The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Botswana office held an exhibition at the Alliance Francaise dubbed People on the move – Migration in Botswana. An FES official said they decided to do the exhibition on migration because it is not a recent phenomenon and has always been part of human history especially on the African continent. “Population movements have always taken place and played an important role in the region’s economy and politics and like numerous other African countries Botswana has a long history of migration,” he said. He highlighted that more people not only in Europe but also in Southern Africa and in particular Botswana consider migration as a problematic issue. The exhibition showed the history of Botswana not only as a migrant receiving country but also as a migrant sending country, pointing out the challenges as well as the opportunities and benefits of migration. The exhibition showed a journey of how Botswana evolved in terms of migration with many Batswana having migrated to South Africa in the 19th century to many coming back to Botswana in the 1990s due to the new national prosperity. It showed how the migration patterns changed dramatically in the late 1990s with an influx of refugees from the neighbouring countries, something that Botswana was not prepared for. It showed that Batswana migrated initially because of educational reasons, mostly to schools in South Africa. Migrants have contributed to Botswana’s growth and development whereby in 2013 Botswana counted 146 500 immigrants mostly from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, India and the United Kingdom. In the same year 57 500 Batswana migrated to other countries. It showed that nonetheless Zimbabweans are the highest percentage of migrants in Botswana.
The exhibition illustrated that compared with other SADC members Botswana has the most restrictive policy towards migrants from Zimbabwe where they have limited access to basic social and health care services and they also have to fear the so-called clean up campaigns. William Kasaiji-Kuuku – a migrant in Botswana from Uganda – said the advantage about Botswana is that it offers peace and people are content with what they have, less ambitious and at peace with one another. “Peace offers opportunity, for sure the challenges are enormous but they are never insurmountable. Life is never without challenges at all levels but there is always a solution,” he stated. Naresh Kachoria – a migrant in Botswana from United States of America – said he was humbled by the humanity in Botswana where everyone takes time to greet each other whether they are strangers or old friends. He regarded that as a simple gesture that USA can use especially in this moment in time. Simon Masike, who is a migrant from Botswana in Canada, said he went there because he wanted to use his engineering skills and also to expose his kids to a better quality education because with education they are empowered for the rest of their lives. “Migration helps you look at life from a different perspective. You tend to see how things are done as compared to your home and migration should be seen as a chance to empower people,” he said. The exhibition interestingly showed many reasons why people migrate and how they cope in new countries.