H E Manyepedza P Lesetedi

A career diplomat with more than 32 years of experience H E Manyepedza P Lesetedi, the Ambassador of Botswana to Kuwait, comes across as a man of immense knowledge and wisdom in the world of diplomacy.

Having joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Botswana in 1981 soon after graduation, Ambassador Lesetedi has served in many capacities and countries during his tenure as a diplomat. His very first posting was in New York to the Botswana Mission to the United Nations and after his four year’s stint he moved on to Belgium, followed by Zimbabwe. Ambassador Lesetedi participated in the Cease Fire Commission of the United Nations peace keeping mission in Mozambique from 1993 to 1994.

He was then posted to Botswana Mission to the United Nations in New York, then to China, followed by Ethiopia and then served as director of Multilateral Affairs back in Botswana and also Director for Africa, Asia and the Pacific before getting his first posting as Ambassador to Ethiopia in 2008. He became the first resident Ambassador to Kuwait in August 2011.

“Our relations with Kuwait are very very good,” he emphasizes, pointing that relations with Kuwait began soon after Botswana got their independence in 1966. “We share a similar history like Kuwait as we too were a British protectorate and not a colony as such,” he points out.

Ambassador Lesetedi stresses on the important contribution that the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) has made to his country since independence. “They have been very generous and funded so many infrastructure development projects including airport, roads and power generation projects.”

KFAED’s role has been appreciated and welcomed by Ambassador Lesetedi, they have been true friends in time of need and many projects have been successfully completed, he points out. The total investments are in excess of tens of millions of dollars.

“We are in the process of concluding many sector specific agreements, from air services to avoidance of double taxation,” he stated, and indicated that he was also keen to have an agreement in the area of education so that student exchanges could take place.

It is evident that Ambassador Lesetedi is exerting a great amount of effort and goodwill to take the relationship forward. Leaving no stone unturned he says “We are also exploring an investment protection agreement and a visa abolition agreement for diplomatic and official passport holders.”

However Ambassador Lesetedi feels there is plenty of room for advancing this relationship and is keen to see some high level exchanges during his tenure here. “I would really like to see our leadership visit Kuwait and vice-versa,” he pointed out.

Ambassador Lesetedi feels that there needs to be more people to people contact as this is something he says is lacking. “Many Kuwaitis are not fully aware of Botswana, its location and also the great tourism and investment potential that she offers. As an Embassy we need to market ourselves and bring awareness locally.” he says.

Botswana gets over two million tourists annually, particularly from USA and Europe and Africa while from the Gulf region it is only marginal, hence Ambassador feels the stakeholders such as tourist operators and hotels should get involved and assist the Embassy in promoting Botswana.

Botswana has some amazing safaris and incredible beauty and the Government is very committed to the conservation of wildlife and the pristine natural habitat. He indicated that hunting will not be permitted from 2014 in conformity with the Government’s commitment to conservation.

Commenting on the investment potential, he says there is a huge potential that is lacking exposure in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and he is working very closely with the Botswana Investment Trade Centre and other stakeholders to promote investment particularly from the private sector.

Elaborating on some of the areas where the potential is great he points at glass manufacturing, “We have known reserves of 230 million tones of silica, and also we export around 280,000 tones of soda ash per annum,”

Botswana is looking to diversify its economy and is heavily dependent on mining and beef exports. It has been one of the largest diamond producers in the world. “Botswana can provide great access to African markets as it is a member of South African Development Community (SADC) and also has a cooperation agreement with European Union and under this agreement exports to EU are duty free,” Ambassador Lesetedi points out.

“Kuwait is a very nice place with a lot of diplomatic activity,” he says. Concurrently accredited to Qatar, Ambassador Lesetedi is constantly on the move to promote Botswana and build bridges of friendship with the entire region.

Botswana is a land-locked country situated in southern Africa. It borders South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Approximately two-thirds of the country lies within the tropics. Botswana is a nation of stunning beauty and vastness that has untapped potential of natural resources and is known to have the best wilderness and wildlife areas on the African continent. More than 38% of the total land mass is devoted to national parks, reserves and wildlife management areas.

As a nation it is one of Africa’s most stable countries and has the continent’s longest continuous multi-party democracy and is also relatively free of corruption and has a good human rights record.

By Reaven D’Souza, Managing Editor

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