President Ian Khama's two visits to Angola in four weeks-one being the first foreign visit since he assumed the Chairmanship of SADC, has cemented observations that the two countries are forging bilateral ties to strengthen cooperation for economic advancement.
The blooming relationship was confirmed by minister for presidential affairs Eric Molale at the celebrations to mark Angola's 40th independence anniversary on Wednesday. He said; "We are proud of the continued cooperation aimed at addressing common development challenges which include increasing bilateral trade and investment, fostering improved health and education, energy and sustainable use of natural resources for development".
Molale's statement came after Angola's Ambassador to Botswana Jose Agostinho Neto revealed that his country is currently grappling with economic diversification, due the negative impact on the country's growth expectations for 2015 brought by the recent slump in oil prices in international markets. "This calls for diversification of the economy. Some measures such as tax, customs, economic financial and legal measures are being taken to enable this change. They are aimed at attracting foreing direct investment and mobilise the burgeoning business class for the economic diversification challenges," he said.
Neto said his country has endured 40 years if immeasurable sacrifices and pain but also invaluable achievements. Neto said various roads and railway infrastructure have been rehabilitated to promote and facilitate trade between the countryside and the city and domestic and international tourism as an additional source of revenue for the economy, which is rapidly developing.
Angola is touted as one of the fastest growing economies in the SADC region with huge resources of oil, minerals and tourism potential. One of the largest producers of oil in the region, Angola is important to Botswana as a source of oil which form the biggest share of local imports. The country has also demonstrated willingnes to procure livestock from Botswana for breeding stock, and negotiations with BMC have been concluded. On the tourism and water resources sectors Angolan highlands are the original sources, which replenish the mighty Okavango river, which in turn terminates into the magnificent Okavango Delta. Here lies the genesis of an unrivaled ecosystem that shapes the livelihoods of communities and provides lifeblood to multitudes of species of flora and fauna alike along its remarkable journey.
The listing of the Okavango Delta as a World Heritage Site is a clear testimony of the continued cooperation enjoyed by all the three partner countries (Angola, Botswana and Namibia) of the Okavango Commission (OKACOM) basin and their commitment to preserve the fragile ecosystem. Such cooperation has seen a resolve to safeguard the sustainability of natural resourses as demonstrated by joint conservation efforts in the Kavango Zambezi -Trans Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA -TFCA).
Angola also plays a critical role in the diamond industry as the current chair of the Kimberly Process. To this end, Angola is a strategic partner for the economy of Botswana, which government has been struggling to diversify away from diamonds. In his first visit to Angola in October, Khama said closer engagement between the two countries is indeed long overdue! "On my part, I will do all that is in my power to demonstrate our commitment to stimulate interactions and growth of our economies. It is incumbent upon us to capitalize on technological advances, to bolster our cooperation, and with unprecedented determination and unity of purpose, unleash our economic potential. Between our two countries lays distinct and quality key products of excellent economic significance namely, tourism and diamonds. We should therefore jointly work tirelessly in order to realize their true potential in the respective industries," he said.
Khama attended the independence celebrations in Angola on Wednesday.