SA determined to build stronger trade relations with Botswana

President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Mokgweetsi Masisi leading High-Level Talks at the South Africa - Botswana Business Roundtable at the Gaborone International Convention Centre in Botswana (photo: Kopano Tlape)

4 August 2022

President Cyril Ramaphosa says government would like to see “far greater levels of trade and investment” between South Africa and Botswana. He was giving his closing remarks at the High Level South Africa-Botswana Business Roundtable held at the Gaborone International Convention Centre in Botswana on Thursday.

“His Excellency [Botswana] President [Mokgweetsi] Masisi and I agreed that we need to encourage business in our respective countries to invest in catalytic development projects, particularly infrastructure. It has been pleasing to have representatives of our respective state-owned companies share their perspectives on the importance of infrastructure development to our common industrialisation efforts."

The roundtable was attended by the President, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr Naledi Pandor, Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel and South African business leaders and captains of industry.

“This Business Roundtable has been a good starting point for us to begin strategising and aligning our efforts in pursuit of common prosperity, greater reciprocal trade and much higher levels of investment.

“I am extremely pleased it has gone well and we look forward to the reports of our respective officials on the progress of the various initiatives we have agreed on today,” President Ramaphosa said.

Reflecting on the discussions, President Ramaphosa said major emphasis was placed on the operationalisation of the AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area and the common plan in place for the two countries and Southern Africa.

“We expressed confidence at the work being done around creating industrial value chains in SACU (Southern African Customs Union), which would have great benefits for our respective economies. We see great potential in leather and leather products, fresh produce, meat and meat products, textiles, clothing, cosmetics and essential oils.

“As Botswana and South Africa, we have agreed that our respective economies stand to gain substantially from the development of these value chains,” he said.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, has reaffirmed South Africa’s commitment to strengthen trade relations with Botswana after COVID-19 stalled economic growth in both countries.

Speaking at a high-level South Africa-Botswana Business Forum in Botswana, Gaborone, Pandor told delegates that they need to strengthen business-to-business linkages to facilitate trade, investment and joint venture partnerships.

“Tourism was hit hard in both countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and together we need to develop sustainable strategies to revitalise the tourism industry,” she said.

The forum forms part of celebrations of 28 years of trade and investment relations between the two countries.

The Minister believes both countries would also benefit from an agricultural exchange, adding that despite Botswana having fertile land, it still imports a lot of the food.

“This is a trend across much of the continent which we can work together to address so that we can produce more of what we require without importing from beyond our shores. Through economic discussions, we could further investigate the production of animal feed, fruit processing, as well as vegetable and fertiliser production,” she told delegates.

South Africa is Botswana’s number one source of imports, while Botswana is ranked South Africa’s seventh largest export market.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s exports to Botswana were R64.4 billion in 2021, while exports to Botswana grew by 2.53% or R13.4 billion over the last five years.

“If we are to take stock of our trade relations in recent years, it is evident that our two countries maintain a robust trade relationship that has strengthened despite the pandemic.”

In addition, she further reminded officials that there have been 38 Memoranda of Understanding between South Africa and Botswana since the hosting of the first Bi-National Commission in 2013.

“There is great room for future growth in the area of outward investment, the creation of industrial value chains, and infrastructure development.”

She has called on the two States to capitalise on this opportunity to come together to build a better future.

“Our prosperity depends on the economic success of each other. Just as we collaborated in the years of the struggle some six decades ago, we can move forward in solidarity as we forge a better future for our people,” she stressed.

She also said South Africa backs the implementation of the Southern African Customs Union regional value chain, and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Pandor also spoke about exploring mining and minerals beneficiation, which are key pillars of Botswana and South Africa’s industrialisation policy.

“We will also look at ways to enhance automotive component manufacturing that will contribute to job creation in our respective countries.”

She described the relationship between South Africa and Botswana as “special”.

She recalled how their comrades were housed by citizens of Botswana, oftentimes in the home of Comrade Fish Keitseng who in the early years hid Nelson Mandela in the mountains.

“Madiba would spend his days reading, and at night come down from the mountains to the home of Comrade Keitseng.”

Pandor took the time to honour Botswana and its contribution to the liberation struggle of South Africa.

“Thank your compatriots for their assistance during that difficult period in our history.”

The High Level South Africa-Botswana Business Roundtable happens at the backdrop of the fifth session of the South Africa-Botswana Bi-National Commission (BNC) which took place on 22 April 2022 in Tshwane.