homelessness in BotswanaLocated in Southern Africa, Botswana is categorized as a middle-income country, making it one of the most economically stable countries on the continent. Botswana models an egalitarian philosophy with judicial respect toward human rights following its Constitution adopted in 1966. Equal and affordable housing has been a pillar of the country’s rhetoric. However, in recent years, with growing population density and uncertain job prospects, cost-effective housing is no longer guaranteed. Here’s what you need to know about homelessness in Botswana.

6 Facts About Homelessness in Botswana

  1. In Botswana, land is divided by locally elected officials who serve on land boards. Members of the board allocate pieces of land to citizens free of charge. As 79% of the country consists of viable land for agriculture and recreational use, selling property personally is illegal.
  2. Nearly one-third of Botswana’s population lives in peri-urban areas outside of the capital. In recent years, the country’s extraordinary population growth has led to a large population of squatters outside of Gaborone, the nation’s capital and largest city. Since the 1990s, the number of people living within Gaborone and its periphery has increased by 90%. The reason for this large and sudden migration is a shrinking interest in agriculture. People move closer to the city in search of work. But the cities are not equipped for such a high concentration of people, and the government is slow-moving in processing land requests. As such, citizens have to to fend for themselves. Because of this land scarcity, landowners are dividing their property and charging rent.
  3. The government objects to this unofficial market for a few reasons. The first is that people see land as being sacred. For the government, citizens do not own land but instead enjoy it as a customary right. The second reason is that goods and services such as electricity, water and sewage are harder to distribute if the land is cluttered with unregistered housing. In some cases, when squatters settle in unused agricultural land, the government believes that the land is wasted. A piece of agricultural land populated with 5,000 squatters could have held 20,000 to 25,000 households if divided correctly.
  4. The government received backlash in 2001 when more than 2,000 squatters’ homes were demolished. Citizens firstly disagreed with the government’s choice to not address the faults of the land allocations that had forced people to live in unregistered housing. They also expressed their distaste for the apathetic manner in which the homes were destroyed. Since then, some communication has occurred between Botswana citizens and the government regarding the tradition of sacred land and the opportunities present in an open market.
  5. Due to the lack of available land and the consequences of living on unregistered property, some citizens’ living conditions are less than sufficient. Many areas are overcrowded. In addition, citizens often face a lack of water, sanitation and electricity. As a result, their settlements come to be marked as slums. The most recent data on the population density in Botswana slums was taken in 2001. It reported that 61% of citizens lived in slums, which means that Botswana has a high prevalence of slums. Generally, the prevalence of slums is higher in countries that rely on government land distribution like Botswana.
  6. Administrative land allocation can be slow and unorganized, but it can also be discriminatory. In Botswana, citizens who earn less than $630 a year are denied housing. This is due to their presumed inability to pay their housing fees. As a result, this contributes to the issue of homelessness in Botswana. Furthermore, citizens who make less than $3,439 do not qualify for building loans, which prevents them from constructing a home.

Moving Toward Change

In 2016, Botswana’s Ministry of Lands and Housing held a national workshop to discuss the Participatory Slum Upgrading Program. The Participatory Slum Upgrading Program is a plan that incorporates Sustainable Development Goals to assess and address the needs of slum dwellers. Additionally, the ministry announced its $150,000 budget for the improvement of living conditions. This plan primarily focuses on areas of basic services such as access to clean water, adequate space, sanitation and electricity. Along with the Homeless and Poor People’s Federation of Botswana, the ministry plans to legalize an open housing market and privatized land allocation.

Another organization rising to meet the challenge of housing is the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), which focuses on child welfare and builds halfway homes. These homes serve as an in-between living space for homeless children who have been abandoned by family members or left as orphans. They stay in halfway homes, which also accommodate adults and caregivers, before they are given proper placement. Each home features a lounge, kitchen, rest area, bathroom, office and storage space. In addition, the BDF helps build homes, collect trash and establish community gardens.

Things have changed since Botswana’s land and agricultural rights policy. Citizens and larger organizations are working to balance the government’s emphasis on law in order and the benefits of an open market. The return to affordable housing could be the tipping point citizens are looking for to change the current state of economic inequality and eliminate homelessness in Botswana.

Alexa Tironi

Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in BotswanaBotswana is a southern African country with just over 2 million residents living inside its borders. Every Batswana lives with the threat of tuberculosis, an infectious disease that remains one of the top 10 causes of death on the African continent. Tuberculosis has a 50% global death rate for all confirmed cases. Investing in tuberculosis treatments and prevention programs is essential. Botswana has one of the highest tuberculosis infection rates in the world with an estimated 300 confirmed cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. Preventative and community-based treatment shows promise in combating tuberculosis in Botswana.

Treating Tuberculosis in Botswana

Tuberculosis treatment cures patients by eliminating the presence of infectious bacteria in the lungs. The first phase of treatment lasts two months. It requires at least four separate drugs to eliminate the majority of the bacteria. Health workers administer a second, shorter phase of treatment to minimize the possibility of remaining bacteria in the lungs.

Early identification of tuberculosis is a crucial step in the treatment process and significantly reduces the risk of patient death, according to the Ministry of Health. Preventative treatment methods are vital because they inhibit the development of tuberculosis infection. They also reduce the risk of patient death significantly.

Health workers detect tuberculosis with a bacteriological examination in a medical laboratory. The U.S. National Institutes of Health estimate that a single treatment costs $258 in countries like Botswana.

Involving the Community

Botswana’s Ministry of Health established the National Tuberculosis Programme (BNTP) in 1975 to fight tuberculosis transmission. The BNTP is currently carrying out this mission through a community-based care approach that goes beyond the hospital setting. Although 85% of Batswana live within three miles of a health facility, it is increasingly difficult for patients to travel for daily tuberculosis treatment. This is due to the lack of transportation options in much of the country.

Involving the community requires the training and ongoing coordination of volunteers in communities throughout the country to provide tuberculosis treatment support. Community-based care also improves treatment adherence and outcome through affordable and feasible treatment.

The implementation of strategies such as community care combats tuberculosis. For example, it mobilizes members of the community to provide treatment for tuberculosis patients. The participation of community members also provides an unintended but helpful consequence. For example, community participation helps to reduce the stigmas surrounding the disease and reveals the alarming prevalence of tuberculosis in Botswana.

A Second Threat

In addition to the tuberculosis disease, the HIV epidemic in Africa has had a major impact on the Botswana population, with 20.3% of adults currently living with the virus. Patients with HIV are at high risk to develop tuberculosis due to a significant decrease in body cell immunity.

The prevalence of HIV contributes to the high rates of the disease. The level of HIV co-infection with tuberculosis in Botswana is approximately 61%. African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP), a nonprofit health development organization, provides TB/HIV care and prevention programs in 16 of the 17 districts across the country in its effort to eradicate the disease.

Fighting Tuberculosis on a Global Scale

The World Health Organization (WHO) hopes to significantly reduce the global percentage of tuberculosis death and incident rates through The End TB Strategy adopted in 2014. The effort focuses on preventative treatment, poverty alleviation and research to tackle tuberculosis in Botswana, aiming to reduce the infection rate by 90% in 2035. The WHO plans to reduce the economic burden of tuberculosis and increase access to health care services. In addition, it plans to combat other health risks associated with poverty. Low-income populations are at greater risk for tuberculosis transmission for several reasons including:

  • Poor ventilation
  • Undernutrition
  • Inadequate working conditions
  • Indoor air pollution
  • Lack of sanitation

The WHO emphasizes the significance of global support in its report on The End TB Strategy stating that, “Global coordination is…essential for mobilizing resources for tuberculosis care and prevention from diverse multilateral, bilateral and domestic sources.”

– Madeline Zuzevich
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in botswana
Botswana, a country in Southern Africa, has a total population of around 2.3 million people, with women making up 52% of that number. Since gaining independence from Britain in 1966, the country enjoys a stable democracy with an upper-middle-income profile. As of 2017, the gross national income per capita was $16,123. As of 2017, male life expectancy was 67 years, and for females, 71 years.

Tuberculosis, AIDS and other communicable diseases cause a high percentage of the illnesses and deaths in Botswana. Although healthcare in Botswana is improving, the country needs to ramp up its services and improve education. Here are eight facts about healthcare in Botswana.

8 Facts About Healthcare in Botswana

  1. Decentralized Healthcare System: Botswana comprises 27 health districts, including mobile locations, clinics and hospitals. Healthcare services are available at almost no cost for citizens. In addition to the treatment of common illnesses, the aim is to provide complementary preventive and rehabilitative services.
  2. Incidence of Tuberculosis: According to a 2016 study in The Lancet, Botswana had a Healthcare Access and Quality Index score–on a scale of 0-100, with the best performance–of only 24 regarding tuberculosis; for diseases such as Diptheria, it scored significantly higher (100). Botswana has some success in reducing cases of TB: in 2018, the incidence rate was 275 per 100,000 people, down from 326 in 2016.
  3. Targeted Services Needed for HIV/AIDS: Despite giving free antiretroviral treatment (ART) to those living with HIV, Botswana is still one of the most HIV-affected countries, with the fourth-highest HIV prevalence. As of 2018, there were 370,000 people living with HIV in Botswana. The adult HIV prevalence (ages 15-49) is 20.3%. There were 4,800 AIDS-related deaths in 2018 and 8,500 new HIV infections. Low testing rates and low levels of knowledge about the disease have kept the rates high. Only half of the people who are most at risk are able to access targeted services to a lack of them. Forced marriage and gender-based violence are increasing the epidemic in women. Strict laws against homosexuality make HIV prevention difficult. HIV prevalence among young people has seen little improvement, with a 6% prevalence in 2006 in comparison to 5.4% among young men and 10.2% among young women in 2016. In 2018, however, new infections were at an 8,500 count, down from 10,000 in 2010. AIDS-related deaths decreased from a high of 18,000 in 2002 to 4,800 in 2018. The decrease may be due to Botswana’s universal free ART program. The program, which began in 2002, is one of the most successful of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2016, estimates determined that 298,000 adults in Botswana were receiving ART.
  4. Mosquito-Borne Illness a Concern: Malaria cases increased in recent years with 283 cases in 2015, 691 cases in 2016 and 232 cases in 2018. However, this is a reduction in cases from 2006, when reports determined there were 2,606 cases. In this regard, healthcare in Botswana has room for improvement. In 2018, along with 15 other countries, Botswana signed the Windhoek Declaration, a proposal to reinvigorate efforts to eliminate malaria. The declaration calls for each country to extend its resource allocation and policies toward eliminating the disease along with improving accountability through tracking progress. A new malaria vaccine called RTS,S/AS01 emerged in June 2019. Botswana’s Ministry of Health is hoping that it will help to eliminate the mosquito-borne illness entirely.
  5. It Takes a Village: On a positive note, Botswana implemented a free school health program, including a team that tries to visit all public schools regularly. Dental therapists, nutrition officers and social welfare officers offer services. The probability of a child dying under the age of 5 is 37.27 per 1,000 live births in 2018, down from 38.23 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2017.
  6. A Decrease in Measles Cases: With 8,605 cases, 2010 was a record year for suspected measles–but in 2016, the number fell to 236. This was due to the annual campaign to immunize children under the age of 5 for measles.
  7. Improvement in Maternal Mortality Rate: Botswana’s maternal mortality ratio dropped from 151.6 per 100,000 live births in 2016 to 133.7 in 2018. The government’s goal is to decrease the ratio to under 70 deaths per 100,000 by 2030. In other good news, estimates determined that 99.8% of all births have taken place in a health facility with the supervision of a skilled health professional.
  8. COVID-19 Update: Botswana is taking strong measures to fight the pandemic. On June 13, 2020, the capital city of Gaborone returned to extreme lockdown after there were eight new COVID-19 cases at one hospital. On June 16, 2020, the lockdown ended. Four additional cases brought the total number of cases in the country to 175, with one death.

Healthcare in Botswana is improving. According to a study that The Lancet conducted, Botswana rose to the fourth decile in Healthcare Access and Quality Index (HAQ) between 1990 and 2000. Botswana now ranks 122 out of 195 countries, with a HAQ index of 52, having risen from an index of 39.7 in 2000. Botswana’s total spending on health per capita (International $, 2014) was $871, and total spending on health as a percentage of GDP was 5.4%. These facts about healthcare in Botswana show that the country should increase spending on healthcare and improve education about communicable diseases. Accomplishing these goals should improve the general health of its populace.

– Sarah Betuel
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in Botswana
For a wealthier African country, the prominence of hunger in Botswana may be surprising. Botswana is considered a high middle-income country with several strong industries, particularly mining diamonds. The exports of diamond mining produce roughly 70% of the country’s GDP. Despite being wealthy in diamonds, however, the country is poor in food. Compared to such behemoths as the diamond industry, agriculture makes up a minuscule 3% of the economy. From 2016 to 2018, 70% of Botswana’s population faced moderate to severe food insecurity and 26% were malnourished, most of these cases occurring in poor, urban communities. The country has a large wealth gap between its wealthy and poor citizens, and it is the poor that shoulder the burden of food insecurity and malnourishment.

Inconsistent Food Production

One of the root causes of food insecurity is poor and inconsistent food production. Botswana’s farmers are hampered by a tempestuous climate that threatens frequent droughts. The Kalahari Desert extends into the country and the arid climate causes large temperature fluctuations; this makes growing crops extremely difficult. There are few crops that can grow in even the most favorable conditions in Botswana. The four main crops that can be raised are maize, millet, cowpeas and sorghum. Even though these crops can survive, however, only 0.65% of Botswana’s land is suitable for farming, and on this fraction of farmland, droughts are still frequent. In 2018, drought eliminated 75% of the nation’s crops.

Due to these unfavorable conditions, most agrarian practices revolve around herding cattle. 85% of agricultural output in Botswana comes from animal products. Only recently, because of several droughts shrinking herds, has the number of people living in Botswana surpassed the number of cows, which are essential for many rural Botswanans. Drought can kill most of a herd and destroy a farmer’s livelihood. In a four-year time period from 2011 to 2015, the cattle population of Botswana dropped from 2.5 million to 1.7 million because of severe weather.

A Reliance on Imports

Some Botswanans eat beef from their own cattle, but they still must look elsewhere for the remainder of their diet. Because they cannot produce much on their own, much of Botswana’s food is imported from surrounding countries, mainly South Africa. In 2018, Botswana brought in $380 million USD worth of food from South Africa to feed its people. While it is beneficial that Botswana’s next-door neighbor can supply them with a majority of their food, supply chains are not as reliable as domestic production. This has become evident as the COVID-19 pandemic has burdened South African production and supply chains. Hunger in Botswana is expected to rise over the coming months.

Next Steps

There is a serious lack of consistent food production in Botswana, and it is responsible for the malnutrition and food insecurity that plagues many citizens. Looking to combat this issue, Go Fresh!, an award-winning startup company, has brought grade-one vegetable production to Botswana. Using greenhouses and hydroponics, the company is able to produce quality vegetables throughout the entire year. With this new technology, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and other large vegetables can be grown locally instead of coarse traditional crops. Hydroponics also reduces the amount of water needed in the arid climate: plants require 2% the water of normal commercial farming. As modern farming technology continues to improve, Botswana will be able to shoulder a greater load of food production, helping to aid the crisis of hunger in Botswana.

Brett Muni
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in BotswanaBotswana is a landlocked country in southern Africa. It has actively advocated and improved legislation for water access and sanitation since 1981 and continues to improve its Wash, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) conditions. Still, despite its growing economy, the country struggles to provide WASH services for some of its 2 million inhabitants. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Botswana.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Botswana

  1. Free Feminine Hygiene Products: As of 2017, girls enrolled in both public and private schools have access to free feminine products as part of their school supplies. One in 10 girls reported missing school during their period prior to this initiative. This often led to girls falling behind in their work, and in some cases, dropping out. To combat this problem and encourage more Botswanan girls to finish their education, the government began providing sanitary pads to enrolled students. Similar initiatives throughout Africa have improved school attendance by more than 40%.
  2. Free HIV Treatment: Botswana provides free antiretroviral treatment for HIV and was the first country to do so. Despite the free treatment, Botswana has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world with 20.3% of the population infected according to Avert. Botswana encourages condom use by making 85% of condoms free and by teaching people about their benefits. Botswana has also improved the prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) in all healthcare facilities. The country provides training to employees to combat this issue, decreasing the transmission to 2.1%.
  3. Hygiene in school: A study performed by The University of Botswana concluded many elementary schools have the proper infrastructure for hygiene, such as toilets, sinks and latrines, but they do not always have the resources to ensure that the infrastructure works properly. The study found that 80% of toilets did not flush properly and that there was limited access to handwashing supplies. The Botswanan government is working to ensure these situations are improved through additional funding and newer infrastructure.
  4. Education about hygiene and sanitation: Hygiene is taught to students in elementary schools, but there is still a greater need for implementation and proper hygiene practices. The Okavango Research Institute found only 70% of students said they “always wash their hands,” before eating and after going to the bathroom, if available.
  5. Toilets in Botswana: More than 88% have access to adequate toilets in Botswana in 2020. Most toilets in Botswana are Western flush style, though latrines are also prevalent. However, in rural areas, Western-style toilets are less common, and up to 32.62% of people are practicing open defecation.
  6. Access to water: Clean water in Botswana primarily comes from ground sources, such as rivers and dams. Rates of water access are relatively high in urban areas (99.5%) compared to 84.1% in rural areas. However, limited infrastructure to secure the water forces many women into the laborious and time-consuming task of retrieving the water. Women may spend up to five hours retrieving clean water on a given day.
  7.  Water Demand: With increased access comes increased demand, which is hampered by decreasing rainfall and the high cost of sanitation. This demand also puts pressure on infrastructure systems and threatens access to clean water. To resolve this demand, government agencies and schools have started water recycling facilities. One such facility started by the Ministry of Agriculture recycles water from the Gaborone city sewage. It uses this water for “gardening and brick making,” reducing the need for clean water for these activities.
  8. Disease Implications: Diarrheal diseases remain a prominent concern regarding sanitation in Botswana. Diarrhea is caused by contaminated drinking water, inadequate sanitation services and unsafe storage practices. Through a study published by the Journal of Health, research determined people in rural areas are drinking and using water “unsuitable for domestic use,” despite the apparent availability of clean water. The study also concluded that the lack of proper storage in a person’s home contributes to the contaminants in the water. The prevalence of diarrheal diseases is the third highest killer in Botswana. Such illnesses kill four times as many people as the global median as of 2017.
  9. Healthcare Facilities: A huge factor in improving sanitation in Botswana is healthcare. Botswana has 27 health districts that provide “almost free” healthcare to citizens. Since the Abuja Declaration of 2001, Botswana allocates 17% of its budget to healthcare. Despite this, hospitals struggle with “inexperienced staff” and a lack of bed access. Citizens who can afford it opt for private healthcare to receive better services. However, healthcare and safety are prioritized in Botswana, and because of this, the country has only 49 reported coronavirus cases. This is also due to the government’s early implementation of required masks and social distancing.
  10. Improvement to WASH Services: Botswana has government agencies dedicated to improving WASH conditions: the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services and The Ministry of Health. This Ministry has worked with the U.N. to participate in the Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation And Drinking Water (GLAAS) survey. Furthermore, since 2000, Botswana has improved basic sanitation by 25% according to UNICEF.

Botswana is continuing to make valiant strides in the public health arena and looks on track to provide a better overall quality of life to its citizens, despite limitations in funding and infrastructure.

Allison Caso
Photo: Flickr

Developing Countries With Natural Resources
As the planet continues to evolve from the devastating effects of global warming and overproduction of harmful wastes, natural resources necessary for people’s well being are becoming more scarce. With so few natural resources left, these commodities increase in value, thus making them more expensive to attain on the market. Although most of the world is struggling to gain access to such natural resources, some countries are fortunate enough to have a hidden reservoir of natural resources that they can use to their advantage. Here are the top three developing countries with natural resources.

3 Developing Countries With Natural Resources

  1. The Democratic Republic of the Congo: Although the Democratic Republic of the Congo is still battling many economic and civic issues that emerged out of a series of political conflicts in the 1990s, the country has benefited from its overabundance of natural resources. One can attribute much of its economic growth to the mass export of mineral deposits, those that are particularly in the province of Katanga. Minerals in the region include copper, zinc, cobalt, coal, silver, uranium and platinum. The Congo’s forest is also rich in fish and lumber, but as a result of the abuse of these resources, the government is working to preserve and protect these areas from deforestation. As a result of exporting these vital resources worldwide, especially copper and cobalt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was able to climb out of its economic recession in 2018. In 2018, the economy grew to 4.1 percent and has been on a steady incline ever since. Despite gaining wealth in exporting such resources, its account deficit widened from 2.9 percent of its GDP in 2017 to 3.9 percent of its GDP in 2018. This was due to the large increase in imports, but with sufficient government programs and community support, the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be able to stabilize its economy in the future to gain more economic advantages from exporting its natural resources.
  2. Botswana: Since its independence from Britain in 1966, there were doubts about whether Botswana would be able to sustain itself as an independent country. As a landlocked country with a small agricultural population, droughts that hit the country in the 1960s took a huge toll on beef exports, which at the time was the country’s only means of export. However, its luck began to turn around in 1966 when it discovered the first batch of diamonds in Orapa. The capital expenditure on mines aided the start-up of other sectors, such as construction, financial services and transport. This led to rapid economic growth, lifting wealth prospects to overwhelming heights. As documented, from 1966 to 2014, Botswana’s GDP per capita grew at an average of 5.9 percent a year. These numbers were one of the highest rates of GDP per capita growth that the world saw during that period. A large contributor to the rapid expansion of Botswana’s economy was the export of diamonds. Of course, as a developing country, Botswana still has challenges to overcome. Youth unemployment is as high as 35 percent and more than 13 percent of the population is living off of just $1.90 a day. There are also concerns that its economy has become too reliant on its diamond business. Botswana, as always, has been working to relieve these issues.
  3. Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia is home to about one-fifth of the world’s petroleum reserves. The petroleum industry takes up approximately 80 percent of its budget revenues, 90 percent of export earnings and 45 percent of the country’s GDP. In addition to the already existing oil fields, Saudi Arabia discovered the Arsan, the AsSayd, the Namlan and the Qamran oilfields along with the Jalamid gas fields in 2010, adding to its economic prosperity. Additionally, Saudia Arabia also has large reserves of a variety of metals including iron, lead, gold and copper. One company called Ma’aden, which has two subsidiaries called Ma’aden Gold and Base Metals Co., has operated five gold mines in Saudi Arabia since 1988 and has produced more than 4 million ounces of gold. To gain further investment from these profitable natural resources, Saudia Arabia joined the WTO in 2005, constructed six economically-driven cities in its country and developed social and infrastructural projects between 2010 and 2014 to promote economic prosperity. In terms of maintaining its position as perhaps the world’s leading petroleum producer and exporter, it will be able to do just that for many years to come. However, internal conflict and poverty are issues that Saudi Arabia still faces, so much work is still necessary to bring its country into an era of peace and stability.

Overall, developing countries do, to some degree, gain substantial benefits from exporting their natural resources for profit. However, circumstances must align in order for the export of natural resources to benefit them, because the same blessing can very well turn into a negative consequence and be more damaging to their economies.

Lucia Elmi
Photo: Flickr

Botswana's Success
Botswana is a landlocked country with an economy heavily based in the mining industry, having discovered diamonds around the time of independence. This subsequently kickstarted a parting from its agricultural and farming sectors. Botswana also depends on foreign trade with countries such as South Africa and Mozambique. Throughout the past 40 years, Botswana’s success has been startling in the face of the underdevelopment that often plagues other African nations. From 1985 to 1994, the number of impoverished people decreased by 17 percent and by 1990, child mortality rates had dropped from 18 percent to 4.5 percent for Africa as a whole.

Maintaining Progress

Many have largely viewed Botswana’s success as a shining star in the narrative of post-colonial Africa, and rightfully so. Since its independence in the 1970s, Botswana has maintained democratic institutions, a relatively stable and growing economy, inclusive social constructions and avoided the violence of civil war that has plagued its neighbors for decades. This country exemplifies the importance of establishing inclusive institutions to positively affect development through policies that aim to hold its leaders accountable and remain based in a market economy.

As an example of hope in an otherwise tumultuous sub-Saharan Africa, Botswana’s success is somewhat due to luck and chance. Historically, the discovery of diamonds and other reserves of natural resources has resulted in high levels of corruption and economic instability. Botswana instead had leaders who chose to allocate profits from the diamond sector to fund government programming. The country was able to rewrite its story after colonial rule and avoided the strife that often comes out of independence. It is difficult to find objective reasons as to why Botswana’s success has been so largely beneficial when the events that led to prosperity seem circumstantial.

Botswana’s Influence and Place

Some often raise questions about the reasoning behind Botswana’s growth and the answers to these mostly point to the critical instance of having good leaders working to develop a system of government that thrives on government accountability; something that many other African governments have not yet achieved. The emphasis on Botswana as a model for African success is blatant and justified, however, it is important that while it has been widely profitable and stable, the establishment of institutions comes with problems. Unemployment rates are high due to a disparity between the number of educated people and jobs available and HIV/AIDS rates are among the highest in the world. Additionally, while the economy has been doing well, it is not diversified.

Botswana’s success is a model for the possible future for sub-Saharan Africa. To assume that other countries currently transitioning from the post-colonial rule are the same in establishment and practice would be to discount individual differences that differing cultural and societal norms display. But, Botswana is an exception, and there is something to gain from discussing and analyzing its place as a nation in Africa. The success story of this country is an example of hope for a better future for other African countries struggling after extractive colonial rule and presents an opportunity to see Botswana as an example of a nation in the developing world.

Jessica Ball
Photo: Pixabay

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