Botswana Forever: The Real-life Wakanda?
So after watching Black Panther twice, I was inspired to write this post. In my opinion, the movie was excellent. Regardless of the unrealistic accents, I found it extremely refreshing to see Africa portrayed in such a positive light and the narrative of what it means to be African somewhat reversed. While acknowledging the utopian nature of Wakanda, Botswana seems to embody some of the key elements that made Wakanda admirable.
Dissimilar to most countries in Africa, Wakanda has no colonial history. Its unique situation denotes a conjectured instance of what an African nation could become with minimal intrusion from the Western world. On the other hand, Botswana was colonized by Britain and gained independence in 1966. At independence, it was regarded as one of the poorest countries in the world. Thus, like every other African country, the odds have been against them from the onset.
Just like Wakanda where vibranium was their thriving source of growth, Botswana’s remarkable growth experience was fuelled by natural resources; specifically diamonds. The diamond industry encouraged growth and generated employment opportunities across different sectors. This had a positive spillover effect that was instrumental in transforming their economy.
From independence until 2016, Botswana's GDP per capita has increased from $83 to $7,383
Unlike many developing countries endowed with natural resources, Botswana has managed to strip away the curse of possessing natural resources and metamorphosed into one of the most successful economies in the world. When compared to other resource-rich countries like Nigeria, Sierra Leone and DR Congo their economic turnaround is considered an "African Miracle".
There is a widespread misconception that the discovery of diamonds is the only reason for Botswana's fortunate position. However, this is inaccurate because if this was true, a number of countries in Africa will be examples of economic success stories. Botswana’s case illustrates the significance of effective governance combined with reasonable economic policies.
The "resource curse" refers to the irony that resource-rich countries tend to experience slower economic growth, less democracy, and worse development outcomes than resource-poor countries.
President Seretse Khama was the transformational leader who established the strong foundation that has allowed Botswana thrive. He led the country through its formative years and encouraged fiscal discipline, monetary stability, and fostered openness to trade. Unlike most African leaders in resource-rich nations, he did not engage in rent-seeking activities. Instead, he channelled diamond revenues into the creation of infrastructure that improved the living conditions of his people. President Khama exhibited effective leadership that enabled the emergence of a well-governed country. In some ways, he reminds me of Wakanda's leader (the Black Panther) who was fully committed to ensuring that the use of vibranium was directed towards profitable and valuable activities that directly benefitted the country and its populace.
In 1980 Botswana and Mauritius were regarded as the only two democracies in Sub-Saharan Africa Botswana’s economic success can be attributed to the conscious effort made by its government to properly manage resource rents. Furthermore, effective leadership displayed by President Khama and his successors has minimised the typical problems associated with the resource curse e.g. corruption, the Dutch disease and lack of diversification.
What Can Resource-rich Nations in Africa Learn from Botswana?
Diversify the economy
Avoid accumulating external debt
Adopt strict fiscal rules for managing and distributing resource rents
Accumulate wealth in a natural resource fund that is highly transparent
Implement structural reforms to ensure that resource wealth is effectively directed towards productive activities that promote sustainable growth and development