Botswana's President Masisi on a state visit to Switzerland

Bern, 01.05.2023 - As part of his state visit to Switzerland, Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi and his wife Neo Jane Masisi were received by the entire Federal Council on Monday, 1 May. This was followed by a meeting between President Masisi and a delegation from the Federal Council, led by President Alain Berset, on the development of bilateral relations and their respective positions on current global issues.

The Swiss government delegation at the official talks also included Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), and Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA). Both sides commended the marked progress in Swiss–Botswanan bilateral relations in recent years. A further step was taken on Monday with the signing of a memorandum of understanding on future cooperation.

Cooperation in the health sector has long been a central element of bilateral relations. The shared goal here is to strengthen global health protection and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Future activities will also include more cultural and economic exchange.

The Swiss delegation praised the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which Botswana ratified in February, as a milestone for economic integration in Africa, with significant potential for local companies as well. The Federal Council also noted the importance of sustainability clauses in order to successfully conclude the talks on modernising the free trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).

A significant share of Monday's talks was devoted to regional issues. Botswana's capital Gaborone hosts the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and relations with regional organisations such as the SADC constitute a focal point of Switzerland's Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy for 2021–24. The Federal Council delegation acknowledged the SADC's role in building regional capacity to strengthen multilateralism within Africa. Numerous international issues and challenges were also addressed, including the two countries' cooperation within the UN framework, issues of democracy and human rights, and the impact of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine on Africa.

Democratic traditions high on the agenda

In extending an invitation for a state visit, the Federal Council wished to express not only its resolve to seize the opportunities for political and economic cooperation with Botswana and develop relations with the African continent as a whole, but also its appreciation of the country's democratic traditions. One such example is the people's assemblies known as kgotlas in Botswana, comparable to the Landsgemeinde in Switzerland.

The similarities had already been noted during President Berset's visit to Botswana in February, which included a visit to a kgotla. As part of the return visit, President Masisi and President Berset attended the Landsgemeinde in Appenzell Innerrhoden on Sunday, 30 April. They also visited the Appenzell Kunsthalle, an art gallery housed in a former brick factory which is also an important industrial monument. The state visit concludes on Monday evening with the traditional gala dinner at the Bernerhof.

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