Three years ago I read two letters in the Jamaican press praising the economic and social strides made by Botswana. However, what is more striking, which those letterwriters failed to highlight back then, was Botswana’s growth when compared with their African counterparts.
The main reason behind the advancements of Botswana was their founding leader, Sir Seretse Khama, the first President of Botswana (from 1966-1980), who established and ensured the entrenchment of his governance style, which was conservatism. For an African leader of that era, conservatism was radical thinking, as socialism and communism threatened and swept across the continent. Khama did not bow to such pressures, he remained pro-West (he even married a White Western Woman), and his conservative-styled governance flourished.
This has resulted in Botswana becoming the least corrupt nation on the continent according to Transparency International; as well as having one of the fastest growing per capita incomes in the world since its independence in 1966. Its economy grew by an average nine per cent per year between 1966 and 1999, pulling that nation and its people out of nothing, as one of the poorest nations on Earth at the time, and on to a path of prosperity.
Yes, Botswana has diamonds, but many other African countries have an embarrassment of wealth in their natural resources and yet are much worse off. It has been the governance structure and style or ‘ism’ that has made the difference.
Growth and Future Prospects
Botswana is described as one of the most capitalist countries in Africa and now enjoys a very stable governance and economic structure with a growing per capita income (currently >US$15,000) and negligible national and foreign debt. Seretse Khama’s enduring conservative legacy has continued under the stewardship of his son Ian, the current president. Bostwana’s future looks very bright and promising. When will Jamaica and our Caribbean kith and kin follow their lead?