Zim, Bots urged to establish one-stop border Ambassador Rofina Chikava

Lincoln Towindo in MAUN, Botswana

ZIMBABWE and Botswana must step up implementation of cross-border infrastructural development projects aimed at facilitating regional trade which are central to the attainment of the two countries’ socio-economic goals, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Acting Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Rofina Chikava, has said.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the meeting of senior officials at the Fourth Session of the Botswana-Zimbabwe Bi-National Commission (BNC) here yesterday, Ambassador Chikava emphasised the urgency of action.

She highlighted two specific projects – the Plumtree-Ramokgwebana One-Stop Border Post and the Ponta Techobanine Railway Line – as key pillars of development that hold immense potential to unlock economic growth, create jobs, and improve livelihoods.

The proposed Plumtree-Ramokgwebana One-Stop Border Post aims to streamline customs and immigration procedures at the two countries’ shared border, reducing transit times and associated costs for businesses.

On the other hand, the Ponta Techobanine Railway Line will connect eastern Botswana to Mozambique’s ports, providing an alternative trade route for both countries and boosting regional connectivity.

“I am hopeful that this session will leap forward progress on some pending projects,” she said.

“I know this has been said many times before, in our previous sessions, but, permit me, dear colleagues, to just reiterate the urgency of establishing a one-stop border post at the Plumtree/Ramokgwebana border post and the conclusion of the Ponta Techobanine Railway Line Project.

“You will agree with me that these projects have high-level public interest as they are designed to achieve some important development and social objectives.”

“Central to all of them is the noble idea of advancing border efficiency, ensuring free movement of people and trade facilitation.

“I am aware that all of these issues are work in progress, but I am glad that we have already taken some of the most significant steps forward to realise these objectives.”

Amb Chikava said Harare and Gaborone continue to broaden bilateral co-operation, a development that has witnessed several high-level exchanges between leaders of the two countries in the last two years.

“The long-standing bilateral relationship between Zimbabwe and Botswana has continued to grow from strength to strength,” she said.

“This bond of friendship has been further entrenched in frequent diplomatic contacts and regular exchange of visits at the highest level.

“In 2023 alone, the President, His Excellency Dr Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, visited Botswana twice.

“First, in July, when he was invited by his brother, His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, to participate in the 15th US/Africa Business Summit.

“He again attended the 5th Edition of the Kusi Ideas Festival, held in December.”

President Masisi, Amb Chikava said, also visited Zimbabwe twice in 2022, “one a working visit to Victoria Falls in February 2022 for the Third Session of the BNC”.

“He also undertook a very colourful State Visit to Zimbabwe in September 2022,” she said.

The consistency in convening the BNC sessions, added Amb Chikava, was a clear confirmation of the mutual commitment to broaden co-operation.

“Our meeting here today is, therefore, not only about apprising ourselves on the progress made in the implementation of the courses of action that were jointly made in the past successive sessions of our BNC,” she added.

“It is also about to further expand and develop this network as we holistically work towards the enhancement of public service delivery in our two countries.”

Zimbabwe and Botswana, said Amb Chikava, have since concluded more than 40 agreements aimed at enhancing co-operation, while more pacts are set to be sealed at the ongoing BNC.

“Since our last meeting as senior officials in December 2022, at the Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the Third Session of the BNC, the momentum of our bilateral exchanges has been impressive.

“In this regard, we wish to note that, quite a number of sectors have advanced technical partnerships, which, on their own, demonstrate the vibrancy, depth and breadth of our cooperation.”

The agreements span sectors as diverse as agriculture, wildlife management, health, defence and security, social welfare, and national housing.

“I am glad to note that to date, Zimbabwe and Botswana have concluded about 45 instruments of bilateral cooperation, most of which are being optimally implemented.

“The Mid-Term Review we held in December 2022 also helped us to conclude negotiations on a number of important instruments in the fields of trade and investment promotion; cooperative development and micro, small and medium enterprises development; air transportation; prisons and correctional services, as well as gainful employment of spouses of diplomatic and consular staff.

“It is my fervent hope that we will be able to witness the signing of some memoranda before the end of this session.”

In his remarks, acting permanent secretary in Botswana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Clifford Maribe said Botswana and Zimbabwe have always enjoyed cordial relations underpinned by strong historical, cultural and family ties.

“Our meeting demonstrates the commitment and resolve by our leaders to strengthen and widen the scope of our bilateral cooperation between our sisterly countries for the mutual benefit of our countries and people.

“The aim of our preparatory meeting is to also adopt recommendations for consideration by our ministers and finally our Presidents.”

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