Botswana is a real economic miracle in sub-Saharan Africa. With its strong economy, political stability and strong institutions, the country also faces major challenges in terms of social inequality and environmental crisis. Botswana. An economic miracle? Here is an analysis.
Botswana is a real economic miracle in sub-Saharan Africa. With its strong economy, political stability and strong institutions, the country also faces major challenges in terms of social inequality and environmental crisis. Here is an analysis.
Botswana. An economic miracle without a view of the sea
From independence to emergence – counter model
Botswana is a country in the south of the African continent, which has carved out an exceptional place in the list of emerging countries in Africa, which has made it a model, not to say a miracle, taught in institutes and colleges, within the experiences of successful countries and world leaders. A unique success experience in a regional context “South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia” hostile to flagship models for fear of making it a model, taking advantage of the geographical location of Botswana, as it belongs to the landlocked countries, that is to say, confined in the middle of a wild geography without any view of the sea, and an internal context governed by the tribe and not by the state. In a sparsely populated country, the powers of the tribe transcend all spheres, from politics to the economy
British colonialism left Botswana in 1966 at the bottom of the world’s poor list, the seventh poorest country with a gross domestic product capped at $70 per capita. Four decades of exploitation and plunder rewarded the state with only 12 kilometers of paved roads and a railroad linking Zimbabwe in the east to South Africa in the west. The return of human capital was limited to 100 school graduates, while the total number of university graduates was only 22 across the country.
Botswana understood that economic superiority is the secret to prosperity and stability. After independence, it was quick to focus on the incentives for economic take-off. He launched programs to transform the country’s fragile economy based on livestock and a unique industry. cow slaughter facility, in a promising sector focused on meat exports. The discovery of large reserves of copper and diamonds has spurred Botswana’s economic revival, as Botswana has the world’s largest diamond mine, the Urapa mine, in the center of the country.
Botswana. An economic miracle? The emergence of minerals
The emergence of minerals has brought back to the forefront the fears of state failure, becoming captive to the curse of the rentier economy, like many African countries with huge mineral reserves, “Congo, Angola, Nigeria…”, which regimes have become a means to establish an authoritarian regime that exploits rentier revenues in order to strengthen its pillars.
None of this happened, thanks to the effective political system put in place by Seretse Khama, founder of the Botswana Democratic Party, the first post-independence president. He gradually removed political and economic powers from the tribal sheikhs, integrating them smoothly into the state to avoid tribal strife. The adoption of English as the official language in the country was a break with the distinction between the different languages and cultures within it, and the beginning of the establishment of a comprehensive national identity.
The social system that had prevailed in Botswana for centuries contributed to this success. The principle of compatibility among tribal elders has provided a space for dialogue, reconciliation and understanding among them, through the traditional frameworks of tribal society. Economists Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson have already confirmed – in their joint book “Why Nations Fail” (2012) – the role of these traditional institutions in the Botswana experience. Immediately after independence, Botswana quickly established inclusive “non-exclusive” economic institutions, smartly capitalizing on the norms embedded in local social systems.
On the road to democracy
As a result, Botswana has evolved into a competitive electoral democracy on a regular basis, with no civil wars or military coups. It is worth noting that the Botswana military was only created in 1977, after South Africa and Zimbabwe had harassed the country, after it had made a good start in the right direction. And it has managed to escape armed conflict, managing to peacefully resolve its border problem with Namibia, the problem of Sedudo Island in 1999, until it became common in their proverbs that the great battles “must be fought with words.
The report on the quality of economic institutions, published by the Canadian Fries Institute, corroborates this, confirming that Botswana benefits from a non-interventionist government (6.32/10), a robust judicial system and protection of property rights (8.03/10), and significant control of inflation rates (8). .53/10″, and flexibility of organization within the financial, labor and investment markets” 7.53/10″, as recommended by official figures, as the number of elementary school exceeded 800 schools, and secondary schools 280, and a university was established that includes nine faculties, which helped reduce the illiteracy rate to 11%. In terms of political stability, it ranked 48th in the world, according to the German University of Voegzburg’s Democracy Index 2021.
Botswana’s experience has proven conclusive evidence of the possibility of success away from Western centralism. Africans have the elements of history and civilization that allow them to become – even if the beginning is the worst imaginable – a pure and shining diamond in the depths of the black continent.
Political stability, but inequality a challenge
Botswana. An economic miracle? Dramatic inequalities
The Boswana Democratic Party (BDP), which has been in power since the country’s independence in 1966, won 67 percent of the vote and 38 of 57 seats in the October 2019 parliamentary elections. As a result, incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who hails from the party, was confirmed in office by a vote of the National Assembly. Despite some loss of popularity for his handling of the pandemic, and a growing rivalry with his predecessor, Ian Khama , Masisi is expected to remain in power at least until the 2024 elections.
Having governed through several decades of growth and development, the BDP enjoys significant political capital. However, high levels of unemployment (26% in early 2022) and inequality (10th highest Gini coefficient in the world) could challenge social stability. As the economy is food and oil importing, the volatility and high prices of these commodities, due to the war in Ukraine, could further increase inequality and poverty.
The country has been an example of good governance in Africa, with peaceful and transparent elections. However, certain trends favored by the continuity of power granted to the BDP since 1966 seem to indicate an institutional decline, such as the excessive influence of the executive over the judiciary (WEO Global Competitiveness Report), questionable budget transparency (Ibrahim Index of African Governance) or a media under the influence of the government (via the Media Practitioners Act of 2008). However, the judicial environment remains generally business-friendly, with strong property rights and investor protection, special economic zones and relatively light administrative requirements.
Ecological diversity to be protected
While elephant numbers are plummeting in some southern and eastern African countries due to poaching, Botswana remains largely unscathed with a population of 126,000 elephants, or one-third of all savanna elephants. For experts, this is due in part to the hunting ban in place since 2014.
However, the organization “Elephants without Borders” warns of poachers targeting Botswana. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of recent animal kills reportedly increased sixfold. According to scientist Mike Chase, most of the animals would have been killed for their ivory. His study has provoked strong reactions and has even led to death threats against him, according to the organization. President Masisi disputes the claims of the scientific report and calls it “the biggest hoax of the 21st century”.
More than half of the world’s tropical forests have disappeared due to the high demand for land for logging and agriculture. Once covering 14% of the earth’s surface, tropical forests now cover only 6%. At the current rate of deforestation, these critical habitats could disappear entirely within 100 years.
The forests in Botswana are no exception and are being plundered for purely economic reasons. Demand for exotic wood is high in wealthy countries, and cash-strapped governments often hand over logging concessions for a fraction of the land’s real value. The government also encourages citizens to clear the forest for agricultural land. The forests are also threatened by mining operations, the country’s great wealth.