Departure Op-Ed Personal Reflections

Botswana marked a special chapter in my African journey and is the highlight of my professional career.  I love Africa!  I have spent 18 years of my life living and working on the continent.  I raised my children in Africa, and they intend to return when they find an opportunity.  My wife Angie and I often talk about retiring on the continent.  There is nothing I want more than to share my experiences with other Americans – to tell them about the wonderful friendships, adventures, people, and places that have left their indelible marks on me and my family.

Thank you, Botswana, for introducing me to Botho – a concept of mutual respect and personal responsibility for your neighbors.  Thank you for sharing the beautiful Kalahari, Botswana’s blue skies, your incredible pans, and your love for cattle and farming.  But my deepest gratitude goes to the wonderful people of Botswana who have welcomed me and my family and made Botswana truly special.

The U.S.-Botswana relationship is built on a strong foundation of shared democratic values.  Botswana has earned its democratic credentials and plays an important role on the global stage. In fact, in December 2021, His Excellency President Masisi was among a select group of leaders who addressed the world at President Biden’s landmark Summit for Democracy.  As I leave here, I am exceptionally proud of all my team has accomplished to strengthen that partnership during my tenure, and I want to share a few highlights.

Health, Security, Prosperity

Health is undoubtedly the cornerstone of our partnership.  During my time as U.S. Ambassador, Botswana made tremendous strides in this area.  Together, the Botswana government and the U.S. government, through the PEPFAR program, created the “One Botswana” strategy.  This initiative set Botswana on course to surpass the UNAIDS 2030 goals nearly a decade ahead of schedule and positioned Botswana to approach HIV epidemic control.  In 2021, Botswana became the first high HIV burden country to attain Silver Tier status and is poised to eliminate mother to child HIV transmission entirely!  Separately, the emergence of COVID-19 was terrifying for all of us.  We were privileged to invest $19 million in COVID-19 related assistance and 180,000 Pfizer vaccines to support Botswana.  Two years later, Botswana has one of the highest vaccination rates in Africa and now, in a joint venture with U.S. company NantWorks, it will produce COVID-19 vaccines for itself and for its neighbors.

Because of its abundant sunshine, Botswana has the potential to become a leading producer of clean, renewable solar electricity.  In 2020, at Botho University, I launched a pilot of the Power Africa Rooftop Solar project.  It enables Batswana to produce their own solar electricity and sell any excess back to the Botswana Power Corporation.  In April 2021, the governments of the United States, Botswana, and Namibia launched the Mega Solar initiative with a goal to produce 2-5 gigawatts of solar power, enough for Botswana to fulfill its domestic needs and to export clean, low-cost electricity to the region.

Over the last year, Botswana has cemented itself as a regional security leader by refusing to sit on the sidelines as ISIS-M insurgents terrorized the people of Mozambique.  Under President Masisi’s leadership, the BDF, in its first foreign peace support mission in nearly two decades, deployed to Cabo Delgado as part of the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM).  We stand ready to support Botswana in its goals to ensure regional security and to build on the strong relationship between the U.S. military, the North Carolina National Guard, and the BDF.

His Excellency President Masisi’s focus on creating a knowledge-based economy is very exciting and will create opportunities for young and old Batswana alike by diversifying the economy beyond diamonds and international tourism.  While the United States is the leading destination for Botswana’s diamonds and the origin of most of the tourists who come to enjoy Botswana’s magical wildlife, my country is also a leader in technology.  We are eager to partner with Botswana on digital transformation.  We will do this by sharing our technology, partnering with institutions of higher learning, and seeking opportunities for high tech investments in Botswana.

Our cooperation on mitigating climate change, countering wildlife crimes, improving agricultural yields, supporting women’s political aspirations, and championing human rights are a testament to the strong ties between our great nations.  I know that our relationship will continue to grow.

As Angie and I depart this wonderful country, we want to give our heartfelt thanks to all the people who have befriended us, worked so hard to achieve our many successes, and been true partners along our journey. Ke a leboga ka Pula!