SOUTH AFRICA, BOTSWANA REVIEW PROGRESS OF BILATERAL RELATIONS

South Africa and Botswana have reaffirmed their commitment to deepening existing strategic cooperation and prioritising economic diversification and manufacturing in order to grow economies and create jobs.

President Jacob Zuma and his Botswana counterpart, Seretse Khama Ian Khama met on Friday, in Pretoria, for the third session of the Botswana-South Africa Bi-National Commission (BNC).

They noted with satisfaction, ongoing progress in many areas of cooperation, including agriculture, defence and security, education, energy, environment, health, home affairs, justice, labour, minerals, science and technology, trade and industry, sports, transport and water.

Speaking at the opening of the session, President Zuma said because of geographical proximity, historical and cultural ties, cooperation between the two countries spans across a broad spectrum of areas.

"Growing our economic ties and investments is fundamental for both our countries, as these will help to eradicate poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment," said President Zuma.

Drought, water shortages

With the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region experiencing drought and water shortages - President Zuma said the region needs to explore the possibility of hosting a special summit to discuss the drought and solutions thereof.

The drought has significantly reduced crop production throughout Southern Africa which has a far-reaching impact on food security and food prices.

"It is therefore vital that we fast track our work on the Lesotho Highlands Water Transfer Project in an effort to address the water shortage crisis."

Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan

The region also needs to work diligently on the implementation of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan to create regional value chains and manufacturing capacities.

The Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP 2015-2020) acts as a guide to the implementation of SADC programmes in the next five years and will focus on four priority areas, namely, industrial development and market integration; infrastructure in support of regional integration, peace and security cooperation, and special programmes of a regional dimension.

"Key in this regard is a need to identify and prioritise projects that will have a regional and cross border dimension."

50th Independence anniversary

President Zuma went on to congratulate the Batswana nation on their 50th Independence anniversary.

"We are all impressed with your country's achievements. Your country has recorded remarkable achievements since independence, becoming a model of democracy, stability and rule of law.

"Significantly, successive governments in Botswana have been able to manage the profits of their natural resources to the betterment and development of the country. This is something that many in the continent may consider emulating."

SA, Botswana share a special bond

President Ian Khama for his part said South Africa and other friends in the region contributed in some way or another to the development in Botswana.

"As we move forward - close collaboration with our partners like South Africa will be fundamental in order for us to reach our targets as outlined in our national plan, the Vision 2036."

South Africa and Botswana share a special bond of friendship by virtue of the geography, history and cultural ties.

"We are here to foster even closer cooperation between the governments and the people Botswana and South Africa. "

The BNC, he added, offers both countries an opportunity to review the state of bilateral relations as well as progress made in deepening collaboration.

"This important platform also enables us to exchange views on bilateral, regional and international issues which have a bearing on the development and prosperity of our respective countries.

"This meeting is also a platform for us to devise the common challenges that confront us as neighbours whose economies are interdependent. This will also enable us to consolidate political and socioeconomic gains that we have achieved thus far. "

A total of 36 agreements and Memoranda of Understanding have been signed between the two countries. As such the Heads of State emphasised on the need to fully implement all the decisions.

Regional front

On the regional front - they reaffirmed commitment to working together in pursuit of sustainable peace and stability in the region. They further expressed concern of the continuing peace and security challenges in the continent particularly the emergence of extremism and terrorism and called for a coordinated and collaborative continental efforts to deal with them.

South Africa remains one of the major trading partners of Botswana. In 2015, South Africa's total bilateral trade with Botswana stood at R 57.97 billion.

There is a large presence of South African companies in Botswana, which are involved in various sectors such as housing, food and beverages, construction, retail, hotels and leisure, banking and medical services - which contribute to the growth and development of both the economies.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK.

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