Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Botswana
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10 october

Interview of the Ambassador V.Sibilev to “Business Kraal” Radio on the “Russia-Africa” Summit

1. Could you tell us about the relations which the two countries have had over the years for appreciation?

We consider Russia-Botswana relations as longstanding and traditionally friendly. The USSR proposed Botswana to establish diplomatic relations on the same day when it declared Independence. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints of the Botswana side we succeeded only in 1970.

After that our relations have been gradually developing. Today they are characterized by the fruitful permanent high level political dialogue. The cooperation between our countries covers the fields of diplomacy, defence, education, health, trade and mining. Russia contributes to the training of Botswana specialists in different areas such as mining, engineering, medicine, IT, law enforcement and others. Annually around 60 students go to Russia for studying at our universities both at the scholarships of the Russian Government and on the contract basis with several police officers conducting short-term advanced training courses and getting full education. Moreover, the Embassy does its best to give young politicians and diplomats the chance to establish contacts with their Russian counterparts within the programme “New Generation”.

This year the Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Botswana Dr. U.Dow visited Russia to participate in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Mr. S.Lavrov at its sidelines. On June 6, 2019, they signed the intergovernmental Agreement on the Exemption of the Visa Requirements for the Nationals of the Russian Federation and the Nationals of the Republic of Botswana which is of paramount importance for expanding business trips and touristic exchanges as well as contacts from people to people.

2. How have the relations between Russia and Botswana benefited both countries and its peoples?

I guess that I answered this question in the previous one. First of all, it is cooperation in the sphere of education that contributed significantly to the mutual development. In June 2016 the then Minister of Education and Skills Development of the Republic of Botswana Dr. Unity Dow visited Russia and signed the Memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of education and Science of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of education and Skills Development of the Republic of Botswana in the field of education. According to it, the Russian Government annually sponsors 30 scholarships for Botswana students willing to continue its education in Russia. And as Dr. Dow said at the 74th session of UN General Assembly, now as a Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, the quality education would enable Botswana people to accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda and overcome the problems of poverty and inequality.

Another important item is our interaction within the Kimberley Process. Last year our countries agreed that Russia will be a Chair in 2020 and Botswana – in 2021. Natural resources are a source of conflict in the world, but at the same time, in Botswana, for instance, diamonds have an enormous impact on stability and economic prosperity of the country. And our cooperation here aides to strengthen the mechanism to stem the flow of conflict diamonds and promote legal diamond trade.

Furthermore, together with our Botswana partners we are developing several MoUs and Agreements which will facilitate and contribute to our cooperation in the fields of healthcare, environmental protection and others.

I am convinced that the deepening of Russia-Botswana partnership following the time-tested traditions of friendship, equality and mutual respect makes our countries stronger, more prosperous and resilient to all sorts of challenges.

3. Russia-Africa Summit coming up this month, please, tell us about it as we also invite the Business community and leaders across all divisions to attend and the benefits thereof

The first “Russia-Africa” Summit is to be held in Sochi on October 24, 2019, with Economic Forum preceding it. At the invitation of the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the President of Egypt and Chairperson of the African Union Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Heads of state and government of almost all African countries as well as the regional organizations, including SADC are to visit Sochi to discuss more close cooperation and possible projects with the Russian Federation in different spheres of mutual interests.

According to the final draft declaration, the parties are going to establish a Russia-Africa Partnership Forum and hold annual political consultations between Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and the African countries acting as the current, former and future Chairs of the African Union in the period between summits. It is planned to develop Political, Security, Trade, Economic, Legal Scientific, Technical, Humanitarian, and Information Cooperation.

The Economic Forum will be a strategically important step towards creating favourable conditions for the development of trade and economic relations between Russia and Africa and will also diversify the forms and areas of Russian-African cooperation. A significant set of bilateral trade, economic, and investment agreements is expected to be signed following the conclusion of the Forum.

The business programme will include a plenary session and a series of roundtables and panel discussions. Participants will discuss the following topics: the role of Russia’s agenda in Africa and its promotion, Africa’s role in the international financial system, expanding cooperation, export and investment, as well as security challenges.

4. Russia and Botswana Travel, is visa free, what does it mean to both nations and opportunities thereof?

In my opinion, the main problem in the relations between our countries is a lack of knowledge about each other. This causes misunderstanding and impedes the cooperation between governments and people. In this case, we can state that the signing of this Agreement has to assist us to overcome the main challenge. However, it takes a lot of time so that the Agreement bears fruit.

I would like to repeat the words of the Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov “this Agreement would ensure that our peoples and business community members will have more comfortable conditions for interacting with each other”.

5. Any other events we can look forward to, as we prepare in advance?

Next year, on March 6, our countries will commemorate the golden 50th jubilee of the establishment of the diplomatic relations which is a good prerequisite for deepening interaction between Russia and Botswana. The Embassy has started to search the possibilities of cooperation with the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation and Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture Development of the Republic of Botswana to prepare this memorable event. We will be glad if other stakeholders decide to join this process and make a contribution to our common celebration.

The annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum has become a good tradition. All guests value the forum’s atmosphere of trust and openness. Such a discussion and an informal dialogue are particularly important today when the environment for doing business and making investments, as well as everyday life, going through dynamic changes too.

The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) is a unique event in the world of business and economics. SPIEF has been held since 1997, and since 2006, it has been held under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation, who has also attended each event.

Over the last 21 years, the Forum has become a leading global platform for members of the business community to meet and discuss the key economic issues facing Russia, emerging markets, and the world as a whole.

Special attention is paid to the African continent with the “Russia-Africa” Panel Session being held. This year African countries were represented by the Vice-President of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire Daniel Kablan Duncun, the Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Botswana U. Dow, the Chairperson of the Ntlo ya Dikgosi Kgosi P. Gaborone, other Ministers and Heads of delegations of African countries and African Union who arrived at the SPIEF-2019 as well as the Ambassadors accredited to Moscow.

The participants discuss in detail the state of Russia's partnership with the countries of the African continent and the prospects for its strengthening with emphasis put on the search for the rapid and systematic development of the entire range of political, economic and humanitarian cooperation.

Next year the Forum will be held on June 3-6, 2020, and we would be delighted and cooperative if the representatives of Botswana political and business community could take part in it.