Sunday, June 21, 2009

Remarks by Dr. Jeff Ramsay, Coordinator of BGCIS at the Official Launch of the Oriental Post newspaper, Gaborone

source: Republic of Botswana (18/6/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 16 of 2009
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"

B6) 21/6/09: Remarks by Dr. Jeff Ramsay, Coordinator of the Botswana Government Communication and Information System (BGCIS) at the Official Launch of the Oriental Post newspaper, Gaborone:

Directors of Ceremonies; Hon. Phandu Skelemani, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Mrs. Skelemani; Y.E. Mr. Liu Huanxing, Ambassador of the Peoples Republic of China, and Mrs. Huanxing; Other Members of the Diplomatic Corps here present; Lady Olebile Masire; Mr. Miles Nan, Publisher of the Oriental Post Mr. Weng Zugen, Vice Director of the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese; Mr. Zhang Gaungcan, President of the Chinese Enterprises Association Senior Officials here present; Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;

1. It is my privilege to speak here tonight on behalf of the Hon. Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Mrs. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, who made it clear to me that she would have sincerely wished to have been able to have personally graced this occasion.

2. As the Minister with portfolio responsibility for information and communication, she, like I, is aware and appreciative of the fact that tonight's event marks a major milestone in the development of the local media industry.

3. For the first time in modern times there is to be a locally published newspaper printed in a major international language other than English.

4. That this milestone should be achieved by the Oriental Post is perhaps not surprising when one considers the growing role of China and the Chinese community in the development of both our country and our continent.

5. With its exports growing at a rate of some 18% per annum over the past two decades, China has emerged as a leading global trader, while its international stock of Foreign Direct Investment now stands at well over US$ 600 billion.

6. While Africa's share of Chinese trade and investment is still relatively small, it too has been growing fast. During the 1990s it enjoyed a 700% increase, reaching just over US$ 10 billion in 2000. Five years later this figure had quadrupled, while bilateral trade between Botswana and China stood at just under P 400 million by 2006.

7. All official Botswana-China trade figures, however, grossly underestimate the true volume and value of exchange between our two countries as they fail to take into account indirect trading in key commodities, most notably including diamonds. China is currently the globe's fastest growing diamond market, with analysts predicting that it may in the foreseeable future overtake the United States and Japan to become the world's leading gem consumer.

8. I mention these facts given that the Oriental Post has as its part of its mission the promotion of win-win economic opportunities through trade and investment, including investment in joint ventures, between Chinese and regional, as well as local, stakeholders.

9. As we have already heard, the Oriental Post's intends to make Botswana society better known to Chinese society - to be an instrument that breaks down cultural barriers that are a hindrance to mutual understanding for the benefit of all.

10. This is a mission which many will undoubtedly embrace.

11. It is with some pride that I would here observe that, over the years various public perception and international benchmark surveys have consistently ranked this country, Botswana, as among the world's, as well as Africa's, most open societies.

12. For example, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace "Globalisation Index" has ranked Botswana number one (1) in Africa and number thirty (30) in the world. Among the countries classified as "developing", Botswana was ranked number three (3) [after Malaysia (20) and Panama (27)].

13. More recently, in October of 2008, the AfroBarometer Survey also polled Batswana on their attitudes to various international actors. According to the Survey, 62% of those polled said international businesses and investors helped our country, while only 4% said that they did not.

14. Also included in the same Survey's findings were public perceptions as to the extent to which various additional international actors contribute to Botswana's wellbeing.

15. In this respect, 74% of Batswana surveyed said they believed that China helps Botswana, with 42% saying China helps Botswana a lot, and only 4% saying it was of no help at all. No other country included in the Survey, and there were quite a few that I will refrain from mentioning, polled higher!

16. This occasion further represents a milestone in the promotion of "South-South" communications, at a time when global communications remains dominated by a relative handful of media organisations whose perspectives, as well as physical addresses, are based in the "North".

17. Let us here be mindful of the fact that Africans and Chinese together account for not less than one third of all humanity. Notwithstanding the current economic downturn that affects us all, in recent years Southern Africa including of course Botswana, like China, has also been a significant centre of economic growth.

18. While the launching of the Oriental Post may appear surprising to some, in the context of such ongoing trends its emergence is overdue.

19. Finally, this occasion is a clear reflection of the fact that we are all now truly living in a Global Information Age in which the emergence of worldwide communication allows individuals and institutions to instantly access and transfer information across geographic and linguistic boundaries. In this context the Oriental Post should live long and prosper. I thank you all.

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