Thank you for coming to this very special Bot50 celebration event. It is my honor today to congratulate Botswana on fifty years of independence. From the very beginning, Botswana and the United States have been friends and partners, and we are grateful for the past half century of cooperation and good will between our countries.
We continue to work closely with Botswana on many fronts and I’d like to share with you just a few highlights of our bilateral relationship over the past fifty years.
- The U.S. Government, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), has supported the Government of Botswana with over BWP 7.9 billion since 2004 in its response to HIV/AIDS and TB, including care and support for orphans and vulnerable children, and by addressing gender inequalities that contribute to the spread of the disease.
- Through our engagement with Peace Corps, over 2,500 American volunteers have served in Botswana since independence. These volunteers contributed actively to the drafting of the first national budget; the construction of 3,100 miles of rural roads; to the education of 37,000 students in subjects such as math, sciences, and life skills; and have reached more than 94,000 individuals with HIV interventions.
- Through our Arts Envoy Program the U.S. Embassy has brought several American performing and visual artists to Botswana on cultural exchanges that have benefitted young Batswana artists and the arts community. Most recently in honor of Bot50 New York based dance group Battery Dance worked intensively with 100 youth and professionals in collaboration with local partner, Mophato Dance Theater to create a beautiful performance that took place last Saturday at Maitisong theater before a full house.
- With Embassy support the Botswana African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) alumni spearheaded the formation of a local chapter aimed at growing production capacities of women to export goods and services, especially in the fields of arts and crafts, agro-business, apparel and textile, hospitality and tourism, and cleaning services. AWEP members have since led workshops in Gaborone, Maun, Kasane, Francistown and Selebi aimed at increasing exports by Botswana’s women-owned businesses through the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
- We continue to recruit and sponsor Fellows for President Obama’s signature program, the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI). Through this program with now over 40 alumni, we support young Batswana leaders as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democracy, and enhance peace and security in Botswana and across Africa. We look forward to watching them mobilize other Batswana with the leadership skills they honed during the Fellowship to solve the issues that impassion them.
- And finally, through our educational exchange programs such as English Language, Fulbright, and EducationUSA, we continue to support and encourage the development of Batswana youth and the continued exchange of ideas and resources between our two countries.
We could spend the greater portion of this evening talking about the numerous successful partnerships and collaborations that shape the strong relationship between our two countries. Tonight we celebrate the 50 years behind us and the future successes and milestones that await us.Thank you again for coming and I hope you enjoy this very special evening of celebration.
Kealeboga ba haetsho!!! Pula