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Botswana: A Successful Model for Africa to Follow

With the advent of independence in 1966, Botswana did not have an attractive future by any standard. With a per capita income of $70, 12 km of paved road and a GDP dependent largely on agricultural exports, the country was on a socio-economic death row. However, with changes following the discovery of diamonds in the sub-Saharan country, it rose to become the antithesis of most countries in Africa. This has led to its marked development and stability over a period of over 4 decades.

According to an article by Michael Lewin, Botswana had 7,000 kilometers of paved roads, and per capita income had risen to about $6,100 ($12,000 at purchasing power parity) by 2007, making the Southern African powerhouse an upper middle- income country comparable to Chile or Argentina. Its success is also evident in other measures of human development. At independence, life expectancy at birth was just 37 years. By 1990 it was an impressive 60, 10 years above the African average. Under-five mortality had fallen to about 45 per 1,000 live births in 1990, compared with 180 for Africa as a whole. Development assistance had shrunk to less than 3% of the government budget, and agriculture accounted for only about 2.5% of GDP. Such growth and improvement in economy was paired with advances of an infrastructural and education based environment.

But why Botswana is great?


The excellent growth in Botswana’s economy and change in social standing while attributable to a vast array of reasons, was mostly spurred on by the discovery of large deposits of diamond soon after gaining independence, and became the world’s largest diamond producer (by value). In other African countries, the discovery of minerals has often led to large-scale corruption and at times civil unrest. Botswana has managed to effectively utilize the diamonds and other minerals to boost its economy BOTSWANA HAS MANAGED TO EFFECTIVELY UTILIZE THE DIAMONDS AND OTHER MINERALS TO BOOST ITS ECONOMY and keep a peaceful environment that is investor friendly, a huge feat in Africa and even in some countries around the world. The Botswana government facilitated an agreement with DeBeers mining company to form DeBswana upon discovery of the diamonds so as to utilize the technical know-how of the company, and made sure to benefit fully from the enterprise. Ownership is based on a 50% ratio, something that some of Botswana’s neighbors have failed to do.


Botswana is known to be one of Africa’s least corrupt countries. This rare quality is also partially responsible for the country’s Midas touch. Unlike her neighbor’s and sister countries Botswana, has no tolerance for corruption. The country’s transparent mode of operation ensures that public funds are handled in such a way as to provide steady growth of the nation’s economic sectors.

The country boasts of an efficient anti-corruption machine known as The Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC). The same machine which has in the past few years gained ground in terms of efficiency, with conviction rates for corruption on a rise (70% conviction rate in cases brought before courts). The DCEC in its formative years had been accused of handling small issues and letting the high profile corruption cases slip deliberately out of its reach but this has since been forgotten with the organization handling high profile cases involving prominent figures in society. It is however not completely an anti-corruption wonderland, especially in light of freelance journalist Sonny Serite being imprisoned following his publications relating to corruption scandals in a R250-million contract for the purchase of rail coaches by Botswana railways.

Botswana GDP (current US$). World Bank national accounts data

  1. Democracy

Another aspect of their political nature is the fact the nation is an honest multiparty state that is hinged on the doctrines of democracy, rule of law and good governance. Such stability is bound to influence steady and exponential growth of any country.


Botswana has had 11 elections since its gaining of independence, and these elections have been free and peaceful. The leading political party in Botswana, the BDP (Botswana Democratic Party) led by Ian Khama, has been in power since independence was attained. Although it has kept its grip on power, elections in Botswana have never been violent in nature, as would be noted in neighboring countries like Zimbabwe during the 2008 elections.
Botswana gains the right to be called democratic mainly due to its multiparty nature which boasts more than 10 independent political parties, namely BAM – Botswana Alliance Movement, BCP – Botswana Congress Party, BDP – Botswana Democratic Party/Bechuanaland Democratic Party (right-wing, conservative), BIP – Botswana Independence Party, to name but only a few.

It however comes to light that the last presidential elections held in 2014 were surrounded by the ominous air of foul play that has come to plague the African continent. With political party leaders being mysteriously attacked and some like Gomolemo Motswaledi being involved in fatal car “accidents,” the elections could not exactly be called peaceful.


Botswana through diversification has actively dodged over reliance on the minerals that are responsible for its initial growth. The government has developed its cattle industry and other industries that are incidental to mining in a bid to evade the Dutch disease. Over the last twenty years, there has been much attention given to the issue of diversification with an example of The 2008 Strategy for Economic Diversification. The strategy noted that future policies to be put into place must focus on propagating a strong private sector and make a reality, the training and development of skills necessary in an open and competitive market. The current National Development Plan (2010 to 2016) seeks to do the same, to rid Botswana of the over-dependence on the diamond. Success has been noted in the area of diversification with the non-mining sector increasingly taking up more of the value added to the GDP. In 2012 the non-mining sector accounted for 70% of value added to the GDP as compared to less than 50% in years before that.
The tourism industry of Botswana has proven to be the biggest shot the country has at diversification, seeing as agriculture isn’t viable given the arid nature of its soils. As of 2014 according to The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) the total contribution of travel and tourism to the GDP of Botswana was 8.5 % of the GDP and is expected to rise to 10% by 2025. The same industry generated 32000 jobs in 2014 which accounted for 4.6% of total employment, and this figure is expected to rise at a rate of 2.6% per annum over the next nine years.

The government in a bid to further the aspect of diversification has put in place legislation and measures to encourage the growth of industries such as those of Automotive Components, textiles and fabrics and even mines and energy.


However, the development Botswana has seen has somehow been hampered by the ever present infamous HIV and AIDS, unemployment and unequal income distribution. Botswana has a very high rate of HIV infections and a sizable amount of its population is suffering from the ailment. This is still evident even where government has put up measures to try and curtail the spread of the virus and also to give to those already infected free, easy and accessible treatment (Botswana is among the first countries to offer free anti-retroviral treatment to its citizens).

The unemployment rate of Botswana has also dropped since 1966 but the matter is still very rampant especially when looking at the high rate of rural-urban migration. With regards to income distribution, Botswana has a huge issue to tackle in this regard. According to the IMF Botswana exhibits a much higher Gini coefficient than that of its respective peers and it is a worrying reality.

Even in the light of these drawbacks, it is still plain that Botswana is a powerhouse in Africa and is succeeding while other countries fail dismally



Written by PH

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