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Points raised during Press Briefing by the Cabinet Sub-Commi ...
Points raised during Press Briefing by the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Poverty Eradication.

The Minister began the briefing with a personal tribute to His Honour the Vice President, Lt. General Mompati Merafhe, who has been a key driver of the Poverty Eradication programme.

He  reported that end of last month he, along with two of his colleagues who are also serving on the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Poverty Eradication - the Honourable Keletso Rakhudu and the Honourable Botlogile Tshireletso - were fortunate in having had the opportunity to benchmark anti-poverty strategies, programmes and projects in the Republic of India and the People's Republic of China.

It was noted that this had been made possible at the invitation of the two respective Governments. The Minister was thus grateful that Their Excellencies High Commissioner Madhava Chandra of India and Ambassador Liu Huanxing of China have taken the time be at the briefing; observing that their presence was welcome opportunity to publicly thank them and through them their respective Governments.

He further noted that the press briefing had been called because members of the Cabinet Sub-Committee felt that it is important to report back to Batswana on some of what they saw and learnt. They were thus here today to report on what they wanted to achieve in our visit and what they intend to achieve from it moving forward

It was further observed that India and China are the two nations that have together in recent years enjoyed the greatest quantitative success in pulling their citizens out of poverty. In each nation the poverty rate has declined, while literally hundreds of millions of individuals have graduated from poverty to dignified lives through sustainable incomes. It is also true that, like Botswana, China and India are also still finding innovative ways to tackle the continued existence of poverty within their borders.

Notwithstanding the differences of scale in terms of their very large populations (the Minister noted that each country contained nearly 20% of the world's population), both of the Asian giants are potential partners as well as models for local poverty eradication efforts. An intervention that might only have a modest per capita impact in a vast country like India, given its high population, if fully implemented here could touch the entire nation.

While it has been conservatively estimated that not less than 100 million Indians altogether have graduated from poverty to middle class status during the past decade alone, when it comes to potential lessons for Botswana, the Committee focused on gaining a better understanding of the relative success and limits of various targeted interventions that have been undertaken by the state and non-state bodies.

The visit to India took the Committee to the capital New Delhi and the great metropolis of Mumbai, as well as to rural areas of Hyderabad. In their dialogue with relevant stakeholders in the capital, as well as during site visits elsewhere, there was an emphasis on exploring interventions that had succeeded in addressing the, sometimes divergent, challenges posed by urban and rural, including remote rural poverty.

While in New Delhi, they met with the Federal Ministers of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, the Honourable Kumari Selja and Rural Development, the Honourable Shri Jairam Ramesh, as well as other senior officials. In these talks there was common recognition that poverty eradication calls for a holistic approach that incorporates a wide range of interventions to address specific challenges in given areas. They were especially impressed by India's experience in developing diverse strategies to confront urban and rural poverty, as well as women and youth empowerment through small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) coupled with vocational training and self-help housing initiatives.

Indentified areas of potential collaboration with India include the adaption and roll out of cost effective appropriate technologies to grow small scale businesses, skills transfers, Informatics and ICT solutions and monitoring systems.

Also while in New Delhi members of the delegation visited India's Planning Commission, along with the National Small Industries Corporation. Their meeting with the Planning Commission gave us helpful insights into how the Federal Government in India is able to effectively coordinate its efforts with local authorities and non-Government stakeholders, as well as across Ministries.

The National Small Industries Corporation is a parastatal that has played a leading role in promoting small businesses in India through training and appropriate technology transfer. In visiting one of their incubation centres they were very impressed with Corporation's relative success in commercialising as well as developing appropriate technologies, which was having a measurable impact in promoting grassroots production from economic diversification, as well as poverty reduction.

In Hyderabad, the Committee was hosted by National Institute for Rural Development, who also organised field visits to various rural development projects in the Addakal district. In Addakal, and subsequently Mumbai, they were confronted with the human face of poverty first hand, along with various programmes that are having a positive impact in promoting the social and economic upliftment of the impoverished.

The relative success of small enterprises in rural and urban areas of India is reflected in the fact that SMMEs account for about 40% of the country's manufacturing output and a third of all exports. Such success can to a great extent be attributed a combination of financial discipline and productive commitment that are reinforced by internal and external monitoring systems. Such attributes are being further strengthened and transformed through the steady rollout of dedicated software applications and high speed internet connectivity. 

The Committee concluded its visit to India in Mumbai, where they were hosted by Indian Development Foundation (IDF). The Foundation is an NGO whose original mission was to fight leprosy but has expanded into other areas (NB: Through the IDF and other partners the incidence of leprosy in India has been reduced from 40 million in 1975 to some 60 thousand today.)

Along with other civil society partners, the IDF now also sponsors a national feeding programme that reaches some 130 million otherwise malnourished children across India.

The Committee was also well received by the government of the Peoples Republic of China and for this we would forever grateful.  The delegation was hosted by the China State Council Poverty Alleviation Leading Group Office (PALGO).

A thorough presentation on the progress made on the alleviation of poverty by China was done by the Honourable Minister Fan Xiaojian and was extremely informative.  This was further elaborated by Vice Premier Honourable Hui Lianyu.

China's poverty reduction strategy started in 1949 and has been evolving ever since. Between 1978 to 2000, the number of poverty-stricken people without enough to eat and wear in the rural areas decreased from 250 million to 30 million and the proportion of poverty-stricken people in rural areas dropped from 30.7 percent to about 3 percent.

Their current strategy called Development Oriented Poverty Reduction  for China's Rural Areas (2011-2020) is formulated to further accelerate the development of poor areas and promote common prosperity so as to achieve the goal of building a well-off society in and all-round way by 2020.

Agriculture place a significant role in the poverty reduction strategy of China; though the country has a population of 1,375bn people, and 5% of the global landmass, it is able to produce enough food to feed its people, this speaks volumes about the productivity of the sector. Through agriculture, communities are transformed from being poverty stricken to being on the path to wealth creation; for example, in our visit to Chengde, Hebei Province, we witnessed how using low cost, home grown green house technology, the whole community was being transformed.  The community specialized in production of horticultural produce for Beijing.

Also in the Hebei Province, the delegation visited a chicken abattoir that processed 100,000 chickens a day and was using contract farming to small producers to procure the chickens. In the process the small producers were alleviated from poverty. The market for the chickens was the major cities such as Hong Kong.

The development oriented poverty reduction strategy is thus able to engineer efficient transformation of communities out of poverty by embarking of viable and sustainable projects.

The delegation also visited various leading technology firms such as Inspur, Huawei, ZTE, and China Potevio.  It was clear from the presentations and the technologies at display that China is at the frontier to technology development, especially in the areas of telecommunications and ICT which can effectively support efforts of developing countries in putting up systems and processes to improve efficiencies and ensure effectiveness of the initiatives.

Underpinning the success of China in its development path is its people who are highly good natured and have a good work ethic. Owing to this, the spirit of service and support to those that are underprivileged is intrinsic. In addition, its people are able to achieve high levels of productivity. 

Amongst the key areas of interest of Botswana are (1) leveraging on technology to improve efficiencies in processes of poverty eradication programme; (2) adapting low cost green houses technologies in Botswana, taking into consideration the climatic differences; (3) improving productivity in the field of agriculture; (4) end to end solutions that can be deployed in the eradication of poverty; and (5) mind set change aimed at improving the productivity of the nation.

The minister concluded by noting that they anticipate signing memorandum of understanding between Botswana and both India and China, which will enable our countries to collaborate in addressing issues of poverty. In this respect it is further anticipated that relevant officials will make followup visits.