New President looks to wean Botswana off dependence on diamonds

Eric Mokgweetsi Keabetswe Masisi is the fifth President of Botswana. Net.

GABORONE - Botswana’s new President, sworn in on Sunday as the landlocked country’s fifth post-colonial leader, said he would give priority to tackling youth unemployment and diversifying its economy. Retired teacher Mokgweetsi Masisi takes over from former army general Ian Khama.

But he faces a huge task in attempting to reduce the country’s dependence on the diamond trade while creating more jobs after collapsing commodity prices tipped it into recession in 2015.

“We still seek to build a Botswana in which sustained development is underpinned by economic diversification,” Masisi told a cheering crowd in parliament. “One of my top priorities ... will be to address the problem of unemployment especially amongst the young.”

Botswana, with a population of some 2 million, has a jobless rate of around 20 per cent, with youth unemployment thought to be much higher.

Khama, 65, and a son of the country first president Seretse, bowed out after two five-year terms in a scripted succession that compelled him to hand over power to his deputy.

Masisi becomes only Botswana’s third leader outside the Khama dynasty since its independence from Britain in 1966.

As part of efforts to branch out of diamonds, he also said his government would scale up access to technical education and set up initiatives in tourism, mining, beef and financial services.

However, the country’s opposition predicted little change, saying Masisi as deputy president was instrumental in an economic strategy that had failed to adapt the economy to the needs of a new generation of finance and science graduates.



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