The global Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 recently released by Transparency International ranks Botswana as the least corrupt nation in Africa, and 35th in the world.
Cape Verde was ranked second least corrupt nation behind Botswana, standing at position 38 worldwide. Mauritius and Rwanda come third in the continent, tying at position 50 worldwide.
Larger African nations however performed poorly in the index, with most falling out of the top 100 least corrupt nations.
What can the likes of Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya who failed to improve their scores on the index learn from Botswana?
How does one country go from being one with one of the worst human indicators in the world to prosperity, avoiding the errors other African countries made after gaining independence 50 years ago?
Botswana is an example of what is possible when a government invest in its people.
On attaining Independence in 1966 – six years after Nigeria got hers – Botswana was under very hostile conditions; it was one of the most impoverished countries in Africa, it was surrounded by the apartheid nations of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa. They also had to beat off military attacks by both apartheid countries.
But Botswana’s independent leaders ensured that the country’s traditions of consultation, transparency and accountability were molded into the fabric of the newly-independent country. Botswana then focused on providing security, justice and jobs to its citizens, getting revenue from its abundant natural resources to benefit a majority of them.
In fact, just like Nigeria’s oil, Botswana is blessed with precious minerals. But these only make up only a quarter of her GDP. They have been able to diversify their economy with a good degree of success. Moreover, the government has worked hard to ensure that the gains from the diamond trade are used to fund basic infrastructure needs, such as roads, water, and electricity, as well as services such as hospitals and schools.
In a recent analysis of governance indicators, including measures of voice and accountability, political stability, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, and control of corruption, Botswana consistently ranked among the top of Africa’s most prosperous countries.
No wonder the country had been referred to as an economic miracle considering the fact that 70% of the country is covered by the Kalahari desert and life expectancy is down from 65 to 35 due to AIDs (treatment is free). Despite these setbacks, they have made stunning investments in education, technology and infrastructure; all in a longsighted plan to diversify their economy away from minerals.
Botswana has become a shining example of how things can work in Africa only if the government and the people are willing to look at the larger picture. Many countries in Africa, Nigeria included, are plagued by untrustworthy and badly functioning public institutions like the police and judiciary because of the leaders’ shortsightedness and craving for using public funds for personal gratification. Even where anti-corruption laws are on the books, in practice they’re often skirted or ignored.
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