The severity of HIV/AIDS is not unknown to Batswana. With a prevalence rate of about 18.5% and an estimated rate of 1.35% it is hard to find a family completely untouched by HIV. Though HIV is still a serious threat to the lives of Batswana there have been notable accomplishments in the struggle against the pandemic, particularly the use of anti-retroviral drugs (ARV’s) as a treatment for those infected with the virus.
Through the use of ARV’s, individuals can expect to live up to twenty years longer than is possible without them. However as good as ARV’s are, they are in no way a final solution in HIV treatment.
A team of scientists at the University of Botswana (UB) have been working on developing compounds superior to the current ARV’s on the market in the treatment of HIV. This research is championed by four academics; Dr. Mapolelo, Dr. Natiyane, Dr. Nkwe and Dr. Nareetsile.
The need for better ARV’s is a pressing concern because of drug toxicity. James Matshwele, a research assistant in the team and prospective Master’s student in chemistry says that “until treatment which does not induce side effects and cause any long term damage from continuous dosage is developed, research must continue.”
The investigation for better therapies at the University began when PhD student, Scotch Ndlovu put together literature research which showed that there are a class of compounds called metal complexes capable of inhibiting HIV replication.
The inhibition of HIV replication is an important effect in that it slows or possibly even halts the multiplication of HIV within a host. With the spread of the HIV infection effectively contained within the host, the onset of AIDS is delayed and the infected individual is less likely to infect others.
The ability of some of the metal complexes to inhibit HIV replication was shown to be better than azidothymidine (AZT). AZT is the main compound used in current antiretroviral medication. It slows HIV replication in patients but does not stop it entirely and HIV may become AZT resistant over time.
The work done by Mr. Ndlovu prompted further research by the University chemistry department.
James Matshwele, who was a final year student in 2015 did his project conducting experiments demonstrating the effectiveness of metal complexes in inhibiting HIV replication.
Mr. Matshwele went on to present his work at an international science conference in South Africa. Since then the research team has formed collaborations with Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), FORT HARE University in South Africa and University of Johannesburg also in South Africa. Dr. Nareetsile anticipates a three-year timeline till the conclusion of the research.
However, she does admit to a few challenges in the way of advancing the research. She cites funding as a minor challenge, secure in the knowledge that funds will be made available by both the University of Botswana and BIUST. Her main concern is that there are too few scientists available for research.
Doctors and Professors typically rely on their post graduate students to spend time in the laboratory conducting experiments and collecting data for research. Due to notably few students pursuing post graduate degrees in science there are even fewer students available to participate in research projects the university will be engaged in.
Dr. Nareetsile points out that a possible reason for the shortage in students is that most top performing science students prefer to pursue further studies abroad and the rest often don’t satisfy the strict entry criteria required by the university.
In addition, there is an economic challenge for citizens since there is no sponsorship available for citizens wishing to pursue a post graduate degree. All things considered the research on metal complexes presents many exciting possibilities.
Should favourable results come out of the research better ARV’s will be developed which will extend the life expectancy of HIV patients. Young people who get infected will still be able to live long lives, comparable even to those uninfected.
Also because the drugs would have been developed primarily from research done in Botswana the cost of acquiring the drugs for the populace will be lower because the intellectual property will not be owned by foreign entities.
Meanwhile Batswana students involved benefit from the capacity building they will be exposed to and the prestige from working on research of such a caliber.
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.