By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Namibia owes an immense debt of gratitude to Botswana as the neighbouring country has played and continues to play a critical role in the advancement and development of Namibia, said a senior minister. Marco Hausiku, the Minister of Foreign Affairs who was recently in Botswana for the third session of the Botswana/Namibia Joint Commission, said that Botswana continues to play a leading role in the advancement of regional integration at both social and economic levels. At the third session, the two countries broadened the scope of cooperation to encompass issues such as aquaculture, gender, fisheries, cross-border geological activities and legal issues, among others. “The meeting was another significant step in advancing the already excellent bilateral relations and long standing bonds of friendship, solidarity, good neighbourliness and mutual cooperation between the two countries,” he said. Efforts undertaken at the third session would further enable the two nations to realise the potential and mutual benefits in increased bilateral trade. Further, the foreign minister said there is a need for the two countries to create synergies in industrial capacity that hold potential in the areas of hospitality and tourism, mining and telecommunications. As the HIV/AIDS pandemic continues haunting the world and the Southern African region, the minister added, Namibia and Botswana will continue working together in tackling challenges being posed by the disease. Among the many agreements signed between the two nations, Hausiku singled out the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to taxes on income and capital gains. The agreement came into effect last month and supports the increased levels of economic activity in the two countries as identified between them. Namibia will this year seek the speedy ratification of the Trans-Kalahari Highway agreement that was signed in 2003 given that the port of Walvis Bay offers opportunities towards the realisation of this agreement, he stated. Considering that electricity is a pressing regional issue, the minister also revealed that the two countries agreed to cooperate on supplying the outlying border areas of Botswana with a power line. Apart from all these areas of cooperation, the agreement on culture and education signed at independence have allowed the two nations to actively promote academic and scientific exchanges, including the sharing of experiences in the fields of education and culture. “We owe you an immense debt of gratitude,” Hausiku said. The progress made during this third session will set the stage for the forthcoming state visit to Namibia by President Festus Mogae, the minister concluded.
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