It is indeed an honour for me to address you this morning on this momentous occasion, marking the official opening of the Global Expo Botswana 2020. I am delighted to have virtually joined all participants at this event.
2. The theme for this year’s Global Expo, “Using Disruptive Tech to Shape the New Normal in the era of Covid-19 and Beyond,” could not have been more relevant as the world has now focused attention on innovative solutions to address the global outbreak of COVID-19.
3. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it has now become normal for us to conduct meetings and events of this nature virtually in our efforts to minimise the spread and transmission of COVID-19. Until an effective and reliable vaccine is found, we will continue to follow the laid-down health protocols and regulations
to protect ourselves and our nations from this deadly virus.
4. The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted our health systems and the global economy as a whole. The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) World Economic Outlook has estimated a deep recession in 2020 as the global economy is projected to decline by 4.4 percent, whilst growth is forecast to rebound by
5.2 percent in 2021.
5. In Botswana, output in key production and export sectors, especially in mining and tourism have been constrained and, estimates show contraction in domestic output for 2020 at 8.9 percent compared to pre-COVID-19 growth projections of 4.4 percent. To re-boot the economy and to cushion it from the unprecedented shock brought about by COVID-19, Government has adopted the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (ERTP).
6. I wish to indicate that my Government has prioritised the use of technology and digitalisation in our efforts which are geared towards creating a digitally inclusive nation by ensuring that all our people have access to reliable technology. This will also ensure the delivery of a knowledge-based economy, as envisaged
in our National Vision 2036.
7. In this context, Botswana has adopted a Smart Botswana (Smart- Bots) Strategy which is expected to digitize the service sector to improve service delivery across the country. Government continues to implement robust programmes and projects to provide the requisite infrastructure that will enhance our digitisation strategy. To this end, the Botswana Fibre Network (BoFiNet) which has a national fibre coverage in excess of ten thousand six hundred kilometres (10,600km) countrywide is in the process of connecting cities, major towns and villages, to help reduce the digital divide in the country.
8. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, since the advent of COVID-19, we have experienced a rapid increase in the use of technology throughout Botswana. The COVID-19 health protocols being implemented by Government resulted in, among others, school closures that necessitated online instructions by teachers to learners; people working from their homes; and entrepreneurs and researchers harnessing innovative solutions to contribute to the containment and transmission of the pandemic in our country.
9. In this regard, Government has undertaken some key e-service initiatives such as e-learning, to digitise our schools and enhance
Information Communication Technology (ICT) accessibility; e-health, to improve access to healthcare; and e-commerce that aims to promote the use of digital payment platforms.
10. Botswana, as is the case with the rest of the world, has identified disruptive digital technologies as key enablers for economic recovery and transformation. We must prioritise skills development and capacity-building, digital infrastructure development, digital access and international collaboration in the economic recovery trajectory, thereby enabling a “Global Economic Reset” beyond COVID-19.
11. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased to note that this year’s exposition has attracted about one hundred and twenty companies, both local and international and I am delighted that the virtual expo which begins today will deliver a premier online business-to-business exhibition using virtual reality technology which was developed by a team of young talented, handsome and beautiful Batswana.
12. This is a clear demonstration that our young people are key in finding creative solutions that will contribute to the diversification of our economy and in no small measure, job creation, through the use of technology. I therefore urge the private sector, civil
society and our development partners to continue supporting our
youth to showcase their talents and tap into their innovative potential.
13. Government will continue to partner with strategic stakeholders such as the World Economic Forum (WEF) and global hi-tech companies to fast-track digitisation and lend support to our young people. These initiatives will also go a long way in contributing to our efforts towards the Ease of Doing Business in Botswana
14. As I conclude, I look forward to a positive outcome of this virtual Global Expo which presents an opportunity to our entrepreneurs, especially the youth to interact and network with the business community and potential investors. It also provides opportunity for them to share ideas and knowledge, as well as learn from best business practices that will help them improve their enterprises.
15. With these few words, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I now have the distinct honour to officially open the Virtual Global Expo Botswana 2020.
I thank you.