Friday, July 15, 2005

Boasting of Botswana

Jack, at Jack of Clubs, had an interesting post the other day about Botswana. Apparently, Botswana, unlike most African countries, is doing pretty well:

I have long been an admirer of the nation of Botswana. Almost alone among African countries it stands as an example of liberty, prosperity and stability. I thought I had said something about this several months ago on this blog, but I could not find it in the archives. It had also occured to mention Botswana in connection with the hoopla over the Live-8 concert, but I didn't get around to it. Fortunately, Will Franklin has picked up the slack in his entry for the Carnival of the Revolutions:

Botswana is the model for reforming Africa. It has a generally free and open market economy; it is freer, politically (.pdf -- Freedom House), than Brazil, India, and even Jamaica. Corruption is low, the free enterprise system is allowed to work, and, what do you know, the country is one of the more successful countries in Africa.

Botswana's per capita GDP ($9,200) is above that of China, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Turkey, Brazil, and Thailand;

Botswana's per capita GDP even bests the world average.Contrast Botswana with Zambia (or any number of sub-Saharan nations), and you can really see how much institutions matter.

In short, Africa could learn a lot, from one of its own.

One thing Will does not point out is that Botswana is largely a Christian nation. According to the CIA World Factbook, 71.6% of Batswana are Christians. (I have seen other estimates that place the number closer to 50%, but these numbers are only good for comaparison anyway.)

Additionally about 80% of the country is literate, which is low by Western standards but remarkably high for African nations. Curiously, the female literacy rate is higher at 82.4% than the male rate at 76.9%. I would suggest that the prosperity Will cites is largely due to these two facts, both of which can be traced to the legacy of the British Empire.

Well, what do you know? The African country which shares a religious and political heritage with the United States is doing better than the most of the rest of the African countries. Makes you wonder if maybe we should be working to help Africans install Democratic Republics in Africa, instead of just giving them money. From the New York Times, via Atlas Shrugs:

Don't insult Africa, this continent so rich yet so badly led. Instead, insult its leaders, who have ruined everything. Our anger is all the greater because despite all the presidents for life, despite all the evidence of genocide, we didn't hear anyone at Live 8 raise a cry for democracy in Africa.

Don't the organizers of the concerts realize that Africa lives under the oppression of rulers like Yoweri Museveni (who just eliminated term limits in Uganda so he can be president indefinitely) and Omar Bongo (who has become immensely rich in his three decades of running Gabon)? Don't they know what is happening in Cameroon, Chad, Togo and the Central African Republic? Don't they understand that fighting poverty is fruitless if dictatorships remain in place?

Even more puzzling is why Youssou N'Dour and other Africans participated in this charade. Like us, they can't help but know that Africa's real problem is the lack of freedom of expression, the usurpation of power, the brutal oppression.

Neither debt relief nor huge amounts of food aid nor an invasion of experts will change anything. Those will merely prop up the continent's dictators. It's up to each nation to liberate itself and to help itself. When there is a problem in the United States, in Britain, in France, the citizens vote to change their leaders. And those times when it wasn't possible to freely vote to change those leaders, the people revolted.