Botswana has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world since a turn of the century slump, being praised by the African Development Bank for sustaining one of the largest economic booms. As the country looks to diversify its economy from its mineral focus President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi lays out what his government is doing to ensure investors are welcomed to the country.
Botswana investment advantage
Looking both politically and economically Botswana has certain comparative advantages. I believe the first and most significant is prudence and good governance. It is a mantra that we want to sustain and be the basis for all of our political, economic and social activity. Some of our other comparative advantages have included diamond mining. We have accumulated experience in the geology, engineering and marketing of diamonds and diamond mining.
Additionally, we are getting to grips with the tail-end of the manufacturing and value addition of the diamond industry, and it has taken us 40 years. Therefore, patience is a virtue in business. If you look at the time-span, it will automatically inform you of the necessity to develop institutions and convince those with capital to continually invest in the sector until we are where we need to be.
However, looking at where we started and where we are now, it speaks to the resilience of the investor and of the government. It speaks to the accumulation of a commitment to the rule of law, and the confidence in the banking institutions and the governance system. That is who we are and is a comparative advantage when you combine it with mining. Our resilience has resulted in this phenomenal growth and success story of Botswana and all we want is to enhance it even more.
The other comparative advantage we have from an economic standpoint is beef production. We produce the best quality beef in the world. Looking at our current mind-set and future, there is the beginning of the recognition that we have a responsibility to look after our environment. That world-class beef is grown in our environment, free of toxins, hormones and is regulated intensely and persistently looked after. This dedication speaks to our commitment to producing a quality product. Although we will never be Brazil in terms of our volume of production, it is the differentiation of quality that we want to keep our eyes and minds focused on. Recently we have wanted to develop our small stock meat supply, including the value chain for it, as well as take our tourism to scale.
Idealic tourist destination
The tourism product that we have, as provided for by our ecosystem, all you have to do to imagine it is to read the Book of Genesis. To me, there are parts of this country that remain as God himself created – pure water, fish, plants, air, space, and wonderful stars. The tranquillity here is amazing. When these are put together, starting with the good governance and enveloped with peace and security, when you come as an investor or as a tourist, we can assure more than most can. We can ensure you of your safety and security, legitimate respect for your rights, we have no exchange controls, and you can repatriate your profits in whatever currency at all times.
We remain extremely focused on ensuring that corruption does not prevail. We do not tolerate economic crimes. So yes, we will grant freedom, but it is not absolute; there are limits to it. Therefore, if anyone takes that which is not theirs, we will be zealous in coming after them. Botswana is a very welcoming country, provided you add value as a foreign national.
The country is not as well-known as it ought to be, we want to enhance that and it is important to recognise that the unique knowledge of Botswana is what Botswana is and what we stand for. We do not like being generalised or aggregated; we are part of Africa and the world, but unique in and of ourselves. We have an educated workforce; speak English relatively well – which is the language of international commerce and business; we have a very robust banking system, insurance sector and legal framework; the right macroeconomic policies to aid and abet investment, and have friendly relations regarding both trade and foreign policy with our neighbours and throughout the world.
Botswana can access markets in America through the African Growth and Opportunities Act and we can access neighbouring markets through SADC. The SADC headquarters are based in Botswana and it was started by one of the founding leaders of Botswana, which we are very proud of and remain committed to. We recognise that our infrastructure remains insufficiently developed, but we are spending as much of our resources as possible on improving and enhancing this.
For instance, we are connecting four countries from the very northernmost tip of Botswana by constructing a bridge to connect Namibia and Botswana. This bridge will allow Namibia on the left Zimbabwe on the right to benefit, because that is the single most important crossing-point of accessing central Africa. When you look at your demographic dynamics and projections, these markets in Africa are growing in those areas, at a greater rate than in the South. We are investing heavily into road and rail, which I am personally excited about due to how successful I believe it will be. This bridge will be a beautifully constructed design and will have appeal as a tourist attraction in its own right; the pillars as you cross over will be shaped like an elephant’s tusk, across the Okavango Delta. The Okavango Delta is largest inland Delta in the world, with 11.3 billion cubic metres of freshwater drains into the Kalahari. I firmly believe that, as an investor, it would be difficult not to want to be part of these projects.
Welcoming foreign investment
We are accommodating of new investors through the small amount of tax they pay, and have even provided an international financial services centre. Additionally, low corporate tax rates for new investors can be negotiated downwards. These attractions and our commitment to remove barriers, should encourage those with the capital to come on board. Where we fall short, we may be willing to engage in a private-public partnership (PPP) to meet that.
This is just one example of the infrastructure and industrialisation we are trying to develop, however, with a neighbour as big and powerful as South Africa, it is not always easy. Regarding PPPs, we are more than happy to share whatever knowledge, experience and skill we have, but these things are not executed in a vacuum. They are executed within a system of governance. Therefore, one of the pre-conditions to a successful PPP is good governance. Each party has got to be trusting of the other. Additionally, there has to be sufficient confidence; confidence building is an essential prerequisite.
Botswana is ready and ripe for a multiplicity of partnerships. We would never be where we are now without the international community. Therefore, we seek to learn and draw from others every day, and we strive to be as much of a contributor as well. I attended school in the US and the UK, as many other Batswana. This should tell the world that we have educated individuals. However, we need to utilise our own responses to what we have.
Roadmap for future development
To do that I believe that we need to continuously and consistently be innovative. We need to constantly be on top of new technologies and how to utilise them, especially within the education system otherwise you lose the momentum of your development and we cannot afford this. We do not have the time for events such as revolutions that many countries went through. Botswana as a country, as well as its people, are ready to leap ahead. We want to be amongst the best in the world and we have full the capability to do that. It should be easier for us to leapfrog, given that we already have the heart and brain surgeons. We are also developing our electronics industry; it is about tapping on that curiosity consistently and persistently.
What I desire for my country following my departure from office would be to ensure that Botswana has as many friends as possible, and is on friendly terms with as many countries as possible without compromising its identity and principles. I would want to leave a legacy of an improved quality of life for everybody in Botswana. Additionally, I want to attract others to become part of us and enjoy our country with us. I want to look back and see a Botswana that is at peace with itself and its neighbours, which is prosperous and very rewarding to live in and die in.