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Botswana should jealously protect her tourism interests

Publishing Date : 11 September, 2018

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The recent backlash that government of Botswana has received in the wake of the reported 87 elephants killed by poachers needs sober engagement. There is clear evidence that in our bid to politicise the matter, we may end up sabotaging our own economic interest as a country.

Tourism remains the country’s second revenue earner, making it the most important sector after mining. It is also noteworthy that the west, United States and Germany in particular, form large part of tourists who visit Botswana on annual basis. A negative perception about Botswana’s tourism, especially with regard to conservation efforts is the last thing we need as a country. This is so because if such perception continues, we face the risk of being boycotted by those who may resent the way we do things.

Boycotting of our tourism therefore means decline in government revenue, which may precipitate jobs losses in the sector, leading to more economic misery for the country.  We should therefore jealously guard this sector against any negative perception. This should be done in various ways, including timely response to concerns especially in the international media as well as having a clear policy implication.

We should try to establish what were the consequences occasioned as a result of the decision by government to disarm wildlife anti-poaching unit in the Okavango delta. If indeed it has led to resurgence of poaching in the area we might as well review the decision. If it was a legal precaution, how can we address that gap? We believe that the decision to disarm the wildlife department was not deliberately intended to allow poachers to have a field day in Okavango, there is no way government would sabotage itself!

It is necessary also for government to pronounce how it intends to deal with poaching in the absence of armed wildlife officers. The role of the army must be clearly defined in this exercise. There is no denying that poaching exists in Botswana, and that poachers are highly organised and advanced in their tactics. Our security forces should therefore be up to the task in defending our wildlife and tourism interest.

While some opine that the role of anti-poaching lies only with the wildlife, we consider such view to be very narrow. We should know that most of these poachers enter our country through un-gazetted areas and also operates as organised squads. We are basically dealing with mafias, whom would do whatever it takes to have their way. These include colluding with our wildlife officers as well as with others who are instrumental in keeping them away.

We should ensure that we are more organised and rightly equipped. This is why we also need our military men there— to protect our borders.  This is what countries do the world over. They do whatever it takes to protect. There are also reports that there are some in our country, who continue to feed international media with not only inaccurate information, but also with information that is detrimental to the economic aspirations of this country.

This is a high level of un-patriotism given that such behaviour may have negative economic consequences on our country. Before we rush to international media, there is a need to have a dialogue with relevant stakeholders to try having an understanding and reaching a common ground. This is what our democracy is all about. Emerging from the conversation which dominated international media headlines, there is also another view— the human-wildlife conflict.

We love our elephants, but verity that they continue to to account death of scores of people and also responsible for destruction of farming fields year-in year-out, there is need to strike a balance. We have failed to find this balance over the past few years. While the animals have seen greater protection, humans have been given a raw deal. Government has been indifferent to their pleas, yet the international community have kept quiet amid this killings and destructions of people source of lively woods.

Another element to the date is that, people who reside in wildlife area strongly believe that tourism has not necessarily impacted their livelihoods economically; that they have been sidelined in the tourism value chain which is dominated by foreigners.  So there people, owing to the fact that they also suffer devastating effects of wildlife-human conflicts, do not sympathise with government’s stance on wildlife. This is something that government should look at it, so there is a deal for both parties. We need a government which cares about the socio-economic progress of its people as well as the wellbeing of the country’s economy.



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