Cape Town – South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa arrived in Gaborone, Botswana on Thursday, where he was received by his Botswana counterpart at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport where he is on a working visit to lead talks at the High Level South Africa-Botswana Business Round-table.
The two nations are also set to commemorate and celebrate 28 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
South Africa is a major import partner for Botswana with a market share of about 56.8 percent in 2021.
Botswana benefits from regional economic integration and the facilitation of duty-free movement of goods with a common external tariff on goods entering any of the countries from outside the SACU (The Southern African Customs Union, an African regional economic organisation, whose members include Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland).
The High Level South Africa-Botswana Business Roundtable happens as the backdrop of the fifth session of the South Africa-Botswana Bi-National Commission (BNC), which took place on 22 April in Tshwane.
On Thursday, President Ramaphosa said the trade and investment ties between the two countries have grown stronger over the years.
“They lay a firm basis for even greater economic cooperation and integration into the future.”
The president’s delegation comprises ministers, officials, and representatives from SA’s state-owned companies, financial institutions and South African business.
The president said that he is encouraged by the work that has already begun through both nations’ respective Trade and Industry Ministers to align plans towards a common SACU plan of action for operating the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Ramaphosa said the the joint export promotion platforms that are being discussed at SACU level for leveraging AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area) opportunities are promising.
“I urge that the same vigour be given to concluding the work of creating industrial value-chains in the SACU.
“Through these value-chains we will be able to grow our industrial exports to the rest of the continent. New markets in West, East, North and Central Africa hold immense potential for both South Africa and Botswana. We will be able to produce and export local goods, products and services to our fellow African countries that would otherwise be sourced from outside the continent.”
Ramaphosa reiterated that they do not seek to displace other African businesses, but that the intention instead is complementary trade and industrial development.
He added that Botswana and South Africa can both achieve more by working closely together.
“The development of value-chains can also move SACU towards a brighter new future of joint investment and development. I am also pleased to note that work is under way in SACU on a Work Programme on Industrialisation, to promote industrial development and regional value chains, export promotion, investment attraction and promotion,” said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa added that work is already under way on leather and leather products, fresh produce, meat and meat products, textiles, clothing, cosmetics and essential oils.
These sectors present opportunities for the development of regional value chains across the region. They also present opportunities for SACU exports to the rest of Africa, to the United States under AGOA (the African Growth and Opportunity Act), to the European Union under the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and to other strategic markets in Asia and the Middle East, said Ramaphosa.
“There are also opportunities for further cooperation in minerals. Botswana is currently the chair of the Kimberley Process, an initiative that has successfully addressed concerns regarding the diamond industry, and last year was the world’s leading producer of diamonds by value.”
In April this year, Botswana’s president opened the first SACU Investment Round-table in Gaborone, under the theme “Positioning SACU as an industrial, investment, manufacturing and innovation hub for the African continent and beyond”.
Over the past five years, South Africa’s foreign direct investment stock in Botswana has increased year-on-year, reaching US$5.1 billion in 2021.
“While we will continue to encourage South African investment into Botswana, we are encouraged by the Botswana companies that have already invested in South Africa,” said Ramaphosa.
Between January 2003 and December 2021, South Africa saw nine FDI (foreign direct investment) projects from Botswana to South Africa, adding that these projects attracted capital investment worth R3.9 billion, resulting in the creation of more than 2,000 jobs.
Ramaphosa said that intra-African trade opportunities accruing from the AfCFTA can only be realised if we facilitate intra-Africa investments.
“In particular, we need to encourage our respective companies to invest in areas that will address the continent’s infrastructure and industrial deficits. South Africa is committed to supporting our partners on the continent to reach their industrialisation goals.”
Ramaphosa said that South Africa wants to be part of the African growth story by way of strategic investments into the continent by our companies, financial institutions and state-owned companies.
“It is our expectation that today’s session will unpack all these matters further, and that we will jointly identify the priorities for strengthening the Botswana-South Africa economic relationship. I look forward to vibrant and productive discussions.”
Last month, the Botswana Power Corporation (BCP) indicated that it wants to sell its excess electricity to South Africa’s embattled power utility Eskom.
The BCP said that it has started engaging with Eskom to begin the exporting process.
South Africans have been battling to survive with rotational blackouts in the country due to Eskom’s deficiency in electricity generation.
A part of that plan includes the importing of power from neighbouring African countries, including Botswana.