Botswana’s economy reaps Chinese windfall

The world’s second largest economy ‘ with a growth rate averaging nine percent ‘ has now turned its sights on Africa as it seeks energy deals to support its growing industries and with its rich coal and mineral reserves Botswana has become an ideal investment destination. “Botswana is generally open to investment,” said Gina Ross, one of the three journalists from The Economic Observer ‘ the first privately-owned financial and business newspaper in China. She added: “Many economies of the same size are not so open to Chinese deals”. The three journalists, Kamila Vykydalova, Gina Ross and Tara Power are in Botswana to compile a comprehensive survey of possible business investment opportunities between Botswana and China, who have business ties dating back to 1975. The report is part of the newspaper’s series of reports on nine selected African economies. The other countries are Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia, Djibouti, Tunisia, Lesotho, Morocco and Equatorial Guinea. These country reports are designed to promote foreign direct investment (FDI) by highlighting specific opportunities. The Economic Observer has 2.3 million business readers. Late last month, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya. He signed a US$4 billion (P21.76 billion) investment deal in Nigeria. The newspaper’s feature director Ross told Monitor Business that Botswana has not only demonstrated genuine interest in attracting FDI but it is “actually taking the necessary actions to do so, something which you don’t find in developing countries.” Ross said the country had put in place numerous incentives such as lower taxes for foreign businesses and the abolition of exchange rates. “That, combined with the government’s intent to liberalise many sectors of the country’s economy, is good news for eager Chinese investors,” she said. China whose investment in Botswana has grown steadily over the years has interests in a wide range of economic sectors such as construction , trading and manufacturing. The trade value between China and Botswana rose to US$ 52.4 million (P285.056) last year. During the same period, eight Chinese companies successfully entered the Botswana market. “Botswana has developed a reputation in China as a place where you can be successful,” said Vykydalova. She added that from interviews they had already conducted with leading figures in government and the business community, there is enthusiasm about benefits for a strong relationship with China. Botswana has received the Approved Destination Status (ADS) from the Chinese government, which allows Chinese state-owned tour agencies to work with local ones to schedule trips by Chinese tourists. “ADS is considered a tourism goldmine for those countries that receive it,” they said. China is the sixth world tourism spender while Botswana’s tourism sector has overtaken the beef sector as the second largest foreign exchange earner after diamonds. Tourism is also Botswana’s fast est growing sector. It is estimated that over 100 million tourists will be exploring the world by 2010 and for Botswana with its natural treasures such as the Okavango Delta and wildlife it is “being touted as the ideal destination”. As part of its south-to-south cooperation, China has earmarked Africa as a key strategic world partner. It is the second largest source of FDI into the continent behind South Africa.

May 2006
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