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botswana_opt
Botswana is a landlocked nation in the southern part of Africa. The economy of this country is defined by a single luxury export: diamonds. Beginning in the mid 1960’s, the economy of Botswana expanded exponentially. Due to her dependence on the success of one export, however, Botswana suffered from an economic contraction in 2009. This contraction occurred as the result of a shrinking global demand for Botswana diamonds. An already significant portion of the population in Botswana was living in extreme poverty prior to 2009. The economic downturn only perpetuated and strengthened a trend toward more abject conditions.

HIV/AIDS, however, is the largest contributor to poverty in Botswana. According to the CIA World Factbook, the prevalence of HIV/Aids is “second highest in the world and threatens Botswana’s impressive economic gains”. In 2012, 25% of the adult population was infected with the deadly virus. A health problem of this magnitude is detrimental to a nation’s economic well-being because it reduces human capital.

The good news is that the government of Botswana has begun to address HIV/AIDS with great success. President Festus Mogae who led the nation from 1998-2008 instituted a program to distribute AIDS medication to his people in 2002. This resulted in the medication of 95% of infected adults in Botswana.

In addition to Mogae’s initiative, the United States contributed vast amounts of aid money to the beleaguered country since the enacting of George W. Bush’s PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) from 2003-2008. With this boost from the U.S. government, Botswana has begun to rise from the ashes of economic recession and improve the health of its citizens.

– Josh Forgét

Source: The World Bank, PBS, CIA World Factbook
Photo: Chobe Safari

Sierra_Leone_Conflict_diamonds
The Sierra Leone civil war destroyed the national economy, making it one of the poorest countries in the world. The civil war that ravaged the small west African nation from 1991-2002 was the impetus for a huge displacement of people within Sierra Leone, leading to a downturn in the economy that left almost 75% of the population living in extreme poverty.

Sierra Leone’s main export is diamonds. Diamonds have created a significant wealth gap in Sierra Leone that has benefited the rich and paralyzed the poor for decades. The country’s dependence on this single mineral resource impedes economic growth. In order for Sierra Leone to lift itself out of abject poverty, the economy must diversify. Economic diversification is exceptionally difficult, however, with around 50% of the adult working population working in subsistence agriculture. Luckily, the IMF set up a program in 2010 to deliver $45 million to Sierra Leone through 2013.

Over the last few years, Sierra Leone has developed its offshore oil resources as another source of income. This, however, does not negate the enormous need for international aid to power the development process and prevent increased in inequalit in Sierra Leone. In order for the economy to stabilize, foreign aid must be delivered on a consistent basis and domestic peace must be preserved at all costs.

– Josh Forgét
Source: BBC News, Rural Poverty Portal, CIA World Factbook
Photo: Human Trafficking Movie Project