Not all African governments are as intransigently harmful as Robert Mugabe’s in Zimbabwe. Just next door, Botswana recently transferred power from the democratically-elected Festus Mogae to his party’s new leader, Ian Khama, demonstrating that African government does not have to be synonymous with tyranny.
Botswana also demonstrates that natural resources do not have to inevitably fall into the hands of the strongest strong man or the most rapacious ruler. Her diamond mines, discovered a year after the country achieved independence in 1967, make Botswana the world’s largest diamond producer. But they are operated through a partnership between the state and the DeBeers Group that provides 60% of the government’s revenues.
Those monies, in turn, go not into a despot’s foreign bank account or to pay for private armies, but rather into places where government funds can do the most good: education, health care, public works, and a working justice system. The mines also provide jobs for thousands of Botswanans whose wages ripple throughout the economy, raising the standards of living for all.
Botswana is no Utopia, but it has the highest GDP per capita forecast in sub-Saharan Africa, $8,453, according to global investment banking group UBS. Botswana is also ranked as the continent’s least corrupt country by Transparency International. The country has reduced the mother-to-child transmission rate for HIV from 40% of all live births to a mere 4% today.
Botswana proves the point that nations of Africa can prosper once they throw off the bonds of strongman tyranny.