The resource curse, also known as the paradox of abundance, is the theory that countries with an abundance of natural resources, such as oil and minerals, achieve less economic growth than countries that are not endowed with natural resources. However, there are some exceptions, and Botswana is one of them.
The case of this southern African country, characterized by enormous deposits of diamonds and vast areas of desert inhabited by big wild cats and elephants, demonstrates that the resource curse is not necessarily the fate of resource abundant countries. The adoption of sound and prudent economic policies, political stability and a long-term vision have allowed Botswana to continuously manage economic and social growth.
The wise management carried out by the leaders of Botswana, in fact, has made the country avoid the ‘resource curse’ that has led to wasting mineral richness and natural beauty elsewhere in the continent.
The first two presidents of the country, Seretse Khama and Ketumile Masire, unlike their African colleagues, made social wealth take priority over personal interests. They used international development aid and growing diamond revenues to invest heavily in social services such as healthcare and education. Despite the fact that a large part of the population is still below the poverty line, the results show very high health and literacy rates, attendance at primary school is over 90 percent, there is continuous decline in poverty rates, etc.
Botswana’s governments have always been underpinned by consensus long before independence, while elsewhere in the region, bloody conflicts and wars destroyed entire villages. This could be explained by the fact that Botswana maintained pre-colonial institutions even during British colonialism, and these institutions still constitute an essential component in the society of the country.
One of them is the Kgotla, a traditional court assembly where every individual’s opinion is heard and considered. It is the seat of traditional democratic government. The issues discussed at the Kgotla range from personal to national. Criminal and other cases are heard and tried at the Kgotla, and important issues of tribal and national concern are presided over by the KGOSI and his principal advisors, and decided by consensus.
Since independence in 1966, the Kgotla system has existed alongside the multi-party, democratically elected parliament.
In fact, Botswana has distinguished itself for its political pluralism from other neighbouring countries where authoritarianism has prevailed. This African country still needs a more diversified economy to ensure sustainability of economic growth. Its economy is currently based mainly on tourism and diamond extraction.
The country is considered to be the least corrupt country on the African continent, nevertheless, nepotism and patronage pervade the government sector, which makes corruption a very high risk for public tenders. However, despite the fact that there has not been a uniform distribution of the fruits of development and economic growth, Botswana still remains an exception in the African continent.