose of this event, I would like to highlight one particular issue that may be pertinent to this gathering. Under the auspices of the BNC, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Trade and Industrial Cooperation was signed by our respective Ministers of Trade and Industry in 2014. The Ministers of Trade of the two countries subsequently met and has established a Joint Technical Committee that would implement the MoU.
The MoU recognises that there is significant challenges and opportunities arising from the evolving regional economic integration, as well the emerging global order. The MoU commits our two countries to find new approaches and strategies of consolidating, expanding and deepening areas of economic development, industrial and trade cooperation. Relevant Ministries and Departments are enjoined to facilitate the increase flow of investments and enhancement of trade and industry co-operation, including through institutional co-operation.
Regarding industrial cooperation, the MoU endorses cooperation with technically competent organisation which are capable of drawing up development oriented industrial projects and develop partnerships for funding and technical capacity. Specific areas that have been highlighted includes transport and communications infrastructure projects; mining; energy; agro-business; tourism; financial and business retail services; processing of natural resources; agriculture; manufacturing; leather industry; information and communication technology; and pharmaceuticals.
The MoU also speaks to general trade cooperation; and physical and economic infrastructure.
Our bilateral cooperation in the mentioned fields, has at heart the same objectives: poverty eradication, job creation and economic diversification which would give us the resilience to face the vicissitudes of the international economic environment without significant local detrimental effects.
I would like to note that our bilateral cooperation is also reflected in the work being done in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Our esteemed host, Botswana, was the venue for the First Annual Southern Africa Business Forum held on 11-12 August 2015 in Gaborone, Botswana. During the Forum the “Savuti Declaration” was adopted and work is on-going to implement the Declaration. Five (5) working groups have been established; and in working closely with the SADC Secretariat, the private sector is implementing the Savuti Declaration focusing on the following five thematic areas, (i) Regional Value Chains, (ii) Movement of Goods, Services and People, (iii) Railway Master plan, (iv) NTB Mechanism, (v) Energy and Water.
In addition to the involvement of the private sector, it is significant that the SADC Council of Ministers instructed that the new SADC budget for 2016/17 aims towards promoting regional industrialization and infrastructure development. In general, some of the high level outcomes that SADC is working towards, includes the approval of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy Action Plan in order to facilitate effective implementation of the Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap at both national and regional level; that one regional value chain and value addition strategy in priority sectors be developed to encourage value addition to the resources of the region with a view to diversifying production, increasing trade at regional and global levels; and
Capacity building programmes for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) developed to facilitate productivity improvements, innovation capacity and new business formations as well as linkages between small, medium and large enterprises.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Our region is facing many challenges: the global economic environment alluded to before; food insecurity; water shortages and persistent drought with significantly reduced crop production throughout Southern Africa.
It is only through acknowledging our mutual dependence and cooperation that we will be able to respond to our environment in a manner which will result in significant growth and development.
We will continue to strengthen our bilateral relations and the excellent work that has been achieved thus far on the political level and in the economic field in order to maximise the mutual benefit of our people.
We believe that it is against this background that Botswana has therefore decided to host today’s event, which we support and applaud. I wish this gathering success, and I trust that it will result in increased economic co-operation for our respective countries and peoples.
I thank you
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road