Allow me to express my profound gratitude to all of you, for meeting with me and my delegation this morning. It is my hope that our discussions will cultivate a long term relationship between our country and the French private sector, resulting in the much-needed foreign direct investment inflows to Botswana.
I am informed that this session was made possible through concerted efforts by the French Stakeholders, and it will be remiss of me if I did not acknowledge Monsieur Philippe Gautier, the Chief Executive Officer of MEDEF International, for hosting this event. It is my hope that at the end of this event, French businesses will be exposed to business opportunities available in Botswana.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Botswana is one of the few countries in Africa that stand out in many areas. The country boasts a mature democracy, a relatively open economy with attractive tax regulations and incentives for investment, and an excellent track record of good governance, a stable political and macro-economic environment. The country’s economic landscape has been underpinned by a strong regulatory framework and transparent institutions. We are also rated as the most transparent country in Africa by Transparency International. The Covid-19 pandemic has distabilized the global economy. Even though the pandemic is still raging on, we are heartened by the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines across the world; which has given us a glimmer of hope. This has allowed many Governments to gradually open up their economies for business. It is for this reason that I found it befitting, to engage with you this morning, about business opportunities in Botswana.
Programme Director, Botswana was equally affected by the pandemic. Some of our key industries including mining, particularly diamonds, and the tourism sector were hard hit, reversing the gains that had been made over time. We had to take a decision as a country, to look at ways of boosting the economy following the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, we adopted the Economic and Recovery Transformation Plan to accelerate development of facilitative infrastructure; support for increased agriculture and manufacturing output; growth of the creative industry; improving the business environment, accelerating regulatory reforms; as well as promoting digital transformation. These efforts are geared to position Botswana as a competitive destination for investment. My Government’s vision is to transform Botswana to a knowledge-based economy and a high income country by 2036. Some of the key enablers include fast-tracking adoption of digital transformation in the country.
To that end, Botswana has developed a Digital Transformation Strategy titled “Towards Digital Transformation for Batswana”. Its aim is to develop a new proposition to drive transformation across Government, the economy, and society. Botswana’s digital transformation is facilitated through strategic infrastructure, which includes an expansive broadband network that runs on fibre. We have also established Special Economic Zones (SEZ) around eight sites in Botswana, offering some of the most attractive incentives in the region.
The sites around Gaborone aim to transform the city through a multi sector SEZ linking with developments around the airport city, the Diamond Trading Centre and the financial services hub. Other SEZs locations seek to promote commercial agriculture and agro-processing; meat and leather industry; as well as cargo and logistics. Programme Director, France is one of the largest source of FDI in Africa. This is confirmed by the World Investment Report of 2021, released by UNCTAD indicating that France was the second largest investor in Africa in 2019, after The Netherlands. Botswana is host to several French companies which have invested in different sectors of the economy. One of the flagship companies is Orange Botswana, which has invested significantly in the ICT sector. It is my belief that with more targeted efforts, we will see several French companies showing interest in Botswana.
On this note, I encourage all of you to utilise the Botswana/France Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty of 2002 as an instrument established to facilitate investment flows between our countries. Further to that, the SADC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement is another key instrument to unlock market access opportunities for the French companies based in Botswana for export into greater Europe. Programme Director, let me take this opportunity to appraise the business community present here this morning, of the efforts undertaken by my Government to spearhead reforms for the ease of Doing Business. As of 21st October 2021, the global anti-money laundering watchdog, known as the Financial Action Task Force, removed Botswana from its Grey List category. The announcement has given us the much-needed investor confidence, demonstrating Botswana’s commitment to undertaking continuous business environment reforms. On 17th September 2021, the Standards and Poor credit rating agency revised its economic outlook for Botswana from negative to stable, giving further credence that Botswana is ready to conduct business.
Investors can now be granted permanent residence status by the Minister even before they have reached the minimum five years of residence. Botswana launched the e-visa system on 12th August 2021, allowing travellers from around the world to apply for visas through a digital platform, thus reducing the turnaround time for visa applications. Programme Director, before I conclude my remarks, let me acknowledge the role played by Ambassador Laurence BEAU at the Embassy of France in Gaborone, the Economic Services Department at the French Embassy in Pretoria, Business France and most importantly MEDEF International, for making this session possible. I expect that the networking opportunities will generate the desired investment leads for Botswana to diversify her economy and create sustainable jobs.
I believe that today’s discussions will result in a long-term mutual relationship as we host your super brands in Botswana. For those who are not yet ready to invest, we invite you to explore our pristine tourism resources, particularly the Okavango and Chobe National Park which will offer you the most breath-taking scenic safari experience – comparable to none in the world.
I thank you for your attention.
𝐒𝐓𝐀𝐓𝐄𝐌𝐄𝐍𝐓 𝐁𝐘 𝐇𝐈𝐒 𝐄𝐗𝐂𝐄𝐋𝐋𝐄𝐍𝐂𝐘 𝐃𝐑. MOKGWEETSI MASISI 𝐏𝐑𝐄𝐒𝐈𝐃𝐄𝐍𝐓 𝐎𝐅 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐑𝐄𝐏𝐔𝐁𝐋𝐈𝐂 𝐎𝐅 𝐁𝐎𝐓𝐒𝐖𝐀𝐍𝐀 𝐀𝐓 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐁𝐎𝐓𝐒𝐖𝐀𝐍𝐀/𝐅𝐑𝐀𝐍𝐂𝐄 𝐈𝐍𝐕𝐄𝐒𝐓𝐎𝐑 𝐑𝐎𝐔𝐍𝐃𝐓𝐀𝐁𝐋𝐄 𝐃𝐈𝐒𝐂𝐔𝐒𝐒𝐈𝐎𝐍𝐒 (𝟏𝟎𝐭𝐡 𝐍𝐎𝐕𝐄𝐌𝐁𝐄𝐑 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟏