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Chinese vice president to visit Botswana to boost cooperative ties

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping will pay an official visit to Botswana on Nov. 20-22, which would surely further strengthen the existing cooperative relations between the two countries, according to the Chinese Embassy.

Xi is expected to meet with Botswanan President Ian Khama and Vice President Mompati Merafhe on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Chinese Ambassador Liu Huanxing told a press conference recently that the inaugural visit by a vice president of China to Botswana will see exchange of views on further developing bilateral relations, enhancing mutually beneficial cooperation in various areas and on other issues of common concern of both parties.

"Some agreements on economic cooperation will be signed during the visit," the Chinese envoy said.

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Botswana in 1975, the two countries have enjoyed sustained and sound exchanges and cooperation in areas of trade and investment, economy, culture and education.

A number of official visits between the countries have taken place since bilateral relations came into existence. The Chinese vice president's trip comes shortly after Merafhe attended the 2010 Shanghai World Expo Botswana Pavilion Day and paid a visit to China's Zhejiang Province.

TRADE VOLUME

Ambassador Liu said trade and technical cooperation are the driving force in boosting bilateral relations between China and Botswana.

Trade volume jumped to 360 million U. S. dollars in 2008 from no more than a million dollars during the first few years after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

And despite the global economic downturn, the bilateral trade still stood at around 200 million dollars in 2009 and 179 million dollars from January to August 2010.

"We are quite confident that, with the international economy gradually coming out of the shadow of the crisis, the two countries will overcome the current difficulties and maintain a steady progress in bilateral trade," Liu said.

TECHNICAL AIDS

Twenty-eight projects have been completed with economic assistance from the Chinese government in the form of grants, interest free loans and low interest loans to date.

These projects cover the renovation of Botswana railway, health facilities, roads and low cost housing construction which have helped to improve Botswana's infrastructure and the living conditions of the people.

Presently, Gaborone Multi-Purpose Youth Center, which is funded by China, is under construction.

"In addition, the Chinese government helped Botswana improve her educational infrastructure," said the Chinese ambassador.

As one of the follow-up actions of Beijing Summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), the Chinese government donated two rural primary schools to Botswana -- one in Serowe in the central part of the Southern African country and Maun in the Ngamiland district of Botswana. Each school comprises classroom blocks, library, kitchen, staff offices and outdoor sport facilities.

Apart from the above-mentioned economic assistance, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, together with Standard Bank Botswana, provided 825 million dollars to the Morupule (a coal mine in central Botswana) power station expansion project, Liu said.

EDUCATION AND CUTURAL EXCHANGE

Liu said, more than 300 Batswanan students have received Chinese language training in the Confucius Institute, which was officially launched in September 2009.

The institute based in the University of Botswana will be a helpful platform for the Chinese language, history and culture learning and public events related to China in the local society.

Liu disclosed that from the 1990s to 2009, the Chinese government invited almost 300 Botswana officials and technicians to attend seminars, workshops and short-term training programs in China. These programs covered areas of administrative management, commerce, information, media and sports among others.

"Cooperation in education between the two countries has gained much strength under the China-Africa Cooperation Forum mechanism, especially after the Beijing Summit in 2006," he said.

In the 2010/2011 academic year, 29 Batswanan students are pursuing bachelor, master and doctor degrees under the Chinese government scholarships, compared with only five Batswanan students granted the scholarships in 2005.

Exchanges in the cultural field have been active. The recent years have seen quite a number of Chinese art and culture performance groups come to Botswana and Botswana artists performing in China, greatly enhancing the understanding between the two countries and the two peoples, Liu said.



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