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Namibia, Botswana look to foster trade relations amid agric trade tension with SA

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The first-ever Botswana and Namibia Bi-National Commission (BNC), which began recently in Gaborone concluded with a summit of the leaders of the two nations, this is according to a statement from Botswana’s ministry of foreign affairs.

When it came to bilateral agreements like the Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation (JPCC) and the Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security, Namibia and Botswana decided to upgrade their cooperation last year (JPCDS).

The foreign affairs ministry said: “The BNC will discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest under four thematic committees namely: politics and diplomacy, economic cluster, as well as defence and security matters.”

Namibia and Botswana last month stopped agricultural imports from South Africa, namely tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, chilli peppers, butternut, watermelons, sweet peppers, green mealies and fresh herbs.

This was to protect their local agriculture industries from outside competition. When they meet this week agriculture will be one of the top items on the agenda.

“It (BNC) will also discuss issues from various sectors of cooperation including agriculture, water as well as transport and logistics,” the foreign affairs ministry said.

According to figures from the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), a global data visualisation tool for international trade, as of 2020, Namibian exports to Botswana were worth an estimated R8.466 billion (about $498 million).

The main products that Namibia exported to Botswana were diamonds ($299m), refined petroleum ($131m), and electricity ($33.1m). During the last 20 years, the exports of Namibia to Botswana have increased at an annualised rate of 23%, from R134.47 million in 2000 to over R8 billion in 2020.

The main products that Botswana exported to Namibia were diamonds, insulated wire, and coal briquettes. During the last 20 years, the exports of Botswana to Namibia have increased at an annualised rate of 12.9%, from R96.9 million in 2000 to R1.1 billion.

Botswana and Namibia established diplomatic relations in 1990 after the latter gained its independence from South Africa.

In 1995 there was a gunfire exchange between the Namibian and Botswana forces. At the time Sir Ketumile Masire was the president of Botswana and the young democracy, Namibia was led by Sam Nujoma.

The fight was over an island called Sedudu on the Botswana side and Kasikili on the Namibian side. The island is at the centre of the Chobe River on the Caprivi Strip.

The two countries were ready to go into a fully-fledged war, but the late Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe played a negotiation role to put a stop to it.

The two countries then agreed to take their dispute to the International Court of Justice for a final and binding determination.

In 1999 it was ruled that the Island belonged to Botswana.

In 1997, Namibia faced an extended drought and announced plans to divert water from the Okavango River which flows into Botswana from Namibia having originated in Angola.

The diversion would have meant that Botswana’s access to the river was going to be limited.

More recently, in 2020 Namibia condemned Botswana’s “shoot to kill” policy on poachers as suspected poachers of Namibian origin were killed by the Botswana Defence Forces.