China Daily | 23 March 2021
Botswana’s relations with China continue to deepen
By Botlhe Dikobe
Diplomatic relations between China and Botswana have grown significantly this year, with the African nation becoming the 46th country on the continent to sign a memorandum of understanding on the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.
Botswana also was one of the five African countries that State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited in January.
Chinese Ambassador to Botswana Zhao Yanbo shared insights on the diplomatic ties between the two countries and the benefits of the BRI. He said the BRI cooperation agreement will further boost the two nations’ political mutual trust and raise bilateral ties to a more mature, sustainable stage.
The BRI was proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013 as a public good for the international community, especially developing countries, to strengthen interconnectivity and development capacity.
Zhao said the joint building of the BRI will provide new opportunities for China and Botswana to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation, expand cooperation to new fields and create new prospects. He also said it will help Botswana’s infrastructure construction and national modernization process and better benefit the two peoples, and business interactions between the two sides will increase.
In addition, with a focus on infrastructure construction, China will help promote connectivity in Botswana and support the African Continental Free Trade Area, thus boosting trade relations with Botswana, Zhao said.
As Botswana places great emphasis on growing its digital economy, Zhao reiterated that China will help Botswana accelerate the development of the digital economy by continuously providing human resources assistance such as training, scholarships and exchange programs.
"China will bolster cooperation in scientific and technological innovation to help Botswana catch up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution," he said. "China is ready to share digital economy technology and experience with Botswana, and make joint efforts to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution."
Zhao referred to President Xi’s pledge, made during the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in April 2019, that China will continue to carry out the Belt and Road Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation Action Plan, and will work with partners to pursue four major initiatives: the Science and Technology People-to-People Exchange Initiative, the Joint Laboratory Initiative, the Science Park Cooperation Initiative and the Technology Transfer Initiative.
"We will also encourage Chinese enterprises to increase investment in Botswana, actively explore cooperation in industrial parks, special economic zones and regional development belts, and enhance the aggregation and added value of Botswana’s industrialization," Zhao said.
He said he has witnessed the significant development of China-Botswana relations.
"In particular, President (Mokgweetsi) Masisi made a state visit to China in 2018 and attended the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Beijing Summit, opening a new era of China-Botswana relations together with President Xi Jinping," he said. Moreover, during Masisi’s visit to China, the China-Botswana Business Forum was held, Zhao added.
He said the two countries’ bilateral business partnership can be traced back to the early 1980s and has aimed for common development and prosperity.
Over the years, the total trade volume between the two countries has jumped from less than $500,000 to about $300 million in 2019. China is one of Botswana’s major trading partners.
Also in 2019, Vice-Minister of Commerce Qian Keming visited Botswana, and the two countries held the inaugural meeting of the China-Botswana Joint Committee on Economy, Trade, Investment, and Technical Cooperation.
Both sides noted the progress in bilateral economic and trade cooperation since President Masisi’s visit to China, and they conducted in-depth exchanges on investment and trade, infrastructure, development cooperation and human resources training, and reached a consensus on cooperation between the two countries.
Zhao also said the China-Botswana friendship had grown deeper in the joint fight against COVID-19.
"China, as the first country to extend a helping hand to Botswana, has continuously shared its experience without reservation and sent multiple batches of medical supplies to Botswana," he said.