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Permanent Secretary hails Botswana-China relations

GABORONE - The continued accreditation of Chinese ambassadors to Botswana symbolises the importance that the Chinese attach to the bilateral relations between the two countries. Speaking at a welcome reception for the new Chinese ambassador to Botswana this week, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation,  Mr Samuel Outlule said the accreditation is a reaffirmation of the two countries' commitment to the ongoing mutually beneficial relations. He said Mr Liu Huanxing, the incoming ambassador's tour of duty not only marks the continuation of the friendship between the two countries, but has also coincided with the opening of the Confucius Institute at the University of Botswana, which was established through the assistance of the Chinese government. The institute will enhance cultural cooperation and promote greater mutual understanding between Botswana and China, said Mr Outlule, adding that it is a positive and welcome development which will contribute to the further consolidation of the two countries' relations.

Mr Outlule said since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Botswana and China in 1975, the two countries have engaged in practical cooperation in a variety of areas. "Botswana deeply appreciates the development assistance provided by China in the development of infrastructure such as the ongoing construction of two primary schools in Maun and Serowe as well as Phase Two of the Letlhakeng/Morwamosu road," he said. Mr Outlule noted that the two countries recently signed an agreement on economic and technical cooperation that has provided over P10 million in grants to finance development projects. "We commend China for its commitment to the South-South cooperation within the framework of the China-Africa Forum and the Group of 77 and China. In this respect the Chinese government is providing US$5 billion preferential loans to African countries under the Beijing Plan of Action," he said. He said Botswana has already secured around P75 million in interest free loans for the construction of a multi-purpose youth centre in Gaborone under the arrangement.

He further said Botswana is satisfied with the continuing and growing engagement with China both at the political level and people to people exchanges. He added that the number of high-level visits to and from China by ministers of the respective governments is a manifestation of the excellent and exemplary bilateral relations between the two countries. He said with China experiencing phenomenal growth and also being a prominent player in international affairs, Botswana stood to benefit much from increased trade and investment between the two countries. In addition, Mr Outlule said Botswana looked to China, which is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, to continue to contribute to the search for lasting solutions to conflict situations in Africa. He noted that it is only in conditions of peace, stability and respect for the will of the people that Africa can be able to create opportunities for economic and social progress.

For his part, the incoming ambassador described Botswana as a country of major influence in Southern Africa. Mr Liu said over the past 43 years Botswana has not only made remarkable achievements in maintaining political stability and national unity and promoting national development, but has also become a model of peaceful development for African countries.He said the 34 years of Botswana-China diplomatic relations have been based on the principles of mutual respect, trust, equality, mutual benefit and friendship. "China highly appreciates the Botswana government's firm commitment to the one China policy," he said. He added that when China suffered an earthquake last year, the Botswana government and people showed great sympathy and gave support as symbolised by the donation of P1 million to help China in disaster relief. Mr Liu said the two countries have also made great achievements on economic and technical cooperation. He said trade volumes between the two countries have increased in recent years, noting that in 2007 the trade volume between the two countries reached more than US$145 million while in 2008 it reached US$360 million.

(19 June 2009, BOPA)

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