Botswana: International leather industry seen as vital part of economic and social development

1 July 2013

The Botswana government is looking for new business partners after vicepresident, Ponatshego Kedikilwe announced plans for a new leather processing plant.

"Nine hectares for the plot have been identified, a feasibility study has been done and the cost of the plant was estimated in the region of P200 million," said Kedikilwe, speaking at a press conference.

The vice-president admitted the challenges Botswana faces in attracting private companies after years of neglect across the entire industry. Despite a stock of 2.5 million cattle the country has no domestic leather industry - preferring to export the hides of slaughtered cattle to other countries for processing.

The plan is part of a wider drive for economic and social development in Botswana. As well as the leather industry, Kedikilwe announced the country's intention to partner with domestic and international companies in a range of sectors including mining, Bio-Tech, and Clean Tech and Information and Communication Technologies.

"After conducting research it was resolved to focus on these sectors because it was identified that they would yield quicker economic and social results," he said.

180 million pula has already been spent on The Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) which aims to help diversify the country's economy and create jobs. Most of the money has been spent on basic infrastructure including roads, buildings for the Hub and fibre optic cables. The hub is expected to spend another P500 million over the next few years, mainly on building and construction.

Further plans have been outlined for a science and technology park that can facilitate the shift towards a knowledgebased economy, advance entrepreneurship and attract new companies and institutions. Almost 100 companies have expressed interest in joining BIH according to Kedikilwe, who estimates 1,500 jobs will be created as a direct result of the Hub.

Local organisations including the Botswana International University of Science and Technology and the National Food Technology and Research Centre are amongst the first to express an interest, with MicroSoft Corporation, the University of Pennsylvania and the Krinova Science Park Council of Health Research in Geneva following suit.

Alongside other members of the government, Kedikilwe's attendance at the 2013 Global Smart Partnership Dialogue has helped further the country's social and economic development targets. The forum, which was held in Tanzania, brought together members of the Commonwealth to discuss various ideas around technological change.

"This collaboration is meant to advance telemedicine with the use of cutting edge information and communication technologies referred to as Television White Space," Kedikilwe said. "This technology will provide broadband bandwidth to rural areas by using unused television spectrum. The doctors in Upenn USA will use it to provide Botswana in rural areas with advanced medical care."
Kedikilwe stressed the importance of scientific and mathematical education as part of this shift towards genuine technological change.

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