The president of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, is on his first ever state visit to China. CGTN's Su Yuting (Su) sat down with President Masisi for his insight on bilateral business relations and his expectations for the upcoming FOCAC Beijing Summit.
Su: You have already met with President Xi Jinping, you have attended the China-Botswana Business Forum, and you will also attend the FOCAC Beijing Summit very soon. What do you expect from the forum and how do you assess the development of business relations between China and Africa under the framework of the FOCAC?
Masisi: The mutual admiration for each other's thinking and programs between myself and President Xi Jinping was evident, and so I expect, as he promised and I too promised him, that the relationship between Botswana and China will deepen, will strengthen, will broaden. And the vehicle by which that will be accelerated is a FOCAC vehicle.
Well, I expect a lot of excitement from my colleagues coming from Africa, because we look at the Belt and Road Initiative, we look at President Xi Jinping's vision of the future. You know, sharing a common future....
When you look at his policy of interacting with Africa, in an unintrusive manner, without conditionality. It's very attractive to adopt that model, to adopt such partners for our own development. I expect that the business forum will start by hitting the ground running, and part of that is that there are obvious areas for investment.
Part of it is that we already have the presence of Chinese companies in Botswana. That's attractive... we called it that part of it because Botswana finds the Chinese economy a very attractive one, a good potential market and we also sell one third of our diamonds to China.
So when these opportunities present themselves on the back of very close political cooperation forged and cemented by our meeting with President Xi Jinping this morning, I expect the business community to run after that.
Su: President Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013. Many cooperation projects have been implemented between China and Africa over the past five years. What potential cooperation opportunities has Botswana seen in the Initiative, especially in trade and economic areas?
Masisi: Well to begin with trade, it’s gonna be facilitated. And like the Chinese saying goes, “If you want to get rich, build the road." That sits quite handsomely with the road and belt initiative, and so we in Botswana in our expectation of articulating our FOCAC ideals have proposed a number of projects... infrastructure projects, roads essentially and rail roads... and these are strategic. They connect us to all our neighbors. And they are gonna facilitate trade and we also ask the Chinese companies come over and develop them, design and build. "
Chinese President Xi Jinping holds a welcoming ceremony for Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi before their talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Aug. 31, 2018. /Xinhua Photo
Su: Some Western media say China's lending in Africa has increased the debt burden of African countries, accusing China of practicing so-called neocolonialism. What's your take on that?
Masisi: My take is that it is laughable: How can those who have actually colonized (make such an accusation)… China, to my knowledge, it has never colonized any country in Africa. How can those who have recently colonized, and recently come up with initiatives such as a "high indebted nations" program, structural adjustment, you name it, (make such an accusation?) how can they have the audacity to suggest that China is doing that? In any event we are smart enough to understand who is who, what is what. So we choose our friends with deliberateness and focus.
Su: President Xi Jinping said China-Africa ties have set a good example for South-South Cooperation. How do you assess China's role in promoting South-South Cooperation?
Masisi: My assessment is that China is going to continue being a significant player in the South-South cooperation. Being the second biggest economy, the factory of the world, there is no way that China cannot play a part in this cooperation. And look at the figures, we export to China 60 million US dollars (worth of goods). And we want to close the gap and also broaden the port.