BOTSWANA’S new president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, has vowed to tackle youth unemployment in one of Africa’s most stable countries.
The inauguration ceremony in parliament came after Ian Khama stepped down having completed the constitutional maximum of 10 years in office.
As vice-president Masisi took over automatically and is likely to secure a further five-year term in elections in October 2019 when the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is expected to hold on to power.
The carefully managed handover of power comes a full 18 months ahead of parliamentary elections in 2019.
Masisi takes over a country widely seen as an African success story that has made good use of its lucrative income from diamonds, beef and tourism. It is rated the least corrupt in Africa by Transparency International.
But it has also struggled with a rising unemployment rate of about 18 percent and an HIV epidemic.
‘It is because of the peace and tranquility that our leaders have sustained for so long that Batswana have continued to enjoy relative prosperity,’ Masisi said after taking his oath. ‘One of my top priorities as the president of this country will be to address the problem of unemployment, especially among the young people.’ He also pledged to improve treatment and prevention of HIV in a country with a 22 percent infection rate among adults.
Masisi, 55, is a close ally of Khama and a BDP veteran. He is a US-educated former teacher and education minister.
‘Despite its small size, Botswana continues to play an important role in the promotion of global issues such as respect for human rights, democracy, good governance [and] the rule of law,’ Masisi said.
Khama, 65, completed a months-long national farewell tour last week, bidding goodbye to the population of 2.2-million.
He earned a record for straight talking, often criticising leaders including US President Donald Trump and — unlike many in the region — Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe as well as Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila.