June 14, 2007
WE MUST EXPLOIT RUSSIA’S POTENTIAL
No doubt, Botswana’s relations with Russia dates back to the heady days when our country was surrounded by hostile racist regimes. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mompati Merafhe on Monday noted – during Russia National Day commemorations – that Russia was one of the first countries to establish full diplomatic relations with Botswana. And it is noteworthy that Russia or rather the Soviet Union (USSR) was not just another country then. It was one of the two super-powers in the world.
Then matters were not helped by the fact that Botswana was considered a pro-Western government. But still, Botswana and the Soviet Union found the common ground on which to cooperate for the good of their people, and indeed the region. The Russians contributed a great deal to the liberation struggle in Southern Africa.
Russia and Botswana have had fruitful cooperation in a variety of fields, particularly in human resource development. And Russia is still offering more scholarship in key sectors such as health, which is currently experiencing a critical shortage of manpower. We encourage Batswana to take up these training opportunities offered by the Russians.
During the Monday commemoration, Merafhe was right in appealing to the Russian community in Botswana to help promote our country as a business destination. Since the political and economic reforms that came in the wake of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost, Russia has developed a strong private sector.
It is high time Botswana took an active part in promoting ties with the Russian private sector, whose members should in turn be encouraged to visit the country and explore business opportunities. Surely joint ventures can be established in sectors such as mining, energy, technology, and infrastructure development. The Russians have some of the top brains in the world in these sectors.
Botswana can also tap into Russia’s out-ward tourism. It is an open secret that in the past few years, Russia has been producing more millionaires than any other country. And the wealthy and ordinary Russians obviously would like to spend their holidays in a beautiful country such as ours.
We must stop this fixation with beating the old path of looking to Europe, the US, and lately Asia for our salvation. Botswana, as a small and insignificant nation, must be able to explore these un-chartered territories. Unfortunately, we tend to rush where everybody goes, and most of competitors here are very formidable. Just the other day, it was Singapore and Malaysia. Today, the buzzwords are India and China!
Let BEDIA, the Tourism Board, and BOCCIM send a mission to Russia.