Gaborone - The Transfrontier Conservative Area (TFCA) project which involves Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe is back on track.
Botswana’s Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservative and Tourism, Philda Keoreng, told parliament this week that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the three countries was signed in 2006.
It was developed with inputs from all countries. According to Kereng, the initial name in the MoU was Limpopo Shashe Trans Frontier Conservation Area (LSTCA), but in 2009 the three countries agreed to rename it to the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (GMTFCA).
“The reason cited for naming this area Mapungubwe was that all three countries had sites called Mapungubwe following the Iron Age civilisation,” said Kereng.
Kereng, however, said on the verge of finalising the draft treaty, Botswana proposed a name change to revert back to the original name of LSTFCA.
“This scenario stalled the progress in terms of the signing of the treaty until 2019, after negotiations I suppose, when Botswana withdrew her wish for name change,” she said.
This, Kereng said, explains the delays in finalising the treaty.
Asked by legislator Taolo Lucas if the delay for the project could be attributed to disagreement over the name, Kereng said it was not fighting over a name per se.
“During the process Botswana decided to revert back to the original name of Limpopo-Shashe based on the reasons presented that time. The important thing is, countries have reverted back to the name (Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area) which unites those three countries,” she said.
“In terms of progress, the trilateral technical committee of the three nations met on 27 February, 2020, in Johannesburg to map a way forward regarding the signing of the treaty and resuscitation of the structures,” said Kereng.
The proposal from the committee is to have the treaty signed by the Heads of States in June 2020 on the margins of the African Union summit, the minister said.
“Beside the signing of the treaty, the Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) has been making good strides in terms of international cross border events that are held in the area which include the Nedbank Tour de Tuli which has been an annual event for the past 14 years, with this year being the 15th year,” said Kereng.
The event attracts more than 350 international cyclists. The other events are the 4X4 Defender Trophy, the Wild Run, the World Rangers Meet and others.
“It is in this regard, that I am happy to pronounce that besides the delay in signing the treaty, the GMTFCA is progressing well and we are hopeful that progress will further improve after the signing of the treaty in June,” she said.
One of the objectives of the TFCA is to promote alliances in the management of biological natural resources and cultural heritage in the area by encouraging social, economic and other partnerships among the parties and stakeholders.
“This is a mammoth task which we cannot attach a time frame to. Therefore, the TFCA does not have an expected end date, but we hope that as the treaty will be signed in June, there will be plans that would indicate the life spans of the various programmes that will be implemented,” said Kereng.
On the exact number of jobs expected to be created, Kereng said she did not have the exact figures.
“However, it is worth noting that the TFCA presents great opportunities for employment and enterprise,” she said.
She said it was also worthy to state that the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC)-TFCA network is intending to have the TFCA trail map developed which will facilitate marketing of the tourism products, therefore creating more employment opportunities.
“What kind of jobs are we expecting, we are only going to be guided by the project that will be agreed after the implementation framework of the treaty. I believe that as we are talking about tourism and natural resources projects, these are mainly entrepreneurial jobs, where they will be selling things like arts and crafts and so on,” said Kereng.
She pointed out that they were opportunities for those who will be offering tourism activities, accommodation lodges, guest houses and catering activities related to tourism.