President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi of the southern African nation of Botswana and Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway met in New York on September 22. The aim of the meeting, which included Botswana’s top government officials and many Rutgers leaders, was to discuss the partnership between Botswana and Rutgers while President Masisi was in the city for the UN General Assembly. This was the first in-person meeting between the two presidents, with President Holloway having assumed his position at Rutgers in July 2020, near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Botswana-Rutgers partnership began with a focus on health care in 2018, and in 2019, it expanded to other areas, including information technology, higher education and research, entrepreneurship and innovation, and leadership. When the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a pause in some of these plans, the partnership continued its efforts in improving cancer care and prevention in Botswana and supported the country’s COVID-19 pandemic response, addressing key health information technology gaps in the process.

The partnership is distinct in that it is a collaboration between a nation and a university. Broadly, the collaboration was created to help Botswana transform from a predominantly natural resource-based economy into a knowledge-based one. In addition, Botswana has served as a model for other African nations in the past – particularly with its response to HIV/AIDS in the early 2000s – and is poised to do so again in other areas.

“We see ourselves not only as developing our own country – we’re smack in the middle of southern Africa – we see ourselves as helping others in the region,” through this partnership with Rutgers, Masisi told Holloway during the meeting.

The meeting between Masisi and Holloway reaffirmed a joint commitment to collaboration and outlined current challenges and opportunities for the partnership and its joint work.

“You’re interested in building a knowledge economy. That is what we do,” Holloway said to Masisi. “We are also for the common good. So, I think it’s quite a beautiful arrangement.”


Watch a video excerpt of President Masisi’s remarks during the meeting: