For decades diamonds have been Botswana’s main export, a resource which has raised the country from poverty to a medium income economy.
Knowing the dangers of depending on one export, the country has ambitions to grow its tourism industry and is looking at getting a bite of the lucrative China beef market. Dangling political stability, an educated population and conservancies filled with animals, the landlocked nation hopes to lure foreign investors.
“What we hold dear to ourselves are diamonds, wildlife and ecology. Obviously all these come second to the people of Botswana. Diamonds are the mainstay of the economy,” said Mokgweetsi Masisi, Botswana’s newly appointed President, speaking at the Global Business Forum held in New York. He continued, ”Everybody who went to school in Botswana has been through to health facility, anybody who underwent intervention on HIV, every road traveller, every person who flies into Botswana breathes the air benefited from diamonds. We have used those resources for our social development and we always will.”
The United States of America is Botswana’s main export destination for its diamonds, followed by China. The current trade war between its major buyers of the resource could adversely affect the country. The fluctuations in the prices have also stunted development in Botswana, forcing the nation to explore other avenues of revenue.
“Blood diamonds are not in our country, We have developed a Kimberly process which confirms confidence in the ethical extraction and ethical selling of our diamonds and is not easy to break,” explained Masisi, commenting on the issue of blood diamonds, which refers to diamonds acquired from countries at war, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In September it was widely reported that 90 elephants were killed by poachers in Botswana, Masisi rubbished those claims, saying, “Botswana and conservation are Siamese twins. They are one. Name any other country that has dedicated 42% of its national land resource to conservation, committed all its security agencies to protect its wildlife, flora and fauna, tell of a country that it has deployed its soldiers and they confront poachers and don’t shoot to injure.”
“We are also looking at a partnership development model for Chinese companies that are setting up in Botswana but Botswana companies are also tapping into the China market and stand to make a lot of money,” said the Botswana Trade Minister Bogolo Kenewendo. “Our expectation for our investors is that they take note of our local dynamics,” he added. “We need conscious investors that can make a positive impact creating employment, good living wages, creating linkages in the economy and not just about profit, even though we guarantee that profit will be made”, he assured, emphasising the importance having a win-win partnership.
Botswana is looking to build another power plant, but is also looking to grow its renewable energy base. It seeks investment in its aviation industry to boost the number of destinations and, most importantly, the number of visitors.
Tourism is one of country’s lead industries but there is need to provide alternative income to the communities in conservancies who have to shift from their traditional cultural farming livelihoods and tap into the tourism industry. The Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve are major tourist destinations.
Currently the country is in the process of applying to export beef to China. Botswana already exports 9000 tonnes to the European Union. The Chinese market is especially lucrative because of its demand for offal and beef by-products.
Botswana is a landlocked country with a population of 2.2 million people, with 70% of its land under the Kalahari Desert. Attaining independence in 1966, the country has been ruled by one political party the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) under a democratic system and the nation enjoys peace. The next General Elections will take place in 2019.