in 2017 Botswana is the official partner country of the world's leading trade fair ITB Berlin. What do you expect from the fair and what can the visitors look forward to?
Botswana seized the opportunity, presented through the partnership with ITB, to highlight the Botswana tourism brand and increase awareness of the country. The opportunity to compete for travellers and opportunities to at a global event such as this is invaluable. Most importantly this is a chance for the world to get to know who Botswana is and the various offerings amongst others tourism and our diamonds.
Our Exhibition themed #ILOVE BOTSWANA galvanizes the message that we wish to share about the country being a premiere destination, highlighting the importance we attach to all who make such a beautiful destination what it is, for example government, the people of Botswana, tour operators as well as visitors to Botswana. This event also offers an opportunity for travel wholesalers and retailers from around the world to meet the Botswana operators and establish the much needed networks and business linkages as well as to get to meet Botswana authorities to discuss issues pertinent to travel to Botswana. Our country has always branded itself well and is well revered for its ability to preserve its culture, the Botswana dance and song performance that will be showcased at the event will therefore provide a glimpse into our culture and heritage.
We are thrilled to share that 2016 has seen many examples of the success and our commitment including our 2015/16 country partnership with National Geographic Traveller culminating in the World Legacy Awards (2016) at ITB and achieving global awareness for the conservation and green tourism model that resonates with Botswana. This includes the prestigious accreditation as Lonely Planet’s Destination of the Year, 2016; UNWTO’s inclusion of three areas in Botswana (the Okavango Delta, the Chobe National Park and the Makgadikgadi Game Reserve) amongst the worlds’ top 100 Green Destinations. And these parks have been nominated for the WTTC’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards in 2017.
Accordingly BTO will be focusing on creating greater awareness of Botswana’s holistic tourism offering and we look forward to welcoming everyone to join us on our journey and to providing the services that meet the needs of our visitors.
Touristic highlights in Botswana include the Kalahari Desert or the Okavango Delta with its variety of species. What sights do you personally recommend?
Botswana has a myriad of opportunities for travellers to the country which of course include the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta, two contrasting natural features. This contrast is characteristic of Botswana. The country is very diverse and offers a wide range of destinations such as Chobe, Makgadikgadi and Tuli, Tsodilo, to name just a few of the destinations available to be seen by travellers. Each place offers something different from the other making for rich packages. As we continue diversifying Botswana tourism as a product we have made a deliberate effort to put emphasis on non-wildlife products such as culture and sport. These activities, which are delivered in a sustainable manner, present an opportunity for travellers to get to know the country, its people and our heritage more. I recommend that you choose a destination in Botswana based on your personal interest – wildlife, sports, cultural – no matter which destination you chose you will not be disappointed.
Nearly forty percent of Botswana's territory is designated as national parks, wild reserves and protected areas. Why is nature conservation so important in your country?
Botswana tourism is mainly based on natural resources. Because we want these resources to benefit current and future generations sound conservation and preservation policies had to be put in place. These resources are the lifeblood of tourism in our country. Because of the importance of tourism to the Botswana economy we have to manage it sustainably to ensure that the resources on which it is based continue contributing to the national economy. A pristine tourism offering is what draws visitors to Botswana, and has set the country apart from competition. As such we wish to provide an unmatched experience and for this to be possible, emphasis has to be placed in ensuring we utilize the resources sustainably and have several initiatives implemented to conserve our wildlife. We have set up several foundations to conserve our wildlife and have succeeded in securing high profile patrons for the foundations. We have an elephant campaign, rhino conservation and also invest in anti-poaching projects.
“Companies wishing to invest in Botswana are assured of labor stability and an educated labor force.
Since 2011, the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) has been the second largest land conservation area on earth. Botswana is one of the five countries on which the KAZA area extends. What is the significance of KAZA for nature conservation and what can tourists experience there?
The Kavango-Zambezi Trans-frontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) is Africa’s largest conservation landscape and the world’s largest trans-frontier conservation initiative covering 444,000 square kilometres. It represents a bold commitment on the part of the five countries – Botswana and its neighbouring countries Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe – who have entered into a partnership by signing a treaty in 2011 to conserve biodiversity at a large scale and to market this biodiversity using nature-based tourism as the engine for rural economic growth and development. In meeting its vision of establishing a world class trans-frontier conservation area and tourism destination in the Okavango and Zambezi river basin regions of the five countries, KAZA has as its primary purpose being the management of shared natural and cultural heritage resources to derive equitable socio-economic benefits for our communities.
The KAZA region hosts more than 36 formally proclaimed protected areas like national parks, game reserves, forests, game/ wildlife management areas as well as conservancies and communal areas. This includes the pristine Okavango Delta which is the largest World Heritage Site in the world and a Ramsar site; the Chobe National Park which houses large populations of elephants with the perennial Chobe River bordering it with Namibia; the Makgadikgadi Wetlands System; the Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe side which is a World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World; Mosi-o-a-Tunya on the Zambian side and the KAZA region houses the largest population of elephants.
In addition to tourism, the economy is mainly characterized by the reduction of diamonds, which accounts for about 20 per cent of GDP. What is your government doing to build and strengthen other industries?
Companies wishing to invest in Botswana are assured of labor stability and a very educated labor force, with 82 percent literacy. German companies that come to Botswana can invest as a 100 percent German-owned Company. We also offer predictability of profits. You can take out 100 percent of profits and dividends or whatever investment you bring in. Additionally, we have one of the lowest tax regimes: with corporate tax ranging between 15-22 percent, manufacturing companies being taxed the least (15 percent), as well as 5-10-year tax holidays, 200 percent rebate on training costs and a maximum of 25 percent personal income tax to name a few. The Government of Botswana has set up Botswana Trade and Investment Centre (BITC), an integrated Investment and Trade Promotion Authority (ITPA) with an encompassing mandate of investment promotion and attraction, export promotion, and development, which facilitates investors in setting up their business in Botswana. However since you are entering new to the market, it may be worthwhile to consider a partnership with a Botswana citizen who can help you understand how to do business here. We would like companies that invest in Botswana to provide technical skills training.
Botswana gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1966 and has been relatively stable since then. All elections since independence are considered free and fair, and Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index regularly ranks your country well. In addition, Botswana had a very high economic growth compared to other African countries and has developed from one of the poorest countries on the planet to a middle income country. What do you think are the reasons for this political and economic stability?
In Botswana democracy is a part of our DNA, in our culture and our traditions. Historically major issues in the community have always been discussed openly through the Kgotla (our traditional Forum for consultation). In that Forum, we allow everybody – regardless of their status in society, gender or religion – to have their say. Therefore traditionally democracy has always been part of our way of life. The advent of the modern political system therefore was merely an addition to what we had already been practicing as a society.
At independence in 1966, Botswana was one of the ten poorest countries of the world. In the year of independence, our annual per capita income was only 84 US-Dollar, compared to 7700 USD today. A year after independence, Botswana discovered some diamond deposits and the first diamond mine went into operation in 1971. However, the discovery of diamonds alone could not have brought the country to the stability we enjoy. The visionary leadership of our founding President H.E. Sir Seretse Khama ensured that the revenue from diamonds were utilized to develop the entire country, rather than only the communities where the diamonds were discovered. However it is also fair to acknowledge the enormous contributions made by our friends in the International Community towards the development of Botswana. Germany has provided financial and technical support since Botswana’s independence and we are very appreciative of that circumstance.
In the autumn of 2013, Botswana first opened an embassy in Berlin. Since 2014, you have been in office. What are your conclusions for your work in Germany and what plans do you have for the rest of your term?
One of the reasons why we opened the Embassy here in 2013 was our desire to further diversify the economy. In the past relations between Botswana and Germany were mostly at a Government-to-Government level, with our Ambassador to Germany resident in Belgium. With the opening of the embassy in Berlin our immediate objective was and still is to promote B2B relations in recognition of the importance and enormous growth of the German Mittelstand, who play a key role in the economic development of the country. As a result Germany is very much advanced in terms of technology, research and engineering. Over the last couple of years, our work therefore has been to try to learn from the performance of the German economy. We wish to cooperate with various institutions and organizations to identify companies that may be interested in Botswana.
“In Botswana democracy is a part of our DNA, in our culture and our traditions.”
Botswana, with 3200 hours of sunshine per year, is one of the most sunbathing countries on earth. Nevertheless, renewable energies are still hardly used. Are there efforts to expand renewable energies?
Currently Botswana’s main source of energy is coal. It is true that 75 percent of mined coal is used for power generation. However, while Botswana’s source of power is generated from coal, the Government has generally recognized the potential for renewable energy development, especially solar energy. A number of technical studies and projects have been completed on the feed-in tariffs, biomass potential as well as studies on concentrated solar thermal technologies.
For a long time now Botswana has been promoting solar water heating through solar home systems. Whilst most of these activities were geared towards increasing the contribution of renewable energy to the energy supply chain, in doing so we identified some shortfalls in the legal, institutional, regulatory and financial frameworks supporting the renewable energy divide. Therefore the country is now developing a Renewable Energy Strategy. To demonstrate our commitment to move towards the Renewable Energy, Botswana has joined the International Renewable Energy Agency.
With one of the world's highest prevalence, the population is very much suffering from HIV infection. How do you want to reduce these numbers and with which programs do you want to help people?
Botswana has been very open and proactive in acknowledging the HIV situation in the country. In this regard, former President H.E. F.G. Mogae took very bold steps to use the revenue from the diamonds to fight against the further spread of HIV. One of the flagship programmes was the launching of the programme to prevent mother –to –child transmission.
In June 2016 H.E. President Khama launched the latest campaign TREAT ALL, which will treat all Batswana who are HIV positive irrespective of their CD4 count. This will greatly minimize new HIV infections, the annual AIDS death rates and number of TB cases. Long-term it will lead to the epidemiologic control of HIV by 2020. People with HIV now can have the same life expectancy as the general population, using the newest medication with less side effects. Botswana has also adopted the global 90-90-90- Fast Track Targets which fast tracks testing, treatment and viral suppression. The target is that at least 90 percent of HIV patients will be aware of their illness, 90% will know their status on treatment and 90 percent will be on treatment viral suppression by 2020.
So yes, HIV/AIDS is still a problem, but Botswana has been recognized as one of the countries that has really done well in the fight against HIV/AIDS and continues to work towards eradicating it completely.
“Botswana has been very open and proactive in acknowledging the HIV situation in the country.”
The culture of Botswana is characterised mainly by traditional music, dance and song, but also by the highly developed art of basket weaving. What defines the culture of Botswana for you?
Botswana’s Culture is best defined by its people and their way of living, is based on their values and traditions and is identified with the people. In this respect Botswana has provided an enabling cultural environment for the creativity of our people, and the youth of our nation for their cultural self-expression. We individually and collectively celebrate our cultural diversity and richness through various activities like cultural festivals, song and dance, traditional and contemporary music and arts. Our objective is to preserve and promote our culture for our pride and nationhood.
The promotion of Botswana’s culture is enhanced by the undertaking of various cultural events which include national competitions. These competitions bring out the diverse cultures together, enhance skills’ transfer, boosts cultural exchange and culminate in a prestigious Awards Ceremony where the President of the Republic of Botswana presents awards to winners of the competitions. Other events include a hype of activities both in the visual and performing arts categories. This is what defines Botswana culture for me.
Pictures: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 = Mohamed El-Sauaf