The Summit, being hosted by the Government of Botswana, in partnership with the non-governmental organization Conservation International (CI) at the Gaborone International Convention Center, is expected to be a landmark effort to establish a new development roadmap for Africa. The result-driven Summit, which also brings together leading businesses and institutions, including the United Nations, World Bank, World Vision, MacArthur Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, Woolmart and others are key participants, will highlight principles and successful demonstrations for future economic development.
President Sirleaf will make introductory remarks at the opening program on "The Importance of Natural Capital to Development."
The outcome of the Summit, which ends on Friday, May 25, will be reflected in what the organizers envision as the concluding "Gaborone Declaration."
Meanwhile, President Sirleaf concluded a three-day official visit to Botswana on Wednesday. On Tuesday, May 22, the Liberian President formally inaugurated the Oodi College of Applied Arts and Technology.
The college is the newest addition of seven technical colleges already established by the Government of Botswana under its Ministry of Education and Skills Development. It was established in response to the need of the government to improve and expand technical vocational training as part of the long-term vision of Botswana to produce an "educated and informed nation." It aims to strengthen the economy, lower unemployment and enhance the social condition for Botswana. The first group of 96 students was admitted at the institution.
Serving as the keynote speaker, President Sirleaf expressed happiness for participating in what she described as a "special event" and said she was proud to be a part of the official opening.
The Liberian leader congratulated and applauded the leadership and the people of Botswana for the exemplary model which the country represents - peace, stability and development. She told the students to consider themselves as the chosen ones - the inaugural class of the Oodi College of Applied Arts and Technology.
She challenged the students and teachers, as the first generation at the college, to bear the heavy responsibility of establishing a solid track record that would make the institution attractive to others who will follow in their foot-steps. "The reputation of this college will very well depend on how you conduct yourselves, how you apply what you learn after you leave here," President Sirleaf said.
The Liberian President described the college's mandate as a noble agenda aimed at creating economic diversification, sustainability and jobs as well as promoting entrepreneurship leading to poverty alleviation, rural development and trained manpower. "The agenda," according to President Sirleaf, "will have a positive impact on Botswana and the sub-region."
She informed the huge audience that to be out of school and work at a young age is a challenge and that by being in school they have a new chance to advance, to learn new skills and become competent. "Whatever skills you acquire, whether as an electrician, mechanic or an artist, will allow you to make a contribution to society and be in the position to take care of yourselves," President Sirleaf indicated. She admonished the young people that there is dignity in labor, no matter what form it takes, and that it was important to take pride in their endeavors.
"A major challenge facing Africa today," she lamented, "is finding trained people to handle the continent's technical needs, to invent and build the tools Africa needs to transform the environment to suit its needs. She then gave a brief status report on Liberia's youthful population and the state of the country's vocational and technical education program, with reference to the Booker Washington Institute and the Monrovia Vocational Training Center. She used the occasion to encourage the many mining companies in Liberia to inform the government of their projected growth areas so as to target technical and vocational education programs to meet the emerging work needs.
She further informed the audience that vocational and technical education training is also taking place to meet the needs of the business and agricultural sector in Liberia.
She cautioned students to look ahead, to think of the future when, as technicians and artists, they will invent instruments that will make life easier for all on the African continent. "Those with entrepreneurial skills," President Sirleaf said, "will create jobs for others and that is how Africa will develop." She cautioned the students that, as their government is making serious investment in its citizens, they are expected not only to pay back, but to do more to make Botswana better." Claim your future, the President concluded.
Also making remarks, Botswana's Minister of Education and Skills Development, Honorable Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, provided a number of scholarships to the Government for Liberians to study at the Oodi College of Applied Arts and Technology. The technical details will be worked out by the Ministries of Education of both countries. President Sirleaf later unveiled the plaque and led a tour of the school's facilities.
Later in the afternoon, the Liberian President visited both the Princess Marina Hospital, the largest referral hospital in Botswana, and the Harvard AIDS Institute, to acquaint herself with the work of the two entities. She expressed satisfaction with the impressive level of technical and technological advancement at both institutions, and commended the Government and staff of the two entities for their selfless service to the people of Botswana.
Before concluding her official visit on Wednesday, President Sirleaf visited the richest diamond mine in the world, the Jwaneng Diamond Mine, operated by the Debswana Diamond Company which runs three other mines. Diamond contributes 50 percent of Botswana's national income, and the country is the world's largest producer of diamonds. The visit also took the Liberian leader to the Diamond Trading Company of Botswana, which cuts and polishes diamonds into finished products.
Concluding the day's visit, the President paid separate courtesy calls on the Speaker of the Botswana Parliament and the leader of the opposition, Honorable Botsalo Ntuane, at the Parliament Building in the capital, Gaborone. Comments were exchanged mainly on the structure and activities of the Parliament and the role of the Botswana opposition in sustaining democratic governance in the southern Africa nation.
The 62-member Botswana Parliament has only one female parliamentarian. President Sirleaf hoped for greater women's involvement in the governance of Botswana. A dinner was later tendered in honor of the Liberian leader by a select group of women.