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Once one of the poorest countries in the world, Botswana has experienced growth and development post-independence at a pace second to none. Today, Botswana stands as the least corrupt nation in mainland Africa, boasts the highest economic freedom score in the region, and maintains a GDP per capita on par with other emerging economies, such as Brazil and Turkey. Botswana’s economic, social, and political development represents one of modern Africa’s greatest success stories: a story that provides valuable insights on how strong leadership, with a keen emphasis on pragmatism over ideology, can guide nations out of poverty.

The Protectorate

Botswana’s pragmatism can be traced as far back as the colonial era, which involved uncharacteristically significant cooperation with colonialists. In the mid-19th century, when Tswana chiefdoms found themselves stuck in the “crossfire” between British, German and Boer militants, they made pleas to the British Crown for protection. Following their defeat in the Anglo-Boer War, the British finally agreed and established the Bechuanaland Protectorate in 1885. The Protectorate benefitted both the British and the local Tswana (in the short run), providing the former a strategic link between Central and Southern Africa, and the latter protection from Boer threats under the General Act of The Berlin Conference.

Since British interests in Bechuanaland were primarily strategic, not economic, the extent of colonialism was less severe than that of neighboring colonies. The British exercised indirect rule, with administration still consisting of indigenous institutions and leadership of traditional chiefs. The comparatively less grievous (but nonetheless characteristically exploitative) colonial experience may be one reason that Botswana was one of the few African colonies to achieve independence without the emergence of a significant nationalist movement.

One key instance, however, where Britain overstepped “indirect rule” was the expulsion of Sir Seretse Khama, the heir to the chiefdom of Bangwato from Bechuanaland. Khama’s marriage to Ruth Williams was frowned upon by the Cape Colony, where apartheid was enforced and interracial marriage was illegal. The Cape Colony exerted enough pressure on Britain that the House of Commons overturned tribal courts, or kgotlas, and forced Khama into exile in 1951. Nevertheless, he would later be knighted in Britain by Queen Elizabeth II for his political contributions and role in Botswana’s formation.

Khama was only allowed to return to his homeland upon renouncing his chieftainship. Thus, he returned to Bechuanaland in 1956 as a private citizen, founding the Democratic Party of Botswana and gaining domestic legitimacy through democratic support as opposed to ancestral tribal lineage. Khama’s demotion from heir to private citizen would significantly empower Botswana's political development as a stable democracy. By becoming Bechuanaland's prime minister and later the independent Botswana’s first president, he inadvertently transformed the political legacy of the nation from tribal to democratic. Since Khama’s claim to power was now through democracy as opposed to ancestry, his rise would help establish and legitimize republican democracy in Botswana. As a fortunate consequence of his progressive marriage, Botswana became a leader of democracy in Africa, second only to Mauritius in the EIU Democracy Index.

Early Independence

On September 30, 1966, Bechuanaland gained independence, establishing the Republic of Botswana. When Khama was elected to office, the nation had almost no prospects for growth and development. Botswana had a total of 12 kilometers of paved road and only 22 citizens who had attended university. Almost all of its citizens were illiterate (there were, in total, 100 high school graduates) and the nation ranked amongst the poorest in the world by GDP per capita. The newly independent government was reliant on British aid for nearly half of its budget.

Much of colonial Africa turned to nationalism in this period of early statecraft. Some states were able to make considerable progress, though often at the expense of human rights, democracy, or the rule of law. Khama’s approach, on the other hand, avoided radical ideology. He believed that Botswana’s citizens should enjoy increases in standard of living without losing basic civil and political liberties.

Botswana’s economy was dominated by livestock production. Livestock products accounted for more than 90 percent of exports and cattle outnumbered humans about three-to-one. As the nation's primary economic activity, livestock production was not particularly profitable or effective. Drought conditions and insufficient water supply posed real challenges to the sector; at multiple points in the 1960s, Botswana was reliant on famine relief aid to feed its citizens.

To begin expanding the economy beyond its reliance on livestock and towards Botswana’s diverse mineral resources, Khama borrowed heavily from abroad. This brought the tools to Botswana for small scale mining operations, producing some gold, kyanite, copper, and more sizable amounts of asbestos and manganese. While Botswana's early leaders adopted some neoliberal policies, they recognized the dangers of depending on the IMF and World Bank too heavily and thus ensured to keep them at arm’s length.

As Botswana's development began, it once again found itself in an unusually practical arrangement to solve a post colonial issue: the lack of skilled administrators to run the government. Since there were barely a few hundred formally educated local citizens, Khama had former British administrators from the colonial period to continue serving in government until enough qualified locals rose to the responsibility. This sense of pragmatism further extended to Khama’s foreign affairs, as he chose to adopt a policy of non-alignment, distinguishing Botswana from its surrounding regimes without antagonizing them.


Since other countries in the region had vast deposits of diamond reserves, Sir Seretse Khama had good reason to begin the search for diamonds in Botswana. However, many other oil, mineral and diamond rich nations had begun to politically collapse and backslide towards corruption and authoritarianism. This resource curse was exemplified by Nigeria and the Central African Republic, which suffered despite (if not due to) oil and diamond reserves respectively, serving as a cautionary tale for Botswana. Khama organized a unique approach to diamonds in Botswana by striking a deal with the Tswana clan leaders.

Since diamonds could potentially be discovered in some regions but not others, the clan leaders agreed beforehand to a resource-sharing agreement that disregarded domestic territorial claims. This would prevent any ‘geographically lucky’ clans from hoarding the nation’s wealth and ensure that all regions of Botswana reaped the benefits of future diamond mining. Khama struck this deal despite having been slipped the knowledge that his clan’s territory was diamond rich; he put his clan’s interest aside in the name of his nation.

In 1967, a team of De Beers geologists led by Manfred Marx collected soil samples with promising indicators for diamonds near the Kalahari Desert. This led to the development of the Orapa mine for 21 million rand in 1971–the largest open pit diamond mine in the world. To maximize this opportunity, Botswana established Debswana, a joint venture with De Beers. Debswana is the equal partnership between the Government of Botswana and De Beers, which each own half the company. Moreover, ownership of Botswana's Diamond Trading Company was split equally between the government and De Beers. This partnership has been conducive to business, giving both the private and public sector shared responsibility over operations. Under this agreement, De Beers estimates that for every dollar they earn in Botswana, 80 cents goes to the government.

The Orapa mine catapulted Botswana’s economy forward: for the thirty years between 1965 and 1995, Botswana had the fastest rate of economic growth in the world. Debswana’s success enriched the government, which in turn could maintain a stable, low tax rate, further leading to investment from multinational corporations, thus accelerating economic growth.

The profits from diamond production were reinvested by the government in healthcare, education, and infrastructure, which significantly boosted human development. Public hospitals and universities raised social standards in the nation, and infrastructure projects boosted economic accessibility, transforming Botswana into a middle income country. Today, diamond production is responsible for one-third of Botswana's GDP, half of its public spending, and 80 percent of its export revenue.

The Diversification Question

During this period of extreme growth, Botswana co-established the Southern African Development Community to reduce the region's reliance on the economic strength of South Africa and Rhodesia, two militarily aggressive states with little regard for human rights. Botswana abandoned the South African rand and established their own currency, the pula. The Central Bank regulated the pula effectively, meeting the needs of local businesses and making it one of the strongest and best performing currencies on the continent. Botswana displayed the necessary pragmatism to adopt successful policies from other countries, such as “Singapore-inspired work improvement teams” to increase economic productivity. Despite this growth and success, however, Botswana struggled to achieve both political and economic diversity.

Botswana's early successes have not translated to an equal distribution of power and diversity in the political landscape. Following Sir Seretse Khama's death in 1980, he was succeeded by his Vice President, Sir Quett Ketumile Joni Masire. Masire was widely successful, winning reelection for 18 straight years. Despite being a multi-party democracy on paper, since independence, the only party to hold administration in Botswana is the Botswana Democratic Party. The party has been led by two generations of Khama, first between 1966 to 1980 by Sir Seretse Khama and later between 2008 to 2018 by his son, Ian Khama.

No other party has won the general election, a fact that may inadvertently undermine democracy in Botswana in the future. In 2018, Mokgweetsi Masisi from the BDP was elected on a populist platform, marking over 50 years of power for the BDP. It seems unclear whether the BDP's dominance leaves any room for a healthy political landscape; to what extent can democracy in modern Botswana be considered multi-party? Another significant challenge lies in the power De Beers holds over Botswana’s sovereignty. De Beers’ influence over politics could be a major threat to democracy in Botswana. With questions of political diversity and neo-colonialism, new obstacles loom over Botswana’s political class.

Economic diversity is an even greater challenge for Botswana. Despite attempts to move towards a knowledge-based tertiary sector economy, Botswana’s economy remains dominated by diamonds and livestock production. The underdevelopment of other sectors has led to both high wealth inequality and rising unemployment. In June, Botswana struck a revised deal with De Beers to gain more ownership of diamonds mined in Botswana and to introduce downstream operations, such as diamond cutting and polishing, to the economy.

Experts argue this new deal marks the beginning of the end of De Beers’ monopoly over diamond production in Botswana. Moreover, if production continues at its high pace, Botswana may begin to run out of its diamond reserves in the coming decade. If Botswana does manage to overcome stagnation, inequality, and unemployment long term, it would only be by significantly restructuring and diversifying its economy.

With new challenges on the horizon, it is unclear whether Botswana's economic and political legacy will stand tall or begin to collapse. The nation owes much of its prosperity today to the shrewd and pragmatic governance of its early leaders. Will the strong leadership that brought the nation this far live on? Or will Botswana’s economic and political challenges prove too great–and crack Africa’s brightest gem? Source HIR 

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) accused the executive of trying to stifle the implementation of the revitalised peace agreement by cash-strapping some electoral bodies.

The Deputy Chairman of SPLM-IO, Oyet Nathaniel, issued a statement on Monday, noting that the act of delayed funding for all the critical institutions signified the lack of political will to implement the R-ARCSS.

Oyet noted that the council of ministers met on February 9 and passed the supplementary budgets for six critical election institutions, but only two of them were funded: the Political Parties Council and the National Elections Commission.

According to Oyet, the Cabinet had cleared a supplementary budget for the electoral bodies in the following manner. The National Constitutional Review Commission was allocated $23.7 million out of $43 million requested, the Political Parties Council $16.3 Million out of  $60 Million requested, National Elections Commission $27.2 Million out of $230.5 Million requested, the National Bureau of Statistics $12.1 Million out of $107 million requested, National Transitional Committee $9.4 Million out of $130 Million requested, and elections security by the ministry of interior $13.6 out of $105 Million requested.

However, he noted that only the PPC and the NEC got the partial funding.

He said, “political parties’ council, only $5 million out of the Targeted supplementary budget of $16 Million, and the National Elections Commission with only $15 Million out of the targeted Supplementary budget of $27 million.”

“We would like to state that this is a deliberate plan to undermine the most critical institutions of the agreement leading to the conduct of elections. This further demonstrates the lack of political will for the implementation of the R-ARCSS in letter and spirit,” Oyet noted.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO), one of the main signatories to the R-ARCSS has been vocal about implementing the remaining tasks and funding the pre-election institutions.

In March 2024, during a press conference, the deputy chairman of the SPLM–IO Oyet said his party would not participate in the polls without prerequisite tasks in place for elections.

According to him, some of the prerequisites include a permanent constitution-making process and a National population Census which fall under the National Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC) National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Last week, the Chairperson of the Political Parties Council, James Akol, announced that the electoral institutions had enough resources to hold the December polls.

 “We all know that in December 2024 there is an election. As such the electoral institutions have been avail sufficient resources necessary, among them is a political party council.

We have the necessary resources that you people need to be able to go for the election “This is an official statement from me that we have been resourced; we have been given the necessary resources that are meant for the election,” said Akol during the validation of the code of conduct for the political parties forum held at the Pyramid Hotel.

Funding cleared for electoral bodies

NCRC- $23.7M out of $43M

PPC- $16.3M out of $60M

NEC- $27.2M out of $230.5M

NBS- $12.1M out of $107M

NTC- $9.4M out of $130M

Security- $13.6M out of $105M  By Chol Mawel, Tower Post 

Kenya Airways plane taking off from the JKIA, Nairobi, in September 2019.  [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

According to recent media reports, “the government says it will not yield to pressure to liberalise Kenyan skies and to give foreign carriers easy access to different airports within the country.”

This decision has elicited mixed reactions. There are those who approve of this; who appreciate that Kenya’s airspace is a valuable resource that must be used for the benefit of citizens.

Then there are others who have received this decision with consternation, who argue that open skies would ramp up the number of visitors to the country. They aver that competition is good and that protectionism is needless.

No doubt, the liberalisation of airspace and the facilitation of competition is good. But only when there is a level playing field. The question that arises then is whether Kenyan carriers operate on a level playing field. The answer is that they do not. The odds are stacked against local airlines and tilt heavily in favour of foreign carriers in the following ways.

First, local carriers are subscale. They have fewer planes relative to many foreign carriers. This makes the unit cost of operating them higher than bigger airlines. They do not benefit from the same economies of scale. The Covid-19 pandemic taught the world that having a national carrier is a national security matter. Local airlines must therefore be allowed to grow organically to the point where they can match their international counterparts.

Second, the cost of operating an airline in Africa is higher than in Europe, America or the Middle East by more than 40 per cent on account of higher fuel costs and intra-Africa taxes. For instance, the passenger charge for a traveller within Europe is a mere 6 US dollars whereas it is 110 US dollars within Africa.

The Single African Air Travel Market is an initiative that seeks to remove all restrictions within the African continent for African carriers to thrive. Kenya is a signatory to this initiative. Once other countries on the continent come on board, African carriers will then compete effectively against their foreign counterparts.

Third, a lot of foreign competitors are backed by their governments. This is both at the policy level and through subsidies. For example, the US has a “fly American” policy that precludes flying on a foreign carrier using funds from taxpayers. Policies are also used to protect airlines from competition. Delta, an American carrier, does not fly to Dubai because it cannot compete with Emirates on a policy and subsidy level.

Because aviation is a very expensive business with thin margins, most countries with successful airlines tend to subsidise them heavily. In the last four years, Emirates has received more than USD 4 billion from the UAE government in subsidies. Singapore Airlines received USD 19 billion for post-pandemic recovery whereas American carriers got USD 56 billion from the US government towards the same. Carriers in Kenya have to make do with commercial arrangements and some limited support from the government.

These are the questions proponents of open skies should ask: Would Kenya receive more tourists because of open skies or because of tourist attractions? Would not tourist numbers be ramped up by marketing Kenya as more than just a beach and safari destination? Mr Khafafa is a public policy analyst, The Standard

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled in favor of four Swiss women and members of Switzerland's Senior Women for Climate Protection who argued that the Swiss government had not done enough to combat climate change. Photo by Ronald Wittek/EPA-EFE upi April 9 (UPI) 

The European Court of Human Rights in France ruled in favor of four older Swiss women on Tuesday that Switzerland's lack of action on climate change was harming them. The court found that the Swiss government "failed to comply with its duties under the Convention concerning climate change in the case brought by the women, mostly in their 70s, and the group Senior Women for Climate Protection.

"The court found that the convention encompasses a right to effective protection by the state authorities from the serious adverse effects of climate change on lives, health, well-being and quality of life," the court said in a statement.

"The court held that there had been a violation of the right to respect for private and family life of the convention and that the had been a violation of the right to access to the court. The women said their age and gender made them more vulnerable to climate change and the government's actions were lacking in protecting them. They said the high temperatures made it so they were unable to leave their homes and that heat waves in Switzerland impacted their health. The ruling marked the first time the court had ruled in favor of plaintiffs in a climate case.

Sebastien Duyck, senior attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law said the decision will hopefully send a message to others about climate change agreements. "While we do not have all the details yet, this decision is historical," Duyck said. "The court has found the petition admissible and finds a violation of the right of the Klimaseniorinnen both process and on the substance." The court on Tuesday, however, also declared challenges by a French mayor and six young people from Portugal who argued that European governments were violating their human rights by not doing enough to deal with climate change.

In the latter case, the Portuguese citizens ranging in age from 11 to 24 charged that 32 EU countries were not doing enough to cut warming to a target goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius presented in the Paris Climate Agreement, citing wildfires that have ravaged the country every year since 2017. By Clyde Hughes, UPI News


Rwandan President Paul Kagame has commended Kenya on its contribution to the reconstruction of Rwanda after the 1994 Genocide.

President Kagame pointed out that Kenya hosted many fleeing Rwandese during that tragic period.

Nairobi was among countries, President Kagame told Heads of State and Governments, Envoys and Heads of Delegation in Kigali Sunday,  that helped in the rebirth of the peaceful modern-day Rwanda.

He spoke at BK Arena in Kigali during the 30th National commemoration of the Genocide that claimed one million lives.

Kenya, among other countries, “hosted large members and numbers of Rwandan refugees and gave them a home,” the Rwandan President noted.

Kenya was represented at the commemoration by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua who stood in for President William Ruto.

“Today we also feel a particular gratitude to all the friends and representatives here with us from around the world. We are deeply honoured by your presence alongside us on this very heavy day.

The contributions you have made to Rwanda’s rebirth are enormous and have helped us to stand where we are now. I want to recognise the few while also asking for forgiveness for not being able to mention all who deserve it,” he said.

Deputy President Gachagua joined thousands of Rwandans led by their President, 19 Heads of State and Government, Former Heads of State, world leaders and heads of international delegations at the event dubbed Kwibuka30 National Remembrance Ceremony.

The theme of the commemoration is “Remember, unite, renew.” 

Mr Gachagua laid a wreath at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in honour of the 1994 Genocide victims.

The memorial centre is one of the final resting place of victims of the Genocide that claimed more than one million lives of men, women and children in a period of three months.

Today, Sunday, marked the start of the 100-day commemoration period.

The Deputy President led a delegation that included the Deputy Majority Leader in the National Assembly Owen Baya (MP Kilifi North) and MPs Edward Muriu (Gatanga), John Kaguchia (Mukurwe-ini), Veronicah Maina (Nominated Senator), Patrick Munene (Chuka Igamba-Ng’ombe), Julius Rutto (Kesses), Parashina Samuel (Kajiado South), Benjamin Langat (Ainamoi), Agnes Pareiyo (Narok North) and former Starehe MP Charles Njagua together with university student leaders Justise Jabali (president of Murang’a University of Technology) and Francis Ngugi Mwaura (student leader at Pwani University).

Some of the world leaders at the event included former US President Bill Clinton, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, South Sudan’s President Salva Kirr as well as Tanzania’s Samia Sulubu and Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, among others.

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