The European Union and Botswana enjoy longstanding relations of friendship and cooperation. The first EU office was opened in Gaborone in 1981 and the role of the Delegation was expanded in 1991 when the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat was established in Gaborone. Over these years, the relations with our partners have grown and now cover political relations, security, development cooperation, economic and trade relations and other areas of mutual interest between the EU and Botswana as well as SADC.
A focus on the death penalty, gender-based violence, rights of the child and LGTBIQ+
The EU-Botswana political relations have been stable and have been characterised by frequent alignment at the international level. Botswana is a constructive ally for the EU in SADC, Africa and at the multilateral level. Our political dialogue takes place regularly and is built on our mutual interest in strengthening our partnership, whose aim is to assist the country to reach its high income status goal. The main issues on the agenda of the last dialogues were political developments in Botswana and the Southern Africa region, the EU’s partnership for economic diversification in Botswana, and human rights.
The EU and its member states are in favour of a broad public debate in Botswana on the abolition of the death penalty. We have suggested that a moratorium be established as a first step towards the abolition of the death penalty.
Gender-based violence remains very high, at a prevalence rate of 67% (what is the denominator?), despite an improved legal framework. The trend has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic due to lockdowns, school closures, and an increase in unemployment. The EU Delegation to Botswana is actively steering gender dialogue in Botswana and has been supporting the fight against gender-based violence through support to civil society organisations (CSOs) and awareness-raising, including through high-level advocacy and visibility events by the EU Ambassador with the First Lady of Botswana.
On LGBTIQ+ rights, the decision on the Government's appeal of the High Court's 2019 judgement to decriminalise same-sex consensual relations is still pending but expected to confirm the High Court’s stance. The Government's appeal was aimed at obtaining a final decision which could not be challenged in the future. The EU Delegation is engaging with CSOs working on LGBTIQ+ issues, in particular through public diplomacy events.
Economic and Trade Relations
A Prosperous Partnership
Botswana and the EU have long-standing economic and trade relations. The European Union is Botswana’s second biggest trading partner after South Africa, with a total volume of €1.71 billion (2021), dominated by Botswana’s exports to the EU, which reached €1.078 billion in 2021. This was mostly made up of diamonds that mainly went to Belgium. Diversifying Botswana’s exports beyond diamonds remains a key challenge for the EU-Botswana trade relation.
While its domestic market is small, Botswana has access to regional markets within the Southern African Customs Union and SADC, as well as international markets in the EU through the EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement signed in 2016, the UK through its Economic Partnership Agreement with SACUM, and in the US through the African Growth Opportunity Act. In addition, Botswana has joined the Tripartite Free Trade Area between the East African Community, COMESA and SADC (not yet in force), and has signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, whose ratification is still pending.
The EU’s share of total foreign direct investment (FDI) in Botswana decreased significantly after Brexit, given that the UK was by far the largest source of FDI in Botswana from the EU. EU27 FDI stock in Botswana amounted to €131 million in 2020.
The EU has supported Botswana’s education sector since its independence. The current 2019-2023 Support Programme for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Reforms supports development of the TVET system in Botswana. The programme seeks to address the mismatch between the qualifications produced by the education system and the requirements of the labour market, which inhibits private sector development and job creation in Botswana. The programme is increasing the labour market relevant skills of TVET graduates, strengthening the governance of the TVET system, improving the quality and relevance of its programmes, supporting the introduction of TVET in high schools through the implementation of Multiple Education Pathways, and enhancing the transition to the labour market through gender-sensitive work-based learning opportunities. The EU’s contribution to this effort is a budget support operation accompanied by a capacity-building component.
Biodiversity, Climate Change and Sustainable Energy
Partners in biodiversity and climate protection
The EU supports Botswana in its efforts to preserve its rich wildlife and biodiversity, which are its most important tourist assets as well as global public goods. Supporting conservation efforts goes hand-in-hand with empowering local communities to derive sufficient benefits from the tourism sector.
Since wildlife recognises no borders, the EU also supports a regional approach to conservation through the promotion of cross-border conservation zones and initiatives such as the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area or the Okavango River Basin Commission’s transboundary water and land management efforts.
Botswana’s ecosystems are fragile and vulnerable to the impact of climate change; land degradation and desertification are serious threats. In line with its political commitments in the framework of the international climate agenda, the EU supports Botswana’s efforts to build resilience to the impact of climate change.
Botswana has among the highest solar irradiation levels in the world and a vast solar power potential. At the moment, coal and diesel are virtually the only sources of electricity production in Botswana, which also imports power from South Africa. The EU is poised to back Botswana’s ambitious plans to develop its renewable energy potential in line with its commitments to the Paris Agreement, and to become a net exporter of electricity. The EU has a clear added value in promoting the development of renewable energies based on our know-how, advanced technologies and financing capabilities.
Relations with Civil Society
Freedom of association is enshrined in Botswana’s constitution and the right to operate is recognised once an organisation is legally registered with a relevant statute. The majority of organisations are registered as societies or trusts. The last survey for the Civil Society Organisations Map estimated there were around 6,000 CSOs in the country. Less than 15% of NGOs have national coverage, and the majority of them work in one to three districts. Community-based organisations are by their nature local and their main focus is community-based HIV/AIDS support and natural resource management.
Since the EU Delegation’s establishment in Gaborone in 1981, we have channelled over €20 million to support CSOs in Botswana to help them make a meaningful contribution to national development.
Covid-19 and Humanitarian Assistance
Following the onset of the covid-19 crisis, the EU decided to redirect and expand its portfolio to support the government’s response through the following steps:
- The EU frontloaded the disbursement of €2 million from the TVET budget support programme (see section above on Education and Skills Development) to provide quick economic relief;
- The EU donated €240,000 in protective equipment and medical supplies to the Ministry of Health;
- The EU provided approximately €450,000 in grants to support victims of domestic violence and defend the rights of marginalised groups most affected by the pandemic. Moreover, the EU allocated €2 million from other programmes to support the beef and tourism sectors as part of the economic recovery in the immediate wake of the crisis.
Finally, the EU mobilised €1.95 million from ECHO, our humanitarian agency, to WHO and the Red Cross to address needs in the healthcare sector (capacity building of healthcare personnel, support to testing and contact tracing and vaccine roll-out) and to provide humanitarian assistance to food-insecure communities.