President Mokgweetsi Masisi, hosted his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame for two days this week, soon after returning from a Wildlife summit in Zimbabwe in what many view as efforts to rekindle broken relations with foreign nations and clean up his predecessor's mess.
Minus the contorversy over his failure to attend the 12th US-Africa Business Summit in Maputo, Mozambique last week, Masisi has done a sterling job in selling Botswana to the world hardly a year after taking office.
Last week, upon returning from a week long trip to a strategic market (the US) for diamonds, the backbone of the economy, Masisi fired potshots at his predecessor saying his official state visits and attending international summits is what Botswana has not be known for in the past 10 years. Masisi told journalists that he is only leading by example as the head of state hence fully putting Botswana where it belongs. He said he is not just roaming the world but he is forging ties with the leaders and important economic stakeholders of the countries that he visits adding that his recent visit to USA has been fruitful.
While Masisi’s predecessor Khama was known for shunning the international critical forums such as African Union summit opting to send him as the vice president then, Masisi said he has taken a different approach. So reluctant was Khama in his position against attending the international summits with his counterparts that he has never attended any single meeting of United Nations (UN) summit in his ten years term.
Masisi could not also shy away to blast his predecessor over his reluctance of snubbing the international engagements or giving them less preference over his charity work or kgotla meetings. “I am doing the opposite of what has been undergoing before, as the president I will represent this country well in the regional and international level without any fail. I am visiting heads of states and I also host visiting presidents to Botswana where we discuss issues of governance or economic importance, “Masisi said.
Moreover, Masisi said he is expecting president of Senegal Macky Sall to visit Botswana next month following the two’s meeting in Dakar prior to Masisi’s visit to USA adding that president Paul Kagame of Rwanda is likely to visit as well in near future. The Rwandan president indeed arrived in Botswana on Thursday and signed some agreements with Masisi.
Closer home on the African continent, Botswana was losing friends due to Khama's rooftop diplomacy against her peers. This resulted in a serious backlash towards Khama more particularly from former president of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe who didn’t see eye to eye with Khama. Consequently, Dr Pelonomi Venson Moitoi’s campaign for the chairperson of African Union Commission in 2017 ended in a loss to Chadian Moussa Faki Mahamat, despite immense support from SADC. Other regions punished her for Khama’s habit of refusing to attend AU Summits to engage other African Heads of State.
Reflecting on his visit in USA he said he attended the JCK Jewelers in Las Vegas as this gave him the opportunity to meet the important buyers of Botswana’s diamonds also meeting the De Beers leadership.
He indicated that the USA accounts 50% of sales towards Botswana rough diamonds therefore saying there is optimism that US visit will open more opportunities to buyers of local gemstones.
“The visit to USA has been quite tremendous because of the talks we held with CEOs of the leading technological corporations such as Facebook, Google and the Silicon Valley in San Francisco with more insight in positioning us towards knowledge economy,” he added.
He further said he lured the potential investors to Botswana citing American‘s richest television personality cum comedian Steve Harvey as one of the courted investors.
He also said the government intends to integrate the locals to have much participation in the rich tourism sector emphasizing that he is not shaken by the western’s uproar on the decision to lift hunting ban.
Masisi, however, still refuses to shed light on negotiations for a new deal between Botswana and De Beers that will soon get underway.