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Merafhe promotes Botswana opportunities in India, Meeting wi ...
Merafhe promotes Botswana opportunities in India, Meeting with President and Prime Minister (Update)

On the morning of the second full day of his Official Visit to India (Thursday), H.H. the Vice President, Lieutenant General Mompati Sebogodi Merafhe, held separate meetings with the Indian President, H.E. Pratibha Devisingh Patil and Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Dr Manmohan Singh, in the capital city New Delhi.

Thereafter His Honour addressed a well attended interactive Business Promotion Lunch that was jointly hosted by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Federation of Indian Chambers of commerce and Industry (FICCI), and Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM).

During the gathering the Merafhe stressed the potential for increased trade and investment between Botswana and India, appealing to Indian to seek opportunities in such sectors as infrastructure, mining, irrigation and jewellery, while noting that:

"Both the nations can collaborate in areas like irrigation, infrastructure and mining. We have huge infrastructure progress in the country and there is a lot of scope for cooperation."

His Honour further praised India for its excellent irrigation schemes, observing: "We are trying to benchmark with you to see how we can borrow few ideas as to how you do it."

The Vice President also observed that to further strengthen the bilateral business engagements he would on Friday (today) be officially opening a BEDIA liaison office in Mumbai:

"This office will serve as a one-stop information centre for all your enquires on trade and investment in Botswana, and it will also help in cementing the foundation for long lasting commercial relations between our two countries," he said.

The Vice President summed up the investment promotion event as "a wake up call for us to put more effort and emphasis on exploring and utilising investment opportunities to their full potential."

Those attending the interactive Business Lunch heard additional presentations from other speakers.

In introductory remarks the Joint Secretary of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Mr. Gurjit Singh agreed with Merafhe that there is significant scope for building India-Botswana bilateral trade and investment, stressing that both Indian government and private sector companies could play a key role in leveraging the opportunities in Botswana in the banking and financial services sectors in particular.

Mr. Singh's view was echoed by International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) spokesperson Mr. Letsebe Sejoe, who said that Botswana is an attractive destination for business process outsourcing operations as the country has the infrastructure, financial and human resources to support this industry. He added that IFSC serves as the intermediary for investments not only in Botswana but also other southern African countries.

Speaking on behalf of BEDIA, Mr. Favor Marebole, focused on investment opportunities in Botswana in the areas of physical infrastructure development, mining operations, diamond beneficiation, rail infrastructure, and agriculture. He said that BEDIA will proactively support Indian companies in forging joint ventures.

Representing the Innovation Hub, Dr Budzanani Tacheba said that Indian private equity, venture capital funds and other investment arms would see significant opportunities in funding innovative businesses in Botswana.

The Botswana Tourism Organisation also made a strong pitch for Indian investments in Botswana's wildlife development areas, informing the gathering that these could take the form of joint ventures with local partners who have been given the land rights to develop the sanctuaries and wild life eco-systems.

Last year bilateral trade between the two countries was valued at about 270 million pula, a figure which, however, masks the full value of indirect trade in diamonds, where Botswana along with Russia is the world's leading producer while India remains the world's leading processer in terms of cutting and polishing.

In the afternoon, following the successful investment promotion event, Merafhe paid courtesy calls on the Indian State Minister of External Affairs, Smt. Preneet Kaur and the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Hon Ms. Sushma Swaraj.

In the evening the Botswana delegation joined Indian officials at Hyderabad House, a former Palace now used by the Indian government for important state occasions, where there was a signing of agreements in the fields of science and technology and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). This event followed Wednesday (yesterday's) signing of a MOU between the Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) and National Small Industries Corporation of India to also facilitate cooperation between SMEs in both countries.

The signing ceremony was followed by an Official Dinner hosted by Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari, who had held extensive bilateral talks with Vice President Merafhe on Wednesday. Merafhe's India visit was a reciprocal one, following in the footsteps of Vice President Ansari's own visit to Botswana in January of this year.

Today Vice President Merafhe continues his tour by leaving New Delhi for Mumbai. There, in addition to opening the new BEDIA Liaison Office in the afternoon, His Honour will meet with Bollywood Film City Directors in the morning and will be the guest of Honour at a second interactive luncheon with leading members of the city's business community.

Merafhe's high profile Bollywood engagement has come about as a result of Ansari's Botswana visit, which included a stay at the Chobe National Park.  The Indian Vice President was reportedly so enamoured that promised his host, Merafhe, that he would try to lure Bollywood to Botswana.

Vice President Merafhe is also scheduled to hold a Press Conference this afternoon, before attending a dinner in his honour tonight hosted by the Governor of Maharashtra State.

His Honour will conclude his visit tomorrow (Saturday) with tour of Shrenuj diamond jewellery manufacturing facilities, before flying back to Gaborone.

On the visit, the Vice President is accompanied by the Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Oreeditse Molebatsi, senior government, corporate and business officials from BEDIA, LEA, the IFSC and Botswana Tourism Organisation, as well as some local entrepreneurs.