One of our first chief jus­tices was Nige­rian – Botswanan en­voy

Botswana, a land­locked coun­try in south­ern Africa, was one of the poor­est coun­tries in the world with only 22 col­lege grad­u­ates and 12 kilo­me­ters of paved roads when it gained in­de­pen­dence from the United King­dom in 1966. But over the past half cen­tury, t

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I have not even ex­plored the busi­ness com­mu­nity, civil so­ci­ety and academia be­cause part of my brief is not only gov­ern­mentto-gov­ern­ment re­la­tions but also trade, in­vest­ment and cul­ture

Daily Trust: What is the state of Nige­ri­aBotswana bi­lat­eral re­la­tions? Am­bas­sador Pule Mphothwe: The state of our re­la­tions is very good. Nige­ria played a huge role in the de­vel­op­ment of Botswana a few years af­ter in­de­pen­dence in 1966. Then, Botswana was among the poor­est coun­tries, with a few so­cial in­fras­truc­ture. The few schools avail­able then were set up by the mis­sion­ary churches. Botswana ba­si­cally de­pended on as­sis­tance from friends like Bri­tain, as the coun­try was a for­mer British pro­tec­torate, United States, Rus­sia, China and other in­ter­na­tional part­ners. In Africa it was Nige­ria. It helped Botswana in terms of hu­man cap­i­tal, pro­vid­ing teach­ers, lec­tur­ers in the univer­sity and judges. One of our first chief jus­tices af­ter in­de­pen­dence was a Nige­rian. But Nige­ria played even a big­ger role in the lib­er­a­tion of south­ern African coun­tries like South Africa, Zim­babwe, Namibia, Mozam­bique and An­gola and other African coun­tries. Nige­ria was re­garded as a Front­line State in the strug­gle for African freedom. Our re­la­tion has been good over the years. But they can be improved be­cause now we talk of eco­nomic diplomacy. DT: Which area do you think should be strength­ened? Amb. Mphothwe: Botswana is a de­vel­op­ing coun­try. In the con­text of re­gional integration of Africa and as we ad­vance re­la­tions from po­lit­i­cal to eco­nomic, trad­ing and in­vest­ment is a very good area of ex­plo­ration. For ex­am­ple, Botswana is well known for di­a­mond, beef and tourism. Tra­di­tion­ally, the mar­ket for our di­a­monds, beef and tourism is Europe. Botswana has some of the best beef in the world and is good for tourism. We have about 150,000 ele­phants, the largest in the world. But we need to widen the mar­ket to Africa. Be­fore the dis­cov­ery of di­a­monds, agri­cul­ture played an im­por­tant role in Botswana econ­omy, just like Nige­ria be­fore the dis­cov­ery of oil. We need to de­velop this sec­tor more to di­ver­sify our economies. The area which is very topical in Nige­ria now is cat­tle ranch­ing. Our herders had adopted the sys­tem of ranch­ing for a long time. They can come here to share best prac­tices with their Nige­rian coun­ter­parts be­cause it is not good for cat­tle to be roam­ing long dis­tances.

DT: What do you think of the Africa Con­ti­nen­tal Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agree­ment which aims to boost in­tra-African trade? Amb. Mphothwe: Botswana be­longs to one of the old­est cus­toms unions in the world - the South­ern African Cus­toms Union es­tab­lished in 1910. For us we see our­selves in re­la­tion to oth­ers, ex­port­ing our di­a­monds and beef to buy oil, chem­i­cals and other prod­ucts we need. It is a very small coun­try, we can­not see our­selves in iso­la­tion. We de­cided to be part of the cus­toms union from which we get rev­enue. Be­ing part of the union has contributed to our de­vel­op­ment. So, the African Con­ti­nen­tal Free Trade Area agree­ment is com­ing at the right time. I will say it is over­due. Though of course dif­fer­ent coun­tries have dif­fer­ent lev­els of de­vel­op­ment, and there is that in­fant in­dus­try pro­tec­tion, that if you open up the mar­ket quickly, there is a risk that the lo­cal, small in­dus­tries would lose and not be able to com­pete. But it is very im­por­tant that African integration is given the strong im­pe­tus and AfCFTA is com­ing at the right time. The ques­tion of whether it is over­due? Def­i­nitely, it is, but there may be rea­sons it took such a long time. We sup­port the agree­ment be­cause we see our­selves in re­la­tion to a larger in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. But we need to con­sider the fact that coun­tries have di­verse lev­els of de­vel­op­ment, some have to be given a lit­tle bit more time to put in place reg­u­la­tory frame­works to be able to com­pete well. DT: How would you de­scribe your stay in Nige­ria? Amb. Mphothwe: I feel very priv­i­leged and hum­bled to be given an op­por­tu­nity to serve in Abuja be­cause aside Ad­dis Ababa, Abuja is a very im­por­tant diplo­matic post­ing in Africa. It has a large diplo­matic com­mu­nity and all the in­ter­na­tional agen­cies are here. I’m very proud to be given the op­por­tu­nity to ad­vance the re­la­tion­ship be­tween our two

coun­tries be­cause Nige­ria is a very im­por­tant coun­try in Africa. I don’t know if Nige­ri­ans know this but for us, it is a lot of ad­mi­ra­tion. As long as Nige­ria is get­ting it right, there are chances that smaller coun­tries like Botswana will also get it right. DT: What is your per­cep­tion of Nige­ri­ans?

Amb Mphothwe: Nige­ri­ans are very industrious. I have not known any­body who has been to Nige­ria, stud­ied or lived here and was not im­pressed about the coun­try. But I have met a few peo­ple who have never been to Nige­ria and have a neg­a­tive per­cep­tion of the coun­try just be­cause a few peo­ple are giv­ing Nige­ria a bad name. How­ever, this is not lim­ited to Nige­ria, it’s every­where. But in Nige­ria, there are more good peo­ple than bad ones. For me, Nige­ria is a very vi­brant place. A lot of diplo­mats are here in Abuja. I have not even ex­plored the busi­ness com­mu­nity, civil so­ci­ety and academia be­cause part of my brief is not only gov­ern­ment-to-gov­ern­ment re­la­tions but also trade, in­vest­ment and cul­ture. The op­por­tu­ni­ties for col­lab­o­ra­tion are lim­it­less. So far, I have re­ally en­joyed my stay.

Botswana’s High Com­mis­sioner-Des­ig­nate to Nige­ria, Am­bas­sador Pule Mphothwe

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