International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, has reaffirmed South Africa’s commitment to strengthen trade relations with Botswana after COVID-19 stalled economic growth in both countries.
Speaking on Wednesday at a high-level South Africa-Botswana Business Forum in Botswana, Gaborone, Pandor told delegates that they need to strengthen business-to-business linkages to facilitate trade, investment and joint venture partnerships.
“Tourism was hit hard in both countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and together we need to develop sustainable strategies to revitalise the tourism industry,” she said.
The forum forms part of celebrations of 28 years of trade and investment relations between the two countries.
Pandor and Trade, Industry and Competition Minister, Ebrahim Patel, are accompanying President Cyril Ramaphosa on a working visit to Botswana.
The Minister believes both countries would also benefit from an agricultural exchange, adding that despite Botswana having fertile land, it still imports a lot of the food.
“This is a trend across much of the continent which we can work together to address so that we can produce more of what we require without importing from beyond our shores. Through economic discussions, we could further investigate the production of animal feed, fruit processing, as well as vegetable and fertiliser production,” she told delegates.
South Africa is Botswana’s number one source of imports, while Botswana is ranked South Africa’s seventh largest export market.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s exports to Botswana were R64.4 billion in 2021, while exports to Botswana grew by 2.53% or R13.4 billion over the last five years.
“If we are to take stock of our trade relations in recent years, it is evident that our two countries maintain a robust trade relationship that has strengthened despite the pandemic.”
In addition, she further reminded officials that there have been 38 Memoranda of Understanding between South Africa and Botswana since the hosting of the first Bi-National Commission in 2013.
“There is great room for future growth in the area of outward investment, the creation of industrial value chains, and infrastructure development.”
She has called on the two States to capitalise on this opportunity to come together to build a better future.
“Our prosperity depends on the economic success of each other. Just as we collaborated in the years of the struggle some six decades ago, we can move forward in solidarity as we forge a better future for our people,” she stressed.
She also said South Africa backs the implementation of the Southern African Customs Union regional value chain, and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Pandor also spoke about exploring mining and minerals beneficiation, which are key pillars of Botswana and South Africa’s industrialisation policy.
“We will also look at ways to enhance automotive component manufacturing that will contribute to job creation in our respective countries.”
She described the relationship between South Africa and Botswana as “special”.
She recalled how their comrades were housed by citizens of Botswana, oftentimes in the home of Comrade Fish Keitseng who in the early years hid Nelson Mandela in the mountains.
“Madiba would spend his days reading, and at night come down from the mountains to the home of Comrade Keitseng.”
Pandor took the time to honour Botswana and its contribution to the liberation struggle of South Africa.
“Thank your compatriots for their assistance during that difficult period in our history.”
On Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead talks at a High Level South Africa-Botswana Business Roundtable.
The High Level South Africa-Botswana Business Roundtable happens at the backdrop of the fifth session of the South Africa-Botswana Bi-National Commission (BNC) which took place on 22 April 2022 in Tshwane.
Source: South African Government News Agency