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Botswana must look to Russia for nuclear power generation

Botswana Guardian

05/03/2020

Today marks exactly 50 years since Botswana and the Russia Federation established diplomatic relations.

To observe this milestone both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Russian Embassy have mounted a pictorial exhibition to trace this momentous feat. It was on 6th March 1970 that the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and newly independent Botswana established diplomatic relations.

Immediately Russia set up an Embassy Office and dispatched her envoy, D. Belokolos, to consecrate the union. Botswana has however, owing to her economic and financial standing, not been able to reciprocate Russia’s gesture •^with an Embassy office in Moscow. Presenting to the Committee of Supply last year, Foreign Minister Dr. Unity Dow however assured Parliament that Russia remains high on Botswana’s agenda hut that the establishment of an embassy in Moscow is currently being impeded, by budgetary constraints.

Russia is however accredited to Botswana’s Embassy in Sweden, currently manned by Ambassador Chanda Nteta. On the occasion of the Golden Jubilee, Botswana and Russia have an opportunity to look back, to introspecet, assess and carve a new path for their continued cooperation, which was built on the foundations of traditional and mutual friendship of equals. This relationship has endured trials and tribulations. It was forged during the era of Cold War when the dominant ideologies of a bipolar world ruled by both the USSR and United States of America required the rest of the international community to align.

Even during those formative years as a newly independent nation, Botswana would not be intimidated or browbeaten into ideological pursuits - rather, she chose to independently choose her own friends and allies - and that’s how, against the common mantra of the day, she established relations with Communist Russia and Communist China much to the chagrin of some at home and abroad.

It is this independent streak that has sustained Botswana’s fortitude in her quest to promote multilateralism within the framework of the United Nations Organisation, to which Russia is a Permanent Member of the Security Council.

Ly Botswana-Russia relations /continue to flourish. Russia’s Ambassador to Botswana, who is also the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Victor Sibilev has extolled this cooperation in various forums here at home. Both countries need to promote cooperation in the trade and investment sphere. Russia could come to Botswana’s aid in the area of mineral production by availing her superior technology in diamond mining. She could also aid Botswana in the area of power generation. Whilst Botswana has vast coal resources, Russia is famed for nuclear power generation.

Botswana could look to Russia in these aspects including in expanding her human resoure capacity through higher education training at Russian Universities to build a critical mass for the delivery of the envisaged Knowledge Economy in this era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

All these should be possible now that Botswana and Russia have signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Exemption of Visa Requirements for the Nationals of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Botswana.

Russia, a member of the BRICS, an alternative consortium to the Bretton Woods architecture - World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) - still regards Africa, in the words of Ambassador Sibilev, as an “important partner” for Russia, an “active participant in the emerging polycentric architecture of the world order”.

This is amplified by Russia’s trade with African states, which according to last year’s Russia-Africa Economic Forum and Summit, which was held in Sochi, grew by more than 17 percent in 2018 and exceeded US$20 billion.

We trust that Botswana will be able to position herself to reap rewards from this arrangement at the soonest.