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China investments avail job opportunities

GABORONE - The role of Chinese investment in Botswana has assured Batswana employment opportunities and has also resulted in skills transfer.

Speaking at the launch of the Standard Chartered Bank SME China-Africa Network on Friday, the Assistant Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Duke Lefhoko said other than businesses, the Chinese have also contributed to developing communities in Botswana.

Between 2001 and 2003, the Chinese citizens provided donations amounting to P2 billion in respect of HIV/AIDS related projects, SOS and other charity organizations, he said.

The assistant minister said given the level of trade between the two countries, he was appreciative of the role Standard Bank played in supporting and facilitating trade operations adding that its presence in over 70 countries has made life easier for Batswana and the Chinese trade partners to do business with fewer barriers. Mr. Lefhoko said the initiative would improve the business environment between Botswana and China and furthermore enhance the Ministry of Trade and Industry's efforts to remove any administrative and regulatory business barriers through a comprehensive review of its various pieces of legislation.

The Chinese Ambassador, Mr Liu Huanxing said trade between Botswana and China started in 1992 and had grown over the years although it slowed down this year because of the global economic downturn.

He said in 1996, the two countries signed a bilateral trade agreement and today Botswana exports diamonds and copper to China while Botswana imports textile goods and electronics.

Mr Liu noted that the global economic crisis has not spared his country, but said despite the economic difficulties his country is experiencing, China promised to assist Africa in trade development and added that 53 countries in Africa trade with China. Trade between Africa and China slowed down by 30 per cent or US$37 billion during the first six months of this year, the Chinese Ambassador said.

Nevertheless, African products have been able to break into the Chinese market. Mr Liu said there had been an increase of more than 500 products.

Standard Chartered Bank's Head of Consumer Banking in Botswana and Cluster Head in Southern Africa, Mr Michael Wiegand said his bank was committed to assisting the development of the SME sector in Botswana and across Africa.

"Small and Medium size businesses are the engines of economic growth and diversification across Africa and are a key enabler to Botswana achieving its Vision 2016 goals," he said.

He said the SME sector remains their top priority adding the bank's success was achieved through launching new, innovative and increasingly sophisticated products in the areas of cash management, foreign exchange and trade finance.

"These products assist our SME customers to access foreign markets and build their businesses," he said. On the Chinese business community, Mr Wiegand said they play an important role in the economic development of Botswana and said the bank strives to meet their needs and help them to grow and thrive.

"We recognize that there are huge economic opportunities in both China and Africa and that building strong trade investment links between Chinese and African businesses will be a huge benefit to both sides," he said.

(Daily News, 14 September 2009)

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