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Friday, July 18, 2014

Botswana: An African Success Story

This is an article I wrote for the Student Center for African Research and Resolutions, a student think tank in Washington, D.C. Check them out at for more student-produced news regarding African affairs. This article can also be accessed in SCARR's blog section.

This article was originally published on July 11, 2014. 

To the north of South Africa lies the Republic of Botswana, a country similar in size to the state ofTexas. It’s a dry, flat, and hot country (its national motto is “Rain”), but it’s a model for the rest of this vast continent.  Botswana gained its independence from Great Britain in 1966, when it was known as Bechuanaland. Botswana, unlike many other African countries, is not often in the news for bloodshed, dictatorship, and conflict. It’s not without problems, but it’s a democratic country with a vigorous and free press, strong anti-corruption measures, and despite a staggering number of people with AIDS, the CIA World Factbook claims Botswana also has “one of Africa's most progressive and comprehensive programs for dealing with the disease.” 
Modern office buildings shoot into the sky in the capital of Gaborone, which resembles a modern American city from a distance. The literacy rate stands at 85 percent for both men and women, not far behind South Africa’s figure of 93 percent, and enormous diamond deposits bolster the economy. Botswana’s republic has stood the test of time. It’s been a democratic and free country since it became independent in 1966, and in two years, Botswanans will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their republic’s independence.

Of course, like any other country, Botswana is not without its own issues. Access to water, while available, presents a challenge for the future. Poverty and disease, particularly AIDS, plague the country. Life expectancy is in the 50s, and human development is low, only 0.634. Many Botswanans are poor, and while the economy is stable, Botswana will have to diversify away from mining diamonds to keep that stability in the future. Like in South Africa, sexual violence is high inBotswana, and enforcement rates of laws against such heinous activity is low.

But the country is in good standing to face its problems head-on. As mentioned, the government’s AIDS policy is considered progressive, effective, and comprehensive. The country does not have the corruption problems or racial tensions that still plague South Africa. Some tribal tensions exist, but nothing nearly as violent and bloody as the widespread massacres in countries like Rwanda. It could be helpful for the country’s Botswana Democratic Party, the political party that’s dominated Motswana politics since independence, to break into multiple parties to diversify political interests further.

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