Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Promoting Botswana

I have long been an admirer of the nation of Botswana. Almost alone among African countries it stands as an example of liberty, prosperity and stability. I thought I had said something about this several months ago on this blog, but I could not find it in the archives. It had also occured to mention Botswana in connection with the hoopla over the Live-8 concert, but I didn't get around to it. Fortunately, Will Franklin has picked up the slack in his entry for the Carnival of the Revolutions:

Botswana is the model for reforming Africa. It has a generally free and open market economy; it is freer, politically (.pdf -- Freedom House), than Brazil, India, and even Jamaica.

Corruption is low, the free enterprise system is allowed to work, and, what do you know, the country is one of the more successful countries in Africa. Botswana's per capita GDP ($9,200) is above that of China, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Turkey, Brazil, and Thailand; Botswana's per capita GDP even bests the world average.

Contrast Botswana with Zambia (or any number of sub-Saharan nations), and you can really see how much institutions matter.

In short, Africa could learn a lot, from one of its own.
One thing Will does not point out is that Botswana is largely a Christian nation. According to the CIA World Factbook, 71.6% of Batswana are Christians. (I have seen other estimates that place the number closer to 50%, but these numbers are only good for comaparison anyway.) Additionally about 80% of the country is literate, which is low by Western standards but remarkably high for African nations. Curiously, the female literacy rate is higher at 82.4% than the male rate at 76.9%. I would suggest that the prosperity Will cites is largely due to these two facts, both of which can be traced to the legacy of the British Empire.

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