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Kagiso Thutlwe, mayor of the Botswanan capital of Gaborone, tells Courtney Fingar that the city is keen to exploit its expertise in diamond cutting and argibusiness, but can attract investment in other sectors thanks to its favourable location in southern Africa and a business-friendly environment.

Q: What are the main things you want international investors to know about Gaborone?

A: The most important thing is that as the capital city of Botswana, this is where we do the cutting, sorting and selling of the diamonds. Second, the city is developing at a high speed. We have economic zones that we have positioned around our international airports, and we will be giving these plots to industrialised areas, mostly in [sectors connected to] technology.

Youth unemployment in the city is very high; we want to try to address that. We realise that a majority of young people have an interest in technology, and we want [to harness] technological industrial sites. So Gaborone is a city that is still lagging behind as far as technology is concerned.

But what are the advantages of our city? One answer is infrastructure development. Our roads are of a high standard. Communications are very good. When it comes to the literacy of our people, every child is able to study for free up to university level. So the skill is there. We want our city to be safe, so we are installing surveillance cameras. Even though our crime rate is low when compared with the cities in the countries next to us, we want the crime rate to be zero.

We are a city where it doesn’t take forever for an individual to get a permit. We are working hand in hand with the government. Permits are not handed out by the municipal authorities or by the city council but by the national government. But with our intervention, it takes just one week for individuals to get their permit or their visa.  

The greatest advantage that we have is that we are a city in the middle of many other countries in southern Africa: Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa – we are in the centre, so we can distribute from here. If you have something you want to sell to South Africa, it is going to be easy for an individual because all of the infrastructure is here. We are a city in the middle and that is giving us an advantage [that defies] our small population.

Q: Even though the population of the city is small, it is growing quickly. How can you best manage that growth? Does it present opportunities for investment?

A: An investor will want to go to a place where there is a growing population so that whatever products they want to make, the products will be bought. [They will also need] a labour force that can manage production.

How do we manage the growth? We are talking about technology, and about issues of economic zoning. It is not only being done in the city of Gaborone, we are even helping other towns [in Botswana]. We are helping the agribusiness-focused towns in the northern part of the country, for example. As the capital city, we are more focused on technology and industrialisation, but to manage [Botswana's] population [we have] to have other zones – in agribusiness or rearing cattle and sheep, for example, in the western side of the country. 

Q: So you have diamond cutting and processing, you have agribusiness – what other sectors are you focused on?

A: Those are the sectors that we are focusing upon, because we felt that we should not [attempt to master too many sectors] and then fail. Those are the sectors that are our building blocks.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
fDi Magazine

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