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Botswana: Embracing art to diversify economy

Following decades of failure to come up with concrete initiatives that could help Botswana wean off its economy from dependence on diamonds-the southern country is now considering a less explored route-the arts industry.A local economist, Lesego Sekwati concurs that despite a series of supportive policies over the years, economic diversification remains an obscurity for Botswana.

“The economy remains heavily dependent on diamond mining, while the private sector, considered pivotal in the strategy for diversification, continues to be shallow and narrow, with weak inter sectoral diversity and production links,” she said. 

In addition, she said, to proliferation of fragmented, uncoordinated policies and/or strategies, which have seriously undermined implementation and monitoring (and accountability in the case of institutions), passive political commitment, especially with regard to supporting innovation, research and development as some of the major contributing factors to sluggish progress on economic diversification is to blame.

It is against this background that the government is now considering tapping into the arts industry as another way of exploring and exploiting an industry whose potential has not been tapped into. 

According to government spokesperson Andrew Sesinyi, following his expression of interest to promote the creative industry in Botswana, Steve Harvey, American comedian, television host, producer, radio personality, actor, and author, arrived in Botswana on 19thAugust, 2019. 

 

He said Harvey is in the country at the invitation of President Mokgweetsi Masisi. 

“This is part of the President’s ongoing initiatives to attract world renowned international investors to explore opportunities for the youth of Botswana to participate in business,” said Sesinyi.  

Consequently, Sesinyi said, Masisi has invited Batswana, in particular the youth, to a live town hall networking session featuring Steve Harvey on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 at the University of Botswana Indoor Arena in the capital Gaborone. 

The event starts will be watched live on Botswana Television (BTV) through various resorts across the country. 

“The event will allow Batswana to listen, interact and gain access to entrepreneurial opportunities in the country and beyond. Mr. Harvey will also be accompanied by a business delegation to explore potential investment and development prospects in Botswana,” said Sesinyi. 

He explained that engagement has been made possible through collaboration between the government of Botswana and the following private sector and the parastatal entities. 

Speaking during a brunch he hosted for creative arts industry members at State House recently, Masisi said the government has embarked on an initiative to promote the creative arts industry and had embraced more than 20 000 artistes with a multi-million Pula annual budget.

The President vowed to assist the creative arts to exploit the whole value chain and explore opportunities in their industry as this could help in economic diversification.

He said government would be at the forefront to ensure that spaces and opportunities were opened.

“The industry has the potential to market Botswana’s prized commodities such as beef and diamonds and my government is going to capacitate the relevant ministries in new ways to meet growing challenges,” he said. 

For her part, First Lady Neo Masisi implored the artistes to share the powerful stories that accompanied their God given talent.

“You are a unique group, tapping on what the maker bestowed upon you to earn a living. Some of us had to be trained but you are using something that has been planted right from conception. I’m sure you all have powerful stories that accompany this talent, I would like you to share it,” she said.

She insisted that they share how their talents improved the livelihoods of their families or their communities.

Speaking at the same event, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tshekedi Khama said the meeting between President Masisi and the creative artists was the beginning of great things to come.

A number of artistes decried lack of decent price rates for their products and unanimously called for the establishment of an art council as well as proper management of the music union.


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