31 July 2012
“The national watchwords of Botswana are democracy, development, and dignity. These mirror those of the Commonwealth. We are committed to working in support of Botswana's national priorities with renewed vigour" - Kamalesh Sharma
Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma concluded a two-day official visit to Botswana on 31 July – his first since taking office in 2008. The visit strengthened an already solid relationship between the Commonwealth and Botswana.
Mr Sharma said: “The national watchwords of Botswana are democracy, development, and dignity. These mirror those of the Commonwealth. We are committed to working in support of Botswana's national priorities with renewed vigour.”
Mr Sharma called on President Seretse Khama Ian Khama, and various senior officials, including Minister for Presidential Affairs Mokgweetsi Masisi, Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo, and Independent Electoral Commission Secretary Gabriel Seeletso.
The Secretary-General briefed his hosts on current Commonwealth priorities, especially its reform and renewal agenda. He explained that the Commonwealth’s goal remained being responsive to the needs of its citizens and others, and staying impactful in its activities.
Mr Sharma also met with two former presidents of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae, who he described as longstanding and active supporters of the Commonwealth. Sir Ketumile chaired the Commonwealth’s election observer group to Uganda in 2006, while Mr Mogae led Commonwealth election observers to Nigeria last year.
Youth empowerment was one of the priorities on the Secretary-General’s mind, and the visit gave him a chance to meet with CEOs and representatives of Botswana’s banking sector. He said: “Young people are predominant in the populations of most Commonwealth countries, including Botswana. To respond positively and practically to the needs of young people, we must ensure that opportunities are provided for them to have access to finance and technical support to enable them to develop as professionals and as entrepreneurs.”
The Secretary-General said he appreciated the willingness of those with whom he spoke to participate in a growing pan-Commonwealth network of banks to exchange information online about their experiences and successes in supporting young people to start up and consolidate new businesses.
Last year, the Commonwealth Secretariat trained 64 youth entrepreneurship officers from Botswana in business development. The University of Botswana has been a longstanding partner with the Commonwealth Youth Programme in delivering the Commonwealth’s Diploma in Youth Development.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General said that Botswana continued to make substantial practical and financial contributions in support of fellow Commonwealth members. For many years, its Police College has trained police officers from Sierra Leone. The Commonwealth wants to expand such co-operation.
Botswana also benefits from a number of Commonwealth programmes delivered through the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation. This includes capacity-building in the judiciary; assistance in managing public debt; support in developing the natural resources industry, especially natural gas; multi-grade teaching; assistance for agricultural marketing and the development of a tertiary education funding framework. The Commonwealth has also provided training to 370 public servants from Botswana, in the last five years.
Commonwealth trade policy experts in Botswana’s Ministry of Trade also provide assistance in trade policy analysis to help develop sound policies and enable the country to participate effectively in international and regional trade negotiations.
Under new areas of co-operation, Mr Sharma said that the Commonwealth would work closely with Botswana, following the country’s commitment to establish a National Human Rights Commission, compliant with international norms.
Mr Sharma explained that the Commonwealth had a special responsibility to protect and promote the needs of small states. He said that the Commonwealth was convening a conference on small states from 17 to 18 September in London to address the challenges of economic resilience and growth that these states face.
“We have commissioned a research paper on the transformation of Botswana to a ‘green economy’ for the conference, and will share the contribution of its experience with all members,” he added.
Concluding his visit, Mr Sharma wished success to ‘Team Botswana’ at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General was accompanied by a small delegation of Commonwealth officials, including Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, a national of Botswana.
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