BREXIT is a double-edged sword – Blackbeard

Dikarabo Ramadubu
Tuesday, 09 May 2017
Blackbeard Blackbeard

Will impact BMC privatisation but that is a matter for local farmers to tackle

Botswana’s envoy to the United Kingdom, Roy Blackbeard says Britain’s exit from the European Union (UE), famously known by the acronym BREXIT, can be both good and bad for the country.

Speaking to BG News on the sidelines of the Heads of Mission conference in Gaborone, Blackbeard said the good part of BREXIT for Africa is that, once they (UK) have left the EU the British government will consider investing in other markets. “There is no doubt about it that it is going to bring investments and employment,” he said, but cautioned that we should avoid getting swamped with British investors who may or may not repatriate their funds to UK.

Luring investors
Asked how many companies have set up in Botswana since his tenure and how many jobs and FDI have they contributed to the country, Blackbeard explained that he is accredited to a wide jurisdiction that includes not only the United Kingdom, but some 11 countries as well. However, he mentioned his greatest achievement in tourism, where he’s managed to capture the Spanish market from East Africa to our shores and in the process created jobs for locals.
He said the number of tourists from Spain has grown tremendously. “We have now reached a point where we are seeing one tourist company on two occasions in a year bringing more than 100 tourists to this county,” he waxed lyrically.
Blackbeard also covers Israel, with which they are exploring commercial interests in solar energy PV and water recycling as well as tourism. As for Czech Republic, he says Botswana has 100 students studying medicine. “We manage those students and visit them from time to time. We are also involved in the tourism industry there,” he said.

UK Challenges
The UK tourism market has been a little bit more challenging because the UK sees Botswana as a middle-income country and tends to look to other countries. “But to try and penetrate they group local tour operators into groups of up to 10 and take them around the UK to places like Manchester, Newcastle Birmingham and arrange one on one meetings for them with tour operators.
Blackbeard admits that attracting foreign direct investment into Botswana is every Mission’s Achilles Heel. 

He says numerous hurdles among them, land exist. He cited his recent visit to Croatia, which he also covers. He says our Honorary Consul there is involved in the process of landmine clearing and have been involved in places like Mozambique and Angola where landmines are abound.
“We are trying to encourage them to relocate to Botswana and then cover those areas from here. But the main impediment is not so much the finance, it is the slowness and the uptake that has taken place in terms of land and in terms of issuing permits. Sometimes we find the procedures slow,” he lamented.

On BMC Privatisation
The challenge is posed by BREXIT. One of Botswana’s main markets was the UK, but with the country leaving the union, it will adversely impact Botswana’s flow of beef to the European countries, notwithstanding that our source of supply at times leaves a lot to be desired given the problems that we have.
He said that BREXIT will further impact our other agreements with the EU such as the Lome Agreement and the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). So, in the medium to long term, we must bide our time until we know exactly how BREXIT pans out, he advised.
However, for Blackbeard, the privatisation of BMC has always been a challenge and should be left to our local farmers to sort out. As the market grows and the demand for beef grows in the region that itself, given that the price structure keeps changing, will obviously pose a challenge, he said.

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