Interview of the Ambassador of Russia to Botswana Victor Sibilev after the ceremony of presentation of Letters of Credence to the President of Botswana Ian Khama on September 29, 2014
Please, describe the overall relationship between Botswana and Russia, its history and evolvementuntil now.
Russia and Botswana enjoy longstanding ties of friendship, mutual respectand cooperation. Positions of both countries on main international and regional issues are close or coincide. As for history, diplomatic relations were established on March 6, 1970,and we will marktheir 45th anniversary next year. We’d like to propose to our Botswana colleagues to arrange a series of commemorative events on this occasion.
Our resident diplomatic mission was opened in Gaborone almost 40 years ago. Russia being the successor of the USSR has continued its development assistance to Botswana. Primarily this is related to training of highly-qualified specialists and skills-upgradingprogrammes for medical practitioners and law enforcement officers.
A regularexchange of messages at the highest and high level,a number ofvisits within cooperation in the area of legislature have been also effected.
We have regularofficialtrips on a variety of purposes: for the past two years Russia was visited by 3 Botswana cabinet ministers, heads of police and other authorities, task groups of the Education Ministry.
Bilateral dialogue with Botswana at the level of Foreign Affairs Ministries on issues of international and African agenda within the UN and other fora is highly valuable. On a rotation basis in Moscow and in Gaborone we exchange views on key global and regional problems as well as maintain active collaboration within various international bodies. What brings our countries closer is the common commitment towards ensuring global stability and security, sustainable development and establishment of fair international traderelations.
What bilateral agreements exist between Russia and Botswana?
At present we have 7 bilateral documents, including 3 in the trade and economy sphere. There is also a separate agreement oncultural, scientific and educationalcooperation. Discussions are on-going to sign an agreement on mutual protection of investments, designed to boost inflow of Russian investments, and on protection of information.On cards are as well two memoranda of understanding in areas of health and education.
CouldYou kindly touch upon elaboration on issues of Trade, Industry and Economy?
Speaking about future prospects of the bilateral cooperation I’d like to focus on the existing potential for growing our business partnership. A deal of experience in mining and mineral processing, accumulatedduring operation of “Norilsk Nickel” in Botswana since 2007 is vital in this regard. The Russian investor has implemented a number of social projects with the overall budget of approximately 1 million USD.We intend to facilitateBotswana’s ties with other major Russian mining companies. They obtaincritical technological expertise and advanced mining equipment that can be transferred to Botswana. Prospecting being conducted by the geologists of Russian JSC “Alrosa” in the OrapaDistrictcertifies to that.
Our countries share more than a half of the global diamond mining. Hence the evident common interest in maintaining stable and predictablepricingon the world diamond market.This opens up additional options for cooperation. The Russian Kristall Production Corporation – the major polishing and jewelry production enterprise in Europe – has been actively involved in raw diamond sales in Gaborone and it could offer its unique experiencein polishing technology and manufacture of jewelry to their Botswana partners.
There are many promising opportunities for cooperation in water, power and infrastructure development. To this end we are working on a plan to send to Gaborone next year a Russian business mission to be composed of representatives of core government ministries and private businessesunder the umbrella of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. We expect that this will give an impetus for deepening our trade and economic ties.
How do You intend to improve relationship with Botswana going forward?
The priority areas for the development of bilateral cooperation will be education, diamonds and tourism. Assistance in training Botswana specialists will be continued. We deem it possible to work on increasing the quota of government scholarships allocated to Batswana from the current 15 annuallyas well ason expanding the on-going skills upgrading courses for Botswana medical practitioners to new vital healthcare areas. The number of Botswana doctors trained atsuch courses in 2013-2014 is close to 50 with the overall expenses borne by the Russian side exceedinghalf a million USD. Besides, we find it necessary to focus ondeveloping our cultural exchanges and continue the good practice of inviting Russian leadingperformance groups to Botswana. We are planningto work on increasing inflow oftourists both from Russia and Botswana. The forthcoming 2018 Football World Cup that,as You know, will be hosted by Russia, must be of keen interest for Batswana. We wish the Botswana national team to qualify for the tournament and will be happy to welcome Botswana players and supporters in Russia.
Thanks for this interesting talk.