“The hustle and bustle of my previous life back there has made me value my rest”
He lost the elections in 2009, but the political maverick with the proverbial nine lives did not lose his mettle.
After a controversial exit from BEDIA which had his detractors writing his political career obituary, Jacob Dickie Nkate reinvented himself yet again as a diplomat this time around.
The Voice Newspaper interviewed him about his mission to Japan where he is hard at work getting Botswana to be known and recognised by the technological giant and devising ways for the country to benefit from the relationship.
Q. Good day Jakes. How are you keeping in Japan?
Very well indeed. Japan is a very interesting place worth experiencing.
It’s a place that’s highly advanced and where everything works as it should.
Rich culture and lots of things to do and to enjoy.
Q. I know you have a taste for a finer lifestyle. How do you spend your weekends there?
I take it easy. I tend to prefer it laid back out here.
The hustle and bustle of my previous life back there has made me value my rest and therefore I tend not to be up and about during my weekends.
Notwithstanding, I have made a few good friends and we often visit with one another.
In my locality there are a number of interesting places to hang out and enjoy reading something while life goes by.
Q. You are on a national assignment. Please tell us what exactly it is you are doing in Japan.
I am here as the Ambassador of Botswana to Japan and my job is to promote relations between Botswana and Japan at all levels that is, Government, Business and personal levels.
My embassy facilitates all the above.
I have a small but dedicated team and I think we are making inroads.
Q. Given a chance to compare and contrast your career as a minister and ambassador, which one do you enjoy the most? And why?
I enjoyed very much my years in cabinet but this a different scene to be worked and enjoyed in its own way.
I am lucky to be afforded the opportunities that I have had to serve my country.
It’s all a journey from a dusty Tsau to wherever it takes us.NKATE
Q. When you were assigned to Japan, some people thought it was consolation because you lost elections. What’s your take on that?
My appointment as Ambassador was almost three and a half years after the last elections.
In that time I had also headed BEDIA; a job that I had been shortlisted and interviewed for. There is no connection between where I am and where I had been.
I had long moved on.
Q. Do you have any regrets taking the assignment?
No regrets at all. As I said earlier, it’s a great way to serve.
Q. Just a bit on your career as a politician. How has losing elections built your outlook or perception of politics in Botswana?
Losing elections has not changed my perceptions of politics at all.
I never saw politics as operating on a system of merit between the individual candidates.
However it may have influenced my general outlook on life in that I experienced that period in my life which shouldn’t be in vain.
Q. Don’t you think the assignment was meant to silence you or keep you away from the people, considering that you had now become ambitious and courageous to challenge President Ian Khama for the Party Presidency in 2018?
I never had any intention to challenge President Khama at any time.
In any case you talk about 2018 when my understanding of our national constitution is that he will be completing his mandate.
So the scenario would never arise.
Q. I am sure you are using your Japan assignment as a retreat to map your career.
Do you plan to stay a career diplomat or are planning your political come-back.
I am absolutely not on retreat in Japan.
If I wanted to go on retreat there are many other interesting places including in Botswana.
Why would I lock myself so far away for so long?
As for planning some future job, I can only tell you that the only job I think of when I go to sleep and when I wake up is the one I have right now.
I intend to do it to the end of my contract; of course if still pleases The President.
Q. Back to your career as a Diplomat. What are some of your challenges in Japan?
Our country is small in global economic terms and therefore relatively unknown.
This means we have to sell so much harder compared to others.
Q. Is it a mammoth task then making our country visible in the Japan?
We are making inroads in terms of claiming our spot at the table of nations. It’s a mammoth task but we are doing it.
The problem is that we are so un-diversified. It limits the number of avenues through which we can sell our country.
We need to grow other sectors so that we are known through them.
It’s our single biggest challenge and there is no magic wand, no panacea. It’s all about hard determined work.
Q. We see more Chinese investors in Botswana than Japanese.
What is it that can be done to have more Japanese investors descending on Botswana’s economy?
Awareness of who we are and what we stand for as well as how we do things are what we need to drum up.
Our safety and security; zero tolerance for corruption, adherence to democratic principles and practices and investor friendly economic climate-these are traits we should sing at the top of our voices.
The Japanese have hitherto been more inward looking. Since 20 years ago with the advent of TICAD they are trying to reach out.
Q. Is attracting investors to Botswana part of your mission as an Ambassador?
I feel attracting investors to Botswana is perhaps the single most important part of my mandate.
After all, we are not at war or even quarrelling with Japan.
So political diplomacy must take second place to economic diplomacy.
Q. What is your game plan in attracting Japanese investors to Botswana?
How do you plan to execute your plan?
Our plan for attracting investment has many paths.
We meet with major corporations and try and interest them in Botswana; we meet and encourage top Government officials to have Botswana on their minds for visits and other exchanges as this is a way through which Japanese businesses can know who we are.
We are in the process of forming a Friends of Botswana Association which will include prominent people in Japan who have an interest or some knowledge of Botswana.
They should help us sell our country.
Q. What do you think Botswana can benchmark and adopt from the Japanese economy?
Technology is clearly their forte.
Even as we try and invite their entrepreneurs to Botswana we must remember that they will expect an exceptionally high work ethic of us.
They have no natural resources and yet are among the top three leading economies of the world.
Q. So, here comes the weekend. What are your plans?
As I said I rather prefer to have a more laid back life, Family and a few select trusted friends are how and who I spend my free time with.
So, no big plans.
Q. Thanks a lot Your Excellency.
Any last word for your people?
Just to say that we had the honour of receiving the president for TICAD IN Yokohama and he put us on the map with interviews he gave to two major print publications as well as the major Japanese Television and radio broadcaster NHK.
After he left we hosted the Minister of Trade and Industry and BITC on a week-long investment mission.
We are happy with the way things are going.