HIV/AIDS in Botswana

Botswana is a landlocked country in Southern Africa that is bordered by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia. It has a relatively stable economy, boasting the fifth highest GDP per capita in Africa. However, in 2019, Botswana had the third-highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world with 21.9 percent of the population living HIV positive. This article will discuss the efforts that the government of Botswana and other global companies and organizations have made to help bring this epidemic to a halt.

“Masa” Program

HIV/AIDS rates have been steadily declining every year in Botswana since 2000, when the HIV/AIDS epidemic reached its peak in the country with 26.3 percent of people testing positive. In 2001, Festus Mogae, the President of Botswana at the time, pledged to devote significant resources towards stopping the spread of the virus. In 2002, through a partnership with the Botswana government, the American pharmaceutical company Merck & Co offered to donate antiretroviral therapy drugs (ART) free of charge to individuals in communities throughout the country. By 2013, the program, called “Masa,” had reached more than 220,000 individuals.The Masa program also helped fund infrastructure development and health care professional training. In addition, new treatment centers and resource centers were constructed to help treat patients and contributed to the decline in HIV/AIDS rates.

UNDP Efforts

In 2010, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) entered into a cost-sharing agreement with the government of Botswana. The agreement called for increased funding to help improve the capacity and effectiveness of HIV/AIDS treatment in the country. So far, the agreement has helped to improve Botswana’s institutional capacity to fight HIV/AIDS. In addition to these efforts, in 2010, the UNDP, in conjunction with the Unified Budget Results and Accountability Framework (UBRAF) helped fund additional HIV/AIDS prevention efforts. These efforts included a commitment to reduce the stigma of using HIV/AIDS-related services. This program has been successfully implemented in various communities across the country.

“90-90-90” Targets

In 2011, UNAIDS set what they dubbed “90-90-90” targets for the year 2020. The goal is to diagnose 90 percent of individuals with AIDS, have 90 percent of diagnosed individuals on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and ensure that 90 percent of individuals with AIDS achieve viral suppression. Botswana has already achieved these targets, as have other countries including Cambodia and Denmark. This is a testament to the commitment made by the Botswana government to fight HIV/AIDS.

New Health Strategies

In 2017, of the estimated 380,000 people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in Botswana, almost 320,000 had access to treatment. However, in June 2019, President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced a renewed commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS in Botswana. This renewed focus includes two new five-year health strategies — the Third National Strategic Framework for HIV/AIDS and the Multi-Sectoral Strategy for the Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases — to help further tackle the problem of HIV/AIDS in Botswana. These health strategies are set to be reevaluated in 2023.

– Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Foreign Policy in Botswana
The Republic of Botswana, a Southern African nation of nearly three million people, is an incredibly stable country with one of the strongest democratic traditions on the continent. Multi-party elections every five years compound a booming economy that has grown by 5 percent annually, according to the World Bank. Today, it is an upper-middle-income nation. Despite these successes, Botswana faces a litany of challenges. Poverty remains high at 16 percent and an 18 percent unemployment rate harms growth. The 2018 USAID “Have It All” documentary states that HIV/AIDS is still a public health crisis that affects one in five people and infects 14,000 new individuals each year. U.S. foreign policy in Botswana focuses on safeguarding stability by tackling these challenges.

History of Cooperation

Botswana gained independence from the U.K. in 1966, but America did not become involved in the country until the 1980s. With the help of USAID, U.S.-Botswana relations developed into an amicable, bilateral partnership. A Department of Defense report indicates military cooperation characterized this partnership in the 1990s. The Botswana Defense Force worked with American forces in Operation Restore Hope, which sought to provide famine relief to starving people in Somalia in 1993.

In 2004, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) started operating in the country. Botswana also signed a Trade, Investment and Development Cooperative Agreement (TIDCA) with the U.S. in 2008 to encourage free trade between the countries. Current U.S. foreign policy in Botswana intends to bolster past programs with these focuses:

1. Increase economic development with USAID’s Southern Africa Mission.
2. Sustain law enforcement cooperation with training at the ILEA.
3. Continue fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic with PEPFAR.

The Southern Africa Mission

The Southern Africa Mission is a regional program USAID runs that involves the Development Credit Authority (DCA) and the Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hub (SATIH). It works to solve issues with investment, business growth, agricultural development and trade in Southern Africa. Botswana is one of the six countries it actively works in.

Its mission is a vital part of U.S. foreign policy in Botswana. According to a USAID official, Botswana desperately requires business development in order to recover from years of dependency on government services. Banks’ unwillingness to grant credit to fledgling businesses poses problems for sustainable growth. The DCA remedies this problem by providing U.S. Treasury-backed loans to local businesses. With a financially grounded business, banks become less risk-averse and allow credit access.

The SATIH promotes necessary business growth as well. As of 2019, it has assisted 650 African firms with overcoming trade barriers and has brought about $129 million in investment. USAID told The Borgen Project that SATIH expands prospects for Botswana’s firms, particularly agricultural firms, by occasionally bringing them to trade shows in New York. These films and accompanying improvements in beef quality have helped grow Botswana’s U.S. market by 10 percent. More economic growth will speed Botswana’s progress against poverty.

The ILEA

The International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) started in the capital of Gaborone in 2000 and trains officials to combat transnational crime. In correspondence with The Borgen Project, a State Department spokesperson stated that over 9,000 African officials had trained there under instructors from more than 20 American federal agencies. Botswana obtains special relationships with these instructors by hosting the ILEA.

The aforementioned relationships provide a wealth of information to Botswana’s law enforcement officials. A 2019 training schedule showed various courses on human trafficking, crisis leadership, anti-terrorism and anti-corruption offered throughout the year. The ILEA’s anti-corruption training has a definite effect on the country’s well-being. Transparency International ranked Botswana as 34 out of 180 nations on its 2018 Corruption Perception Index, making it the least corrupt nation in Africa.

PEPFAR

PEPFAR provides funding to a variety of federal organizations that respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana. Programs work to increase testing for HIV, treat infected individuals immediately and reduce the stigma of infection. The U.S. has allocated $67.88 million for these purposes in FY 2020 according to the State Department.

With PEPFAR’s help, HIV testing reached 708,102 individuals in FY 2017 alone. A government report stated that it also covered 60 percent of the HIV testing kits used between April 2017 and 2018. This financial support can save lives since Botswana treats HIV-positive patients with antiretroviral medications (ARVs) immediately under the Treat All Program. USAID officials told The Borgen Project that these programs emphasize community engagement and encourage Botswana’s citizens receive testing and ARVs.

ARVs are powerful, suppressing the viral load to such an extent that they stop transmission. Maria and Edwin, an HIV-positive couple in USAID’s “Have It All” film, received immediate treatment and stopped the virus from passing to their three children. USAID even stated that ARVs stop transmission between sexual partners. Now, U.S. foreign policy in Botswana is shifting to normalizing AIDS treatment. “The [‘Have It All’] documentary,” one official said, “has been shown to social workers and adolescents . . . and now we are really moving into stigma reduction.”

U.S. foreign policy in Botswana continues building on the progress the nation has made since 1966. Despite the immense challenges, bilateral cooperation can assist in defeating economic stagnation, corruption and AIDS. There is more work to do, but American aid ensures Botswana’s renowned stability will continue into the future.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Flickr

 

Poaching and Poverty in Botswana

Botswana is home to roughly one third of all of Africa’s wild elephant population, largely thanks to governmental bans on big game hunting. While other African countries kept more lenient laws in place, many elephants fled to Botswana seeking refuge, leading to the large concentration of elephants in Botswana. However, on May 22, 2019, the Ministry of Environment released a report stating that sport hunters would once again be allowed to hunt elephants after the five-year ban. This means that the cycle of poaching and poverty in Botswana will continue until action is taken.

Poaching by the Numbers

According to National Geographic, elephant populations across Africa dropped by thirty percent between 2007 and 2014. In the years since 2014, Botswana has only suffered more losses to their elephant population. A study published in the scientific journal Current Biology found that elephant carcasses in the years between 2014 and 2018 increased by around 600 percent. Considering that the hunting ban was only lifted in May 2019, this means that the significant increase in elephant deaths can partially be attributed to illegal poaching.

Why Illegal Poaching?

Illegal poaching, especially of elephants, has become a relatively lucrative industry in Africa as demand for ivory in Asian countries remains high. Illegal poaching creates jobs for people living in rural areas where other opportunities may be scarce. The lax enforcement of poaching bans and environmental regulations contributes to the cycle of poaching, but the larger issue is the lack of opportunities for people in rural areas to participate in legal, sustainable ventures.

Ecotourism, for example, is one way in which African countries can profit off of protecting their natural resources. Poaching threatens the very animals and environment that attract so many tourists. While a successful ecotourism industry requires investment in protecting and preserving land, it is a more sustainable (and legal) way to create sustainable jobs in more rural areas. According to the journal Nature Communications, elephant poaching causes African nations to lose the equivalent of 25 million USD each year in revenue that could have been brought in via tourism and conservation efforts.

The Link Between Poverty and Poaching

Poaching and poverty in Botswana is a cycle that hurts the environment, the citizens of Botswana and the economy as a whole. Creating and enforcing stricter poaching laws will not stop illegal poaching as long as there are no other job opportunities for people. A study published in the Nature Communications journal suggests that enforcement of anti-poaching laws will only be successful if the efforts are matched with measures to reduce poverty and corruption.

While poverty in Botswana decreased from 30.6 to 19.4 percent between the years 2002 and 2010, rural areas are still struggling to implement sustainable economic practices. The connection between impoverished communities and poaching levels demonstrates that poaching is driven by economic necessity; investment in rural and impoverished areas could serve to break the cycle of poaching and poverty in Botswana.

Looking Ahead

As poaching in Botswana threatens both elephants and the economy, several conservation groups have been conducting research and collecting data to make the government more aware of the issues associated with poaching. Elephants Without Borders (EWB) is a non-profit group based in Kazungula, Botswana that has provided recent data regarding elephant carcasses in Botswana and surrounding nations. By tracking migratory patterns and identifying elephant populations, EWB seeks to protect elephant habitats and educate the public about this important species. So far, EWB has implemented tracking collars on 170 elephants that travel across five African nations. This data can help scientists understand how why and how elephants migrate and choose habitats.Groups such as EWB are key components in the effort to eliminate illegal poaching in Africa.

– Erin Grant
Photo: Flickr

Diamonds in Botswana

Botswana, located in southern Africa, has a population of 2 million. The country has achieved an impressive record of economic development and poverty reduction over the last half-century. In 1950, Botswana’s GDP per capita was $1,344. Today, it is $15,015, making Botswana a middle-income country. As the second-largest exporter of diamonds, the prudent economic management of diamonds in Botswana is responsible for much of this growth.

The Resource Curse

Paradoxically, many countries that discover large domestic reserves of natural commodities like petroleum, gold or rare-earth metals experience economic stagnation or decline. A recent paper by the International Monetary Fund explains that this trend often occurs because of commodity-dependence. When a country is heavily dependent on just one commodity export and the price of that commodity declines, there is no other revenue stream to salvage the economy. However, Botswana is a standing reproach to this trend. Judicious fiscal policy has allowed Botswana to reap the rewards of their vast diamond reserves while avoiding many potential setbacks.

Botswana’s Fiscal Prudence

Due to its capital intensive nature, the employment potential of mining is Botswana has always been limited. While diamonds make up 40 percent of Botswana’s GDP and 90 percent of Botswana’s exports, diamonds in Botswana only account for four percent of employment. As a result, the government has had to find ways to distribute the wealth generated from diamond exports across the country’s population.

Botswana has been lauded for the effective management of its diamond supply. In particular, the country has employed two strategies to ensure that its diamond exports promote sustainable, egalitarian economic growth: decoupling expenditure and revenue and investing in economic diversification.

First, Botswana has chosen not to automatically increase government spending during economic booms. Instead, when diamond prices rise and government revenue increases, Botswana often saves cash to cushion the blow during price shocks. This long-term economic mindset has prevented recessions. For example, the World Bank writes that when diamond revenues fell in 1981, Botswana used a rainy day fund to avoid any drastic decrease in government expenditure.

Botswana uses six-year National Development Plans to outline their expenditure levels. These plans involve feasibility checks to make sure that investment projects are sustainable even if government revenue falls. Once the National Development Plan has been approved, no additional projects can be added without a majority vote from parliament. These mechanisms work toward assuring that Botswana has enough reserve cash if its diamond reserves falter.

Economic Diversification

The second strategy Botswana uses to grow its economy is diversification into sectors other than diamond mining. A variegated economy is less vulnerable to commodity price shocks. Botswana has invested much of its earnings from diamond exports into incentive structures that encourage manufacturing and agriculture. In 2005, Botswana created the Business and Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) tasked with identifying barriers to diversification and crafting responsive action plans. As a result of this focus, the Botswanan economy has continued to grow even when global diamond prices fall. What is more, manufacturing today comprises 14 percent of Botswanan GDP and is more diversified than it was at independence. Even though Botswana has relied on diamonds for the last few decades, manufacturing growth in Botswana outpaced the sub-Saharan African average from 1970 to 1996.

Botswana’s Progress

Good governance has propelled Botswana from a low-income to a middle-income country. In 1985, 59 percent of the population was living in poverty. Today, that percentage has dropped to 19 percent. In 1966, 60 percent of Botswana’s government expenditure came from foreign aid. Today, only three percent of expenditure comes from foreign aid. As Botswana continues to aim for economic diversification and prudent fiscal management, they stand as an impressive example of the impact that judicious economic policy can have on a vulnerable population.

– Abraham Rohrig
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Botswana
In working on ameliorating living conditions in Botswana, there still remains a lot of work to be done, especially on improving women’s rights. For housing opportunities, organizations and the government in Botswana are still working on providing access to housing to meet the rise of people moving to cities. One positive development is the significant decrease in poverty. In the article below, the positive and negative trends of the country will be presented through the top 10 facts about living conditions in Botswana.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Botswana

  1. The unemployment rate for women remains higher than the unemployment rate for men. Of the girls and women who are unemployed in urban areas, 48 percent of them aged 15 to 29 did not have employment in 2009.
  2. There have been significant strides in reducing poverty and ameliorating living conditions in Botswana. From 2002 to 2010 poverty decreased from 30.6 percent to 19.4 percent, mostly in rural areas. One of the causes of this decrease is the government bolstering incomes for people working in agriculture and demographic changes. The result of this was 180,000 people who have gotten out of poverty. Of this number, 87 percent were from rural areas. However, 50 percent of the population in the country still lives below the international poverty line of $60 per month.
  3. Beginning in 1981, Botswana has affirmed the human rights to water and sanitation. Section 57 of the Public Health Act helps officers to provide the purity of water for drinking and domestic purposes by the public. There have been reforms in sanitation in a period from 2008 to 2013 from the review of the Botswana National Water Master Plan as well as in water supply, wastewater services and resource management.
  4. Working on achieving the Millenium Development Goal 1 (eradicate extreme poverty and hunger), Botswana has been made substantial progress towards zero hunger. One area of research is weight-for-age children. The Botswana National Nutrition Surveillance System oversees this part of the research. The information records that there has been a substantial decrease in child malnutrition. Child malnutrition has gone down from 14.6 percent in 1993 to 4.3 percent in 2008. Botswana has strived to support the connection between nutrition and development, demonstrated by providing free meals in public schools.
  5. Starting in 2011, Project Concern International (PCI) has been helping to improve the quality of life in Botswana. Botswana is the country with the third largest HIV prevalence in the world. In total, 21.9 percent of the population is infected with HIV. Yet, there have been significant strides in the antiretroviral treatment program, completely free for everyone.
  6. In 2017, the GDP in Botswana was $17.41 billion. Botswana’s GDP value in the world economy totals to 0.03 percent. Value of GDP in 2017 was the highest ever, and the lowest value of the country’s GDP was $0.03 billion, recorded in 1961.
  7. There has been a sharp increase in urban growth in Botswana. One issue that impoverished people in Botswana face is lack of access to land and housing. Possible solutions for this problem are the construction of squatter settlements, public housing and service and self-help housing.
  8. Around 60 percent of the population lives in the cities. As a result of this high percentage of urbanization, there is a difficulty in providing substantial access to quality housing in urban areas.
  9. The health system is made up of the public, profitable private and nonprofitable profit sector. The public sector provides 98 percent of all health care. In addition, referral hospitals, primary hospitals, clinics and health posts administer health care. Shedding light on Botswana’s health system is an analysis carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO). The report made the claim that providing universal coverage of health care is key to striving for an equitable health system. As of yet, there has not so far been a way developed to finance a health system to provide all people in the country with equal access to health services. One initiative working to improve people’s health in Botswana is the IntraHealth International CapacityPlus initiative that seeks to increase access to data on the health workforce in order to bolster teaching skills to the health workforce and boost retention.
  10. The education system aims to provide high-quality education to its students. In primary schools, 86 percent of the children who began enrollment in school have a probable chance of moving on to the fifth grade. Students have the assurance of having at least 10-year long education. Half of the students go for two years of additional schooling to receive the Botswana General Certificate of education. After completing secondary school, there are opportunities to seek out vocational training and opportunities in higher education.

While there is room for efforts to be made to improve living conditions in Botswana, the country has made significant progress. Specifically, it has almost cut the poverty rate in half from 2002 to 2010. With more work, Botswana can continue to see an improvement in living conditions for its citizens.

– Daniel McAndrew-Greiner

Photo: Flickr

girls’ education in Botswana
Botswana, a country in southern Africa, has reached a stable, democratic government with strength in its economic policies and education system. Primary net enrollment rate is about 85 percent with participation between girls and boys averaging an almost equal number. 

However, there are still many barriers to girls education such as sexual violence, orphan and child-headed household, social-cultural issues and early pregnancies. Many initiatives and programs, such as those shown below, are motivated to improve learning outcomes and provide a gender-sensitive environment that will encourage girls to stay in school. 

Free Sanitary Pads as School Supplies

One in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa misses schools during their period. Others lose 20 percent of their education which makes them more likely to drop out of school. oftentimes, poor academic performance can be attributed to girls missing school when on their monthly menstrual period. 

Botswana’s parliament is improving girls’ education in Botswana through a motion on August 2017 that offers girls in both private and public schools sanitary pads. This will allow the girls who cannot afford their own sanitary pads to continue their education during menstrual periods. It is the first country in Africa and the second country in the world to offer free sanitary products to young women.

Women in STEM 

Up to 40 percent of all orphans in Botswana are 12-17 years old. Many children become caregivers, especially girls, and are forced to have adult responsibilities. As a result, inadequate health care, lack of protection from sexual assault and decreased education all increase.

Stepping Stones International (SSI) is an after-school and community outreach program that serves orphaned and vulnerable adolescents and their caregivers.

SSI is improving girls’ education in Botswana through the implementation of a year-long, day after-school program that includes STEM activities that empower girls to obtain critical thinking skills. The program also hopes to each girls to understand the impact of engineering in a global context. Through aiding youth in developing design process skills and using them in various engineering challenges, the organization helps address the gap in girls’ education and teaches youth how to apply STEM tools to real-life situations. 

Educating Girls on HIV Risks

At 24 percent, Botswana has the third-highest HIV prevalence worldwide among adults. It’s estimated that more than 40 percent of those with HIV are from older males that offer girls gifts and money in exchange for sexual relationships. For each year older a male partner is than the female, the risk of unprotected sex increases by 28 percent.

Young 1ove is a non-governmental organization based in Botswana that scales evidence-based programs in health and education. The group is improving girls’ education in Botswana through its program, “No Sugar,” which teaches girls about the likelihood of attracting HIV from older men.

The course has reaches more that 350,000 students in 350 schools across the country. A study conducted by the organization on pregnancy rates — another risk of unprotected sex — revealed that in schools that taught the course, pregnancy dropped 30 to 40 percent. 

Benefits of Girls’ Education in Botswana

An educated girl is healthier, married later, has healthier children and reinvests in her family and community. Botswana is committed to overcoming the barriers that hinder girls access to education.

The long-term goal of aiding organizations and initiatives is to see an increase in the number of girls who complete secondary school and go on to attend college or begin a career. 

– Anne-Marie Maher
Photo: Flickr

infrastructure in BotswanaBotswana is a country in southern Africa, landlocked between Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Gaining independence from the U.K. in 1966, Botswana is considered to be one of the most politically and economically stable countries in Africa, with the Botswana Democratic Party winning every election since independence and the country maintaining a relatively prosperous economy due to mineral extraction, specifically diamond mining. It is no surprise that infrastructure in Botswana is relatively well developed compared to some of its African neighbors. Yet, recent reports have shown a downward trend in various infrastructure sectors, which may be of concern.

Diamond mining is one of Botswana’s most important assets, as diamonds make up more than 60 percent of the country’s exports and around 25 percent of its GDP. The opening of Jwaneng, the world’s richest diamond mine, launched Botswana from being one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the richest countries in Africa. Currently, Jwaneng alone produces around 2,100 kilograms of diamonds a year. The wealth generated from diamond mining has contributed significantly to an increase in the standard of living in the country and services and infrastructure in Botswana have vastly improved as well.

Botswana’s roads are maintained by the local and central government. 2015 statistics from the Botswana Transport and Infrastructure Statistics Report stated that the total road network equaled 30,275.64 kilometers, with bitumen and gravel roads comprising the majority of the roads at 33 and 35 percent respectively. Travel by road constitutes the majority of travel in Botswana, accounting for 93 percent of passenger transportation. In addition, Botswana has 971 kilometers of railroad laid out and 12 airports with paved runways. Together, they comprise about 7 percent of passenger transportation.

Telecommunication infrastructure in Botswana is also vastly developed thanks to its location. Botswana is located directly north of South Africa, which has allowed the country to follow and access South Africa’s telecommunication infrastructure. Botswana has one of the highest rates of cell phone use on the continent and landline services are provided by the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation. Although slow Internet speeds still remains a problem, Internet usage is increasing, with an estimated 15 percent of the population having access to the Internet, according to the Global Information Technology Report.

In terms of power infrastructure in Botswana, the country produces coal for electricity and oil is imported into the country. Recently, the country has taken a large interest in renewable energy sources and has completed a comprehensive strategy that will attract investors in the wind, solar and biomass renewable energy industries.

There are some reports that infrastructure in Botswana is declining, as just within the past five years the quality of infrastructure has severely fallen, alongside other African countries such as Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. However, funding is now being increasingly provided by China, which is playing a huge role in financing infrastructure in resource-rich African nations such as Botswana. The country can use these investments to build on its good infrastructure foundations and continue to improve the quality of life for its citizens.

– Miho Kitamura

Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to botswana
Botswana is celebrated as a stable democracy in the African region and has experienced steady economic growth for a middle-income country. However, its population also struggles with damaging droughts and one of the highest rates of HIV in the world. Since Botswana is considered a middle-income country, the amount of humanitarian aid to Botswana has decreased considerably, especially when compared to other African countries such as Tanzania.

Botswana has made notable success in its mission to reduce the high HIV rates, and such an accomplishment wouldn’t have been possible without the humanitarian aid to Botswana from other countries. For instance, it was the “first African country to promise free antiretroviral to its citizens in partnership with the Merck Company Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”

Botswana’s antiretroviral program (MASA) launched in 2002, and as of 2016, it;s estimated that about 300,000 HIV-infected adults received treatment; this number corresponded to an increase from 78 percent in 2015 to 84 percent in 2016.

In addition to MASA, since 2004 Botswana has also received over $750 million through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which promotes “sustainable, high-quality, cost-effective HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care interventions.” USAID has helped implement PEPFAR in the country, and that has perhaps contributed to Botswana’s remarkable response to this epidemic. As of 2015, around 92 percent pregnant women with HIV received antiretroviral medication.

Some of the other achievements resulting from humanitarian aid to Botswana include testing and counseling for 272,634 people, and providing care and support for 1008 orphans with HIV.

While these figures demonstrate success in Botswana’s response to this epidemic, it is not clear as to how sustainable these programs are since humanitarian aid to Botswana has decreased significantly over the years. For instance, PEPFAR has made drastic cuts in its funding to Botswana, going from $84 million in 2011 to $39 million in 2015, and $28 million in 2016. So only time will tell if Botswana has reached a point where it can maintain its notable response to HIV with such considerably low funds.

– Mehruba Chowdhury
Photo: Flickr

Benefits of Solar Power
Solar panels are making a major impact in the lives of rural families in Botswana. About 80 percent of people in Botswana have been utilizing firewood for sources of light and heat. Unfortunately, many acres of forest have been destroyed due to the loss of trees used for their light and heat. Now that the UNDP-supported Rural Electrification Program is in place, life in Botswana has changed for the better. The goal of the program is to provide 65,000 homes with solar power.

A benefit of solar power is the time saved by women and girls. Retrieving wood and constantly tending to the fire to maintain light and heat in the home can be a time-consuming task. Newer wood-saving stoves being used in Botswana can cook a four-person meal with only a kilogram of wood, which reduces the wood gathering time and intensive work. This gives people more time to invest in other needs.

There are many benefits of solar power compared to other forms of fossil fuel energy. For example, solar power does not release any pollutants into the environment. Solar panels are a good investment because they are cheap and can supply power indefinitely with no ongoing costs. For countries struggling with poverty in Africa, cheap energy is a smart, long-term solution.

Solar power in countries like Botswana allows families to focus on other important things in their life, as opposed to constantly retrieving wood just to fulfill their basic needs. Botswana is one of Africa’s more stable countries, mostly free of corruption. The country is the world’s largest producer of diamonds, making the country a middle-income nation. The benefits of solar power are an important move in powering the country in the right direction.

Chloe Turner

Photo: Google

Causes of Poverty in BotswanaThe discovery of diamonds in 1967 helped Botswana to move from one of the poorest countries in Africa to a middle income country. Ironically, that same discovery contributed to vast levels of income inequality and poverty in the nation. Though Botswana is not technically a poor nation, substantial clusters of poverty remain in its rural areas. In some rural areas, the poverty rate is as high as 46 percent and unemployment for the country is at 20 percent. Here are some of the main causes of poverty in Botswana.

  1. Education
    The skills taught in the education sector often do not match the skills needed to execute jobs available in the job market. This has led to a mass influx of certain skills in the job market, resulting in high unemployment for graduates. Several youths between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed in Botswana due to being poorly prepared for potential careers. This age group makes up 51 percent of the unemployed population in Botswana.
  2. Gender
    Unemployment rates are higher among women than men. Botswana men are generally better educated than women so their employment rates tend to be higher. Women also have trouble entering the labor force because of social standards and barriers. Because of these barriers, women make up a mere 36 percent of formal sector employees but make up 75 percent of informal sector employees.
  3. Inequality in Cattle Distribution
    Lack of ownership of livestock is a significant cause of poverty in Botswana. About 47 percent of farmers do not own cattle and those who do own cattle only own small herds. Thus, the poorest 71 percent of traditional farmers own only about 8 percent of total traditional herds, while the richest 2.5 percent own about 40 percent. About 10 percent of farming households own 60 percent of the 2.3 million cattle in the country. This system makes it so that wealth in the country continues to be dispersed unequally. The rich remain rich and the poor remain poor.

While there are several causes of poverty in Botswana, the future of Botswana’s economy looks optimistic. The Botswana government has recently released Vision 2036, a framework designed to reduce the poverty rate and secure prosperity for all. The plan is ambitious and is backed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Prior to creating the plan, the president engaged in a countrywide dialogue with citizens of Botswana to understand their goals and needs, ensuring that Vision 2036 captures their perspectives. If the plan is effective, by 2036 Botswana will be a high-income country with virtually no one living under the poverty line.

Jeanine Thomas

Photo: Flickr