Interview with Mr. Festus Mogae, Former President of Botswana
Question: Mr. President, this morning you made a very rich presentation and conducted a very fruitful discussion with AfDB staff, Senior Management and Ambassadors in Tunisia on extractive industries, as well as the success story of Botswana. How do you think these sessions of Eminent Speakers Program could contribute to better position the Bank as a knowledge institution?
Answer: The AfDB is the Premier development financing institution in Africa which is owned by the majority of Africans themselves, to the extent that it can be a facilitator of exchange of views and experience of challenges facing Africa, by both Africans and non Africans. It is of a very useful purpose. I am therefore personally proud and I feel honored to have had a chance to interact on these challenges with staff, Senior Management, Ambassadors and Executive Directors of the Bank within the context of the Bank Group’s Eminent Speakers Program.
Question: This morning, you shared your thoughts on leadership with your audience. To what extent do you think that leadership is a crucial issue in Africa and on the continent’s development?
Answer: Leadership is very important because leaders can make or break a country. They lead the people to the extent that they are committed to good governance. In spite of this, he can persuade the nation to face up to the challenges that any country needs. We, Africans are facing a number of constraints to development resources, capacity to negotiate with both the international community and sometimes with multinationals. But if we are determined, we can learn from each other’s experience and we can also make use of advice available to us through the AfDB and other African institutions. That is why leadership is very important, because the role of the leader is to mobilize the people in pursuit of appropriate development programs and policies.
Question: In your presentation this morning, you raised two important issues: You underscored that the secret of Botswana’s success is discipline and governance; and you also indicated that you used mineral resources wealth to invest in development projects. Today, as you said, Africa is a mineral rich continent, but we are unfortunately not making progress. Why?
Answer: I think it is because the deals we entered into with some companies exploiting our resources were not fair. That is why it is necessary to renegotiate some of them. But also, I think that actually, the majority of cases we have now is to make a better use of natural resources as in the past. But yet, there are very notable cases where perhaps, conflict is interfering with management of extractive industries, and where in some of our countries individual leaders use their access to financial resources from extractive industries to advance their own personal agendas, instead of using them in the best interest of the nation as a whole. But I am confident that the majority of people are now aware that the entire world and specifically our nations are looking at us, to optimize utilization of natural resources; and that we should use our best endeavors to negotiate fair deals with multinationals. Many extractive industries have become wasted assets. We should convert these wasted assets into something more sustainable and therefore, we should use revenues from extractive industries into more sustainable development projects and programs.
Question: You were Botswana’s President for ten years. You were a civil servant and member of your predecessor’s cabinet. How best do you think the AfDB can assist your country in promoting shared growth?
Answer: Well, the AfDB has already done its duties and it continues to do it. It will continue to contribute to the development of the country. Thank you.