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An Overview of the Relations Between China and Botswana

 

(February 1st  2008)

1.This year marks the 33rd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Botswana. Based on the principles of sincere friendship, mutual respect and trust, equality and mutual benefit, the friendly relations and cooperation between the two countries have been developing at a very fast speed over the past 33 years. The closeness and friendliness of the relationship is epitomized in the frequent exchanges of high-level visits, constant progress in all fields and good coordination in international arera. On major international issues, the two countries have a lot of common languages and have been supportive of each other's stance. China is especially indebted to Botswana for its firm adherence to the One China principle.

2. Exchange Visits between Botswana and China

On the one hand, the three successive leaders of Botswana, President Seretse Khama, President Kutume Masire and President Festus Mogae paid visits to China respectively. President Mogae attended the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in November 2006. In 2007, Mrs. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Mr. Phandu Skelemani, Minister of Justic, Denfence and Security, Mr. Moeng Pheto, Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture and Mr. Tebogo Masire, Commander of Botswana Defence Force, made visits to China.

On the other hand, Chinese leaders also conducted successful visits to Botswana, the latest being the ones led by Chinese Vice Premier Huang Ju in November 2005 and Mr. Wu Guanzheng, Member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee in September 2006. Mr. Li Zhaoxing, Chinese Foreign Minister and Mr. Wang Jun, Vice Minister of the General Administration of Sport of China visited Botswana in January and August 2007 respectively.

3.Cooperation in Education and Human Resources Development

During the period between 1984 and 2005, China provided 5 Chinese Government scholarships per year to Botswana students to pursue master and doctor degree studies in China. This number was increased to 12 in 2006 and 21 in 2007. In 2008, 22 scholarships will be provided to Botswana. Under the scholarship, the Chinese Government covers the tuition fee, living allowance and medical service. Currently, 17 Botswana students are pursuing their degree studies in China.

To support human resources development in Botswana, short-term training opportunities are offered to Botswana by China, which last from one week to a year, covering areas of information, agriculture, business and commerce, industry, sport, military and etc. In 2005, 41 officials and experts went to China for training. In 2006,China provided about 150 such opportunities to Botswana. In 2007,China provided more than 160 quotas to Botswana. Hopefully, some IT teachers will come here to train Botswana IT personnel this year with the aid of the Chinese Government. Short-term training is now playing a very important role in the human resources cooperation between the two countries. As a new form of technical cooperation, China would like to send young volunteers to work in Botswana in areas needed by Botswana.

Further more, the Office of Chinese Language Council International and the University of Botswana reached an agreement last October on the establishment of a Confucius Institute in UB. In fact, more than 170 Confucius Institutes have been established around the world till the end of July this year and 12 are based in Africa.

Up to now, 11 Chinese medical teams have been working in Botswana. On January 21st 2008, China and Botswana signed a memorandum of understanding on the 12th Chinese medical team to work in Botswana. This team will comprise 40 medical staffs and 6 support staffs, and from this one afterward, their salaries and living allowances will be covered by the Chinese Government.

4.Cooperative Projects between China and Botswana

Much achievement has been made in governmental economic and technical cooperation. Governmental cooperation in economy and technology may serve as the driving force of economic relations between the two countries. To support Botswana's nation building endeavors, China has provided Botswana with certain amount of financial assistance including grant and preferential loans, with which 26 projects have been completed. On the list are the renovation of the Botswana railway, low-cost housing, land survey and planning, road construction, health facilities, agricultural technology, human resources development and so on. Projects being underway include the Section Two Letlhakeng-Kang Road and the construction of 725 low-cost houses. To be launched within this framework are the Gaborone multi-functional youth centre, two rural primary schools and Botanical Gardens.

5. Economic and Trade Relations

Economic and trade relations between China and Botswana have so far developed steadily and achieved satisfactory results, which may fall into the following categories:

I. Growth of trade volume has made headway and enjoys further space of improvement. The trade volume between China and Botswana in 2006 reached US $ 62 million. In the first half of 2007, this number reached US $ 47 million. It is noteworthy to point out that there is still big potential in the increment of the trade volume and in addressing the current trade imbalance, given that Botswana ranks first in diamond production by value and China has turned out to be the largest diamond consumer in Asia, with a domestic purchase of US $ 2.5 billion and an import of US $ 1.66 billion of luxurious diamond in 2004. Although there exists no direct transaction of diamond between China and Botswana, it can be assumed that significant part of the diamond exported to China should originate in Botswana. Expectedly, China's continued high demand for diamond and other mineral resources will maintain a favorable price in the world market, which means good news for diamond and mining sector of Botswana.

II. Steady progress has been registered in mutual-beneficial cooperation of enterprises. Chinese companies have all along been actively involved in the activities of economic development of Botswana, with much emphasis on the sectors of contracted projects. In late 1980s, some state-owned construction companies from China made their debuts in Botswana. As of today, there are 10 such companies operating in Botswana. In 2005, these companies were implementing 43 construction projects such as hospitals, schools, houses, urban sewage system, borehole drilling, and court and government offices, to name but a few. Between January to September 2007, these companies newly signed 19 contracts worth more than US $ 200 million. Furthermore, as a new trend, private Chinese companies have lately begun to gain their force in the local construction market and the figure of them is around 20. The entry of the Chinese construction companies is helpful in terminating the monopoly of a few foreign companies, reducing the tender price of contracted project to a much more reasonable level. Through their excellent performance, the Chinese companies have won reputation of strict contract execution with high quality. More importantly, they have also created a large number of job opportunities for local people. According to statistics, the number of local workers employed by the Chinese construction companies has reached 9000. Some local workers have started their own construction companies after learning technical and management skills from their Chinese counterparts. In the same vein, some Chinese technology companies are trying to seek cooperation in textile, ICT and other hi-tech sectors in Botswana. This will also result in technical transfer to local people in the long run.

III. Efforts in drawing investment from China are encouraging. Exploration of investment opportunities in Botswana by Chinese companies started in early 1990s, which led to the establishment of a number of ventures. As a result of the fierce competition of the market, some Chinese companies have dropped out of the market while others survived. Those still active mainly concentrate on the fields of manufacturing, textile and clothing, restaurant, medical service, in-house decoration, ICT service, air-conditioner, household electrical apparatus, motor maintenance and reparation. In this connection, textile and clothing factories may have the lion's share in terms of investment inflow and employment creation. For example, Rising Sun, Fascinating, Hengda and Caratex have become the key garment and knitwear manufacturers in Botswana, whose products are mainly exported to the markets of South Africa, the US and European Union. Being labor-intensive, these enterprises employ around 10,000 workers.

IV. Chinese wholesale and retail business has benefited local market. Some Chinese nationals are active in running businesses of garment, footwear, baggage, household apparatus, light-industrial product, food, motors and so on. What should be noted is that all the businesses in this regard are private. One may recall that Botswana used to have stores, shops and supermarkets merely based in urban area, and rarely did people in rural areas have access to this kind of services. Such a phenomenon has changed forever since the arrival of the Chinese businesses. They scatter across Botswana and their existence has not only brought convenience to the local people, especially those residing in remote regions, but also helped in lessening the impact of mounting inflation facing the local economy. About 5000 jobs have been produced in this sector for the local people.

Apart from bringing economic benefit, technology transfers and job opportunities to Botswana as mentioned in the above, the various Chinese businesses here also make their contribution to social and community development of Botswana. For instance, over the years they have provided donation amounting to 2,000,000 Pula to HIV/AIDS project, SOS village and other charity institutions. Generally speaking, most of the Chinese nationals in Botswana are playing their active part in strengthening the friendship and understanding between the two countries. However, some unpleasant behavioral problems have been encountered in certain Chinese individuals living in Botswana. The Embassy does not tolerate such problems and has appealed all the time to every Chinese citizen in Botswana to behave properly and live harmoniously with the local people.

6.As developing countries, China and Botswana are more closely linked to each other than ever before as both are faced with the common task of economic and social development. Facts prove that the ever-growing economic ties between the two sides, which lie in the framework of South-South cooperation, are in the interests of both peoples. Botswana is rich in natural resources and its economic policies are sound and predictable. China, the most populous country in the world, has posed, with its fast development and broader opening-up, tremendous opportunities for both itself and other countries. So, tremendous potential remains to be tapped in cementing the existent good ties between the two sides. To this end, China is ready to make concerted efforts with the Botswana to explore new areas of mutual-beneficial cooperation that are in line with the Botswana economic diversification strategy. China will also continue supporting Chinese entrepreneurs in seeking investment opportunities in Botswana. It is expected that, through the strenuous endeavors of both sides, the friendly relations and cooperation between China and Botswana could be further uplifted and benefit our two peoples.



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