The Dalai Lama will visit Botswana next month and meet with President Ian Khama, Botswana officials confirmed, in a trip likely to anger China, a key investor across Africa and its largest trade partner.
Beijing views the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist campaigning for Tibetan independence and consistently condemns foreign leaders who meet him.
Botswana “will be extending the normal courtesies for visiting dignitaries”, the government said Wednesday in a statement. “His Excellency (President Khama) will meet the Dalai Lama when he is in Botswana.”
The Tibetan spiritual leader, who lives in exile in India, is due to make a public address at the three-day “Mind and Life Dialogue” conference in the Botswana capital Gaborone on August 19.
Botswana’s neighbour South Africa has repeatedly denied the Dalai Lama a visa in an apparent attempt to further boost ties with China, drawing fierce criticism from archbishop Desmond Tutu and others.
China’s growing demand for raw materials has seen a rapid rise in trade with Africa.
The Chinese government has helped build coal-powered power plants, road networks, bridges and schools in Botswana, in some of its many infrastructure projects in Africa.
Many in the continent see Beijing as a counterbalance to the West, but the relationship has also raised accusations of neo-colonialism.
Botswana, one of the world’s largest diamond producers, has a population of just two million people and is known for its stable political scene.
A government spokesman declined to comment to AFP on any risk to relations with China.
The Dalai Lama says he seeks more autonomy for Tibet rather than outright independence.