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In his second visit to Yale, Botswanan President Mokgweetsi Masisi signed a memorandum of understanding with the University to partner on issues regarding natural resource management. 

After first visiting Yale in June 2019, Masisi returned on Sept. 22 to formalize collaboration with Yale and to speak in the Yale African Leaders Forum series. University President Peter Salovey and Yale School of the Environment Dean Indy Burke met with Masisi to sign the memorandum of understanding, which provides linkage between the University — particularly YSE — and Botswana’s research management ambitions. At the forum, Masisi was introduced by Director for Africa and the Middle East Eddie Mandhry and 4th-year doctoral candidate Kaggie Orrick ENV ’23. This marked the first visit from a head of state at Yale since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am really pleased that Botswana has now been included in Yale University’s and President Salovey’s push to strengthen ties with Africa,” Orrick told the News. “I am excited about the potential for this partnership and hope that we can provide many opportunities for an exchange of researchers and teaching. I look forward to seeing YSE provide a broad array of opportunities for the people of Botswana, as well as collaborations in research between the two parties.”

Two years ago, Masisi visited Yale with First Lady Neo Jane Masisi and Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services Kefentse Mzwinila GRD ’99. In addition to Salovey and Mandhry, Masisi met with Dean Ann Kurth of the School of Nursing, Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization Ernesto Zedillo and Professor Mushfik Mobarak before visiting YSE, where the leader spoke with faculty and students.

Recurring themes throughout these conversations included environmental management, environmental health and sustainable education initiatives. Masisi indicated being open to collaboration with Yale in efforts to advance Botswana’s environmental situation during the visit.

“I think that both Yale and Botswana have a lot to gain from this collaboration and look forward to seeing YSE and Yale University supporting the initiatives and projects which Botswana has identified,” Orrick said. “I think that with the right support this partnership could be extremely fruitful for all involved.”

In September, Masisi signed a partnership agreement between the government of Botswana and the University at the President’s Office. The memorandum of understanding includes opportunities for students and researchers at YSE to collaborate with Botswana in order to meet common environmental goals revolving around topics of sustainable resource management. 

In his introduction to Masisi’s lecture, Mandhry described the agreement as “a launchpad for mutually beneficial exchanges and cooperation.

Salovey and Burke signed on behalf of Yale and noted the opportunities that the agreement provides for students. Faculty and students at YSE have the chance to engage in research, internships and symposiums centering on efforts in Botswana in addition to having a wider field of resources to access.

“By strengthening our strategic bidirectional partnerships, the Yale Africa Initiative is bringing scholarship, teaching and learning related to Africa into sharper focus,” Salovey said during the signing ceremony. “Our collaborations in Botswana are an example of how we are fostering new avenues of research that benefit communities in the United States and across Africa.”

Burke was unable to provide comment at the time of publication.

During his Yale African Leaders Forum lecture, Masisi described Botswana’s environmental and economic history and goals. He recommitted the nation to developing the private sector, growing a digital ecosystem and cultivating a knowledge-based economy.

After the lecture, Mandhry moderated a Q and A session that touched on topics ranging from the diamond trade to Botswana’s position in the upcoming COP26 negotiations. In the last segment of the visit, President Masisi spoke with Yale faculty and students at a reception. 

The Yale Africa Initiative was launched in 2013 and was announced during President Salovey’s inaugural address.

Hamera Shabbir covers golf and fencing for the Sports desk and the School of the Environment for the Science and Technology desk. Originally from California's Central Valley, she is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in Environmental Studies.