Botswana vice president invites Indian investment

New Delhi, June 17 (IANS) Botswana Vice President Mompati Merafhe Thursday called for increased economic ties with India, adding that his government will facilitate investment by Indian companies in the southern African nation.

‘We recognise that trade is still firmly minimal… It is a wakeup call to all of us,’ he said at an interaction with the Confederation of Indian Industry, adding: ‘Significance of trade and investment cannot be over emphasised.’

Ties between India and Botswana manifest themselves through development assistance and private investment, said Merafhe, who arrived on a four-day visit Tuesday night.

Speaking in similar vein, Gurjit Singh, joint secretary (Eastern and Southern Africa) in the external affairs ministry, said that economic relations between the two countries were ripe with opportunities, with political relations being excellent.

‘Botswana has immense opportunity for Indian investment,’ he said.

Merafhe said that his country, which had gone through a painful economic downturn, is now looking to increase its food security. ‘With a little more effort, we can produce more and become self-sufficient,’ he said.

Due to the global recession, the country had suffered economically as demand for its largest income generator, diamonds, had evaporated. Since then, Botswana has been trying to diversify its economy.

Even though the country generally has arid climatic conditions, the vice president said that efforts were being made to overcome these barriers. ‘What we are trying for is mechanisation of farming,’ he said.

A presentation made by the Botswana Export Development and Investment Authority (BEDIA) director, Favor Marebole, said that the country was looking for investment in areas like infrastructure, glass and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

He pointed out that while Indian companies were present in the polishing side of the diamond businessin Botswana, they were looking to Indian expertise in jewellery making and retail.

BEDIA is opening a liaison office in Mumbai, which will be inaugurated by the vice president during his visit to the city.

Earlier Thursday, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC) and its Botswana counterpart. An agreement on science and technology will also be signed during the visit.

Merafhe’s visit follows that of Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari’s to Botswana during his three-nation Africa visit in January.

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