Will Americans Discover Precious Botswana?

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Will Precious Ramotswe put the Southern African nation of Botswana on the global tourism map?

That's one of the hopes harbored by Botswana officials, including the country's ambassador to the United Nations, who attended a March 18 reception for a screening of the new HBO series "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," which premiers on March 29.

The series, adapted from the book by Alexander McCall Smith was shot entirely in Botswana, and offers breath-taking scenes of beautiful open hills in the countryside. Clearly, Botswana officials are eager to capitalize on the opportunity.

The reception and screening was hosted by HBO in their building at 1100 Avenue of the Americas.

The screening allowed Botswana to "show case our culture, our tradition, and more importantly the tourism potential of our country," said Charles T. Ntwaagae, Botswana's ambassador to the United Nations.

 "It's one way in which we get introduced to the international community," he said. The Botswana government helped the filmmakers with logistics in the country.

The ambassador said he was also very impressed by talented musician Jill Scott's performance as the main character, Precious Ramotswe, the female detective who cracks cases using her own version of Sherlock Holmes-like techniques. She is assisted by other intrepid female detectives.

"She is a very popular figure here in the United States," Ntwaagae added, of Scott; which obviously will help in marketing both the film and Botswana to Americans. "We are happy with the way she has played her role; an excellent job."

Botswana has been a stable democracy since 1966 when it ceased to be a British protectorate.

It’s a small country of 1.9 million people but due to its diamond industry, the country has enjoyed one of the fastest economic growth rates in the world. In 2007 total GDP was $ 12,3 billion. The economy is expected to slowdown and grow 5% next year and the inflation which hovers at 7% is also expected to decline.

Tourism is the third largest sector of the economy and represents 11.2 % of over all GDP.  Officials are determined to see this figure grow as more Americans learn of the country as an emerging destination. For a long time, its potential has been dwarfed by its larger, more powerful and better known neighbor, South Africa.

Botswana Tourism Board's representative in North America, Partner Concepts, has partnered with HBO on a promotional campaign.

Smith, whose best-selling book was adapted for the HBO series says he hopes the The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, will change people’s perception not only of Botswana but the rest of the continent.

"It's a very unfortunate thing that the picture that people get of Sub-Saharan African countries is problems," he said. "The problems exist but that is not the whole story," he added. "There are stories where people are leading good lives and doing positive things."

Smith said he was inspired to write the book after living in Botswana in 1981. "I was very taken by the country," he recalled, "Wonderful country--wonderful people."

He said he was also very happy with the way Academy winner Anthony Minghella had directed the film.

The popularity of the HBO series and Botswana will no doubt be bolstered by “The No. 1 Lady” prize campaign which encourages people to nominate an impressive lady and win an all expense paid trip to Botswana.

Economic Statistics:
The OECD Country Report

The World Bank


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