On Tuesday, 7 February, President Alain Berset met with President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi in the capital Gaborone, as part of a two-day trip to Botswana. It is the first time a Swiss president has visited the country. The aim of the trip is to strengthen relations between the two countries in line with Switzerland’s Sub-Saharan Africa strategy, which places greater emphasis recognising the region’s economic potential.
The bilateral talks focused on expanding relations between Switzerland and Botswana. President Berset and Foreign Minister Lemogang Kwape signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the health sector. The programme also included a visit to the renowned Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) research centre, where the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was discovered.
Economic exchanges were also discussed, in particular opportunities for Swiss companies in Botswana, which is in the process of diversifying its economy. Talks are also under way to modernise the free trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). Mr Berset stressed the importance of including clauses on sustainability.
Africa’s international role
He reaffirmed his intention to make several trips to Africa this year and to emphasise the continent’s role in world politics – also with a view to Switzerland’s activities as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 2023/24. As such, he discussed a range of international issues and challenges with President Masisi, including cooperation within the UN framework, democracy and human rights, and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
Mr Berset also emphasised Switzerland’s intention to expand cooperation with the African Union (AU) and regional organisations such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC). His visit to Gaborone continued with a meeting with SADC Executive Secretary Elias Magosi during which the organisation’s goals and Switzerland’s engagement in Southern Africa were discussed. The programme also included a visit to the National Assembly, as well as meetings with Swiss companies operating in Botswana and with cultural representatives.
Onward journey to Mozambique
From Gaborone, President Berset and his delegation will travel to Maputo. Political talks with President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi will take place in the Mozambican capital on Wednesday, focusing on bilateral issues and cooperation in the UN Security Council. Switzerland and Mozambique have maintained close contacts for many years.
On Thursday, 9 February, the Swiss delegation accompanied by President Nyusi will visit the province of Cabo Delgado, which has been marked by unrest since 2017. Switzerland’s engagement in the region aims to ensure access to basic services such as water and healthcare.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Switzerland.