Botswana to have cultural villages

As a response to the COVID-19 outbreak government has come up with an Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (ERTP).

Among others,the document entails the creation of cultural villages around Botswana between the years 2021-22. 

This was revealed in the 2020/21 – 2022/2023 ERTP document released by the Ministry of Finance and Economic development recently.

Through the arrangement, Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) will be tasked with the creation of cultural villages or hubs in Gaborone, Kasane, Maun, Francistown and Ghanzi.  “Post COVID-19, the industry can benefit from activities such as event management and creation of cultural villages or hubs where the youth could show-case their talent for a fee,” reads the draft document.

The arts and culture industry is regarded as one of the sectors that suffered the most from a short-term impact of the lockdown therefore the cost of creating of these cultural villages is expected to be medium. The estimated total cost of ERTP spending is P20 billion over two-and-half years.

The ERTP highlighted however that since the scale, depth and duration of the pandemic is not yet known any projections and response plans are subject to extreme uncertainty.

Moreover, ERTP also made it clear that securing funding for initiatives like cultural villages among others is one of the most difficult components of the process.  “First, government revenue will be much lower than earlier anticipated hence, there will already be a need for much larger deficit funding in the short-to-medium term, even before adding ERTP initiatives,” states the document.

The creative industry is dominated by the youth the section of the society that has the highest level of unemployment therefore the establishment of these cultural villages is expected to benefit local communities through poverty alleviation and job creation.

In Botswana, many historical sites have not been developed for tourism therefore through sustainable tourism development the heritage sites, monuments and cultural landscapes could be preserved as cultural villages. These sites would be required to reveal a strong devotion to cultural conservation and education.  A cultural village can be defined as specific attraction symbolising the way of living

of local people, where visitors can learn about the culture of the people.

In addition to displays and built structures the activities and attractions related to cultural villages often include guided tours, cultural shows, exhibitions, ethnic cuisine and craft workshops, where local people can be employed as tour guides and demonstrators.

Already, there are cultural villages in Botswana like Bahurutshe, Xaixai and Shandereka just to mention but a few.

In an interview with Arts & Culture Setswana Poet and culture enthusiast, Edwin Moroka hailed the plan to create cultural villages around the country because it will create jobs for the communities and preserve history and culture of those villages. He said the cultural villages should be teaching facilities to the public and not just decorate the place.

“There should be people employed there to inform tourists and even students about indigenous Setswana culture. They should have meaning and not be cultural villages for the names’ sake. These cultural villages should not be like some of our cultural events that are there to make profit, culture should be the main core of it all,” he highlighted. 

He said as an advocate for Setswana culture the cultural villages should stick to their original mandate and never lose touch in the process. “It’s a great idea and this should be act like a library and people with different skills should be engaged. People who love culture should be at the forefront with no room for favouritism,” he highlighted. 

Moroka said cultural villages have a great potential to contribute to a more equitable distribution of tourism-based developments and yield positive and direct benefits to communities across the country.

Since Botswana’s tourism policy is centred on involving local community participation, cultural villages could be operated, as community trusts like it is done mostly in Botswana.

The creation of villages or hubs might boost the creative industry, which has the potential to contribute towards job creation and contribute to the much-needed economic diversification.