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China potential diamond market

GABORONE - China might become a major diamond market for Botswana, Chinese Deputy Minister of Commerce, Mr Zhong Shan has said.

The Chinese minister who was on a two-day vist to Botswana had brought a delegation imbued with requisite expertise on minerals, especially diamonds.

He said the experts were here to assess how they could help in bolstering Botswana economy to cushion it against the current economic downturn.

He said his government understands that Botswana has not sold its diamonds since the onset of the economic downturn, therefore they would be assessing how to help, especially with purchasing the stock piled diamonds.

Mr zhong stated that China values her friendship with Botswana and considers Botswana to be a valuable economic partner.

Mr Zhong said the two governments have signed an agreement on economic and technical cooperation to facilitate a grant of over P10 million, which will help implement projects agreed by the two governments.

Mr Zhong explained that Botswana was China's strong economic partner in Southern Africa and therefore his government would like to promote cooperation on investment, manufacturing, mineral cooperation, education and medical care here.

He explained that despite the biting recession, China was ready to provide soft loans to Botswana in order for the country to continue to work to improve the livelihoods of Batswana and to grow the economy generally.

Mr zhong observed that Botswana has abundant land reserves, which was why he brought a team of agricultural technicians so that they could consider how they can assist the government in developing agriculture in order to reduce the country's dependence on other countries.

For his part, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Mr Baledzi Gaolathe said the two governments have had a long standing cordial relationship spanning several decades. He also noted that during that period, Botswana benefited immensely from the assistance offered by the Chinese government in the development of infrastructure, particularly the re-laying of a railway track and the construction of houses, roads and schools.

Minister Gaolathe said the assistance had also benefited the country in the form of knowledge and skills transfer as well as on matters of trade.

And the private sector has benefited from the skills transfer through the economic input on the part of the Chinese citizens in Botswana.

Mr Gaolathe explained that Botswana is classified as a middle-income country and therefore does not qualify for much of the grant assistance and loans on concessional terms, but the Chinese government has been generously forthcoming in terms of the need of the country and continued to offer grants and loans on concessional terms. Mr Gaolathe explained that the type of assistance from the government of China would assist Botswana in further diversifying the economy, more especially that the Chinese government has funded the construction of the Mmamabula energy project.

He thanked the government of China for coming in handy to aid Botswana despite the fact that the former is also affected by the current global economic downturn.

( 28 May, 2009 BOPA)

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