Jan 7, 2010

Botswana

Well with all my trumpeting about how South Africa is a super-sweet place, I think one shouldn't forget other countries around the neighborhood. I'm living in a Setswana-speaking place that's only about 100 km from the Botswana border, so it's a natural place to start.

I still think what South Africa managed in 1994 is the most remarkable diplomatic event of modern history, but what Botswana managed to pull off is in some ways even better. Despite being a British colony like so many others, Botswana is the only country in Africa to have unbroken free and fair elections since they gained their independence in 1966. They have managed to shepherd their considerable wealth in diamonds carefully, and maintained for decades a growth rate comparable (or even exceeding) Southeast Asia, while also keeping a good stockpile of foreign currency. Depending on who you ask, it's got per-capita income close to Russia (and probably higher than South Africa--some say almost half again as much). Transparency International says it's the least corrupt country in Africa, similar to Portugal and South Korea.

It's home to the legendary Okavango Delta, which according to a source I trust is the coolest safari place in Africa.

In short, they've done quite well for themselves, and in a deeply Tswana kind of way. The Batswana are peaceful folk, not aggressive like Zulus or Xhosas (I don't think we'll ever see a Tswana president of South Africa); during the Mfecane they just packed up and headed for points north. While South Africa had all the drama, controversy, oppression, and attention, Botswana quietly and peacefully built itself into the one of the most stable and healthy countries in Africa. That's something I can appreciate.

Of course, they have the second-highest HIV infection rate in the world, but they were the first country to provide free ARV drugs to all those infected. At least their president never said that AIDS is not caused by HIV.

2 comments:

  1. I'm glad you have a nice camera with you so we can enjoy the views.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Was that supposed to be a suggestion? Actually, I've never been to Botswana, though that will surely change soon. Not only that, my camera recently seemed to die for good. All the pictures below were taken with my crappy 3.2 megapixel cell phone camera.

    ReplyDelete