Botswana and its Peculiar Democracy in Africa

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Botswana is one African country that has enjoyed continuous democracy since it gained independence in 1966.

The UN’s development agency, UNDP had described Botswana’s democratic story as “one of Africa’s veritable economic and human development success stories.”

The citizens of Botswana can testify of the country’s decades of political stability and multiparty competition, even if the same party has managed to hold onto the president’s office and a majority in parliament.

The story of Botswana’s democracy and politics is tamed successful because, the country was one of the poorest countries in the world when it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1966.

As time went on, from a country with only 22 college graduates and 12 kilometers of paved road, few hospitals and people depending on petty farming for survival at independence to attaining visible tremendous change that its economic growth became louder than any country in the world.

Today, the country has achieved political stability, democratic government and extraordinary economic growth. It has a GDP per capital that makes it an upper middle-income country and regularly surpasses countries like Italy and Spain on corruption indices.

How It Began

Botswana is recorded to be one of the most vulnerable countries to have ever gained independence from their colonial masters. It’s landlock position was startling.

It bordered white minority governments in South Africa, South -West Africa (Namibia) and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). South Africa occupying the main trading route could readily intimidate Botswana with sanctions and violent Incursions.

Diplomacy was difficult because relations with the apartheid government in South Africa required a tightrope walk between economic cooperation and political distance.

Botswana post-colonial leadership was not fast to build wider credibility within the Organisation of African Unity. It was very dependent on the British aid.

The country was very desperate in needing economic partners abroad.

External bodies were doubting the country’s ability to resist the pressure from South Africa but in defiance, the first democratic President of Botswana, Seretse Khama upheld a vision of security and prosperity in a non-racial democracy.

He insisted that all individuals were entitled to political freedoms and individual protection that is not marred with racial discrimination.

These values appeared too enterprising to uphold in a young developing country, but they were proven to be a crucial asset.

Seletse later succeeded in multilateral forums and bilateral meetings. He was able to prove that his country has exceptional qualities and worthy of assistance.

People were convinced that Botswana could motivate a larger transformation all through Southern African region.

Later on, Botswana began to receive aid from international bodies and it began to record more successes.

The country inspired diplomats, politicians, scholars and anti-apartheid activists to the extent that Botswana became one of the highest recipients of US foreign aid per capita.

President Seretse also used the effective leadership and policy making as tools to pull through. The country demonstrated this through its effective management of a rich mining explosion in diamonds.

On the security of the country, Botswana, not bonding its achievements, there were no guarantee for its territory’s external security for decades.

They accepted refugees provided they did not use its territory as a base to advance liberation struggles. Without an army till the year 1977, the country struggled to stop powerless invasions by the South African and Rhodesian security forces that were chasing freedom fighters.

In all these, Botswana’s greatest appeal to the western world especially North America and Western Europe proved to be its own form of defence.

Before President Seretse died in 1980, he was able to prove to the world that multi racialism was possible in his region and any part of the world.

How Botswana is Faring After Decades

While the white minority regimes were long gone, the country is still enjoying democratic success despite the fact that Botswana Democratic party has remained in power since independence.

The success of the African country has revealed it to be the nation with an outstanding example of image building in circumstances where survival was tied to international visibility.

Its capital city of Gaborone is now well structured, the streets are clean and orderly unlike when it first gained independence.

Botswana’s story is no doubt, an interesting one. Since Independence, the government has managed to participate from the country’s huge diamond reserves on equal terms with the mining company De Beers.

This contrasts with the negative experiences with natural resource endowments in many other African countries.

The returns from diamond sales are always invested in health, education, and infrastructure (the roads network in larger parts of the country are fantastic), while accumulating large foreign exchange reserves and saving enough in good times to be prepared for bad times, like low global diamond demand.

However, there was basically no manufacturing sector at Independence, and none has emerged since then.

Manufacturing value added stands at 5.2 per cent of GDP (World Bank 2018). No significant productivity increases have occurred in both the agricultural and the manufacturing sector.

The only exception is the mining sector. The mining sector employs few people and has very limited linkages to the rest of the economy.

In all, one could say that the success of Botswana was due to its adoption of good policies that have prompted rapid accumulation, investment and the socially efficient exploitation of resource rents.

These policies resulted from an underlying set of institutions of private property that encouraged investment and economic development.


































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