Strong governance: The efficient reign of President Ian Khama has transformed Botswana into a haven for foreign investment, says a recent BBC report. Picture: REUTERS
Strong governance: The efficient reign of President Ian Khama has transformed Botswana into a haven for foreign investment, says a recent BBC report. Picture: REUTERS

This article was reviewed by Africa Check which found that the author misrepresented rankings. Read the findings here. 

Botswana was recently rated in a BBC study as one of the world’s six best countries to live in — if security, low corruption and good governance are the criteria in a world beset by crime and violence.

The BBC describes New Zealand, Canada, Botswana, Denmark, Chile and Japan as the world’s "best governed" countries.

The report says Botswana has a strong presidency backed by a committed government and a low tolerance for crime. The country spent its windfall of diamonds wisely, transforming a dusty shack city into a microcosm of a big economy with a few important edges.

Just about everything works, it is a clean, pleasant and well-run country. The capital, Gaborone, is as close as it gets in Africa to a first world city.

Botswana’s strong and reliable economy has attracted just about every franchise operating in SA.

The BBC drew on data from three international surveys — the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law index, the World Bank’s Government index and the Social Progress index — to rank countries based on their performance across different categories.

In the pinnacle of rectitude that is Denmark, the head of state would not dream of taking a single krone that did not belong to him. People in Denmark, regardless of their station, truly fear the consequences of a criminal act.

"It is not so much the punishment or penalties we fear," says a Danish engineering consultant. "The stigma of conviction would stay with you as long as you lived. Danes have little patience with criminality. They see conviction for a criminal act as the ultimate disgrace."

Many South Africans are considering their future in the country after a decade of barefaced lawlessness and corruption at the highest level, rising crime, declining education outcomes and staggeringly high unemployment.

Botswana is the world’s biggest diamond producer after Canada and Russia and for years suffered from the "resources curse" — with a single commodity contributing nearly all financial resources and industrial activity.

Its government, led by President Ian Khama, has worked hard to diversify the economy through tourism, diamond beneficiation and extended cattle ranching activity. It has successfully attracted foreign investment by offering low taxes, political stability, an educated workforce and governance that is stringently regulated and enforced. The result is low criminality and a generally well regulated, law-abiding society.

An increasing number of South Africans have enquired about emigrating to Botswana. Jobs are available for people qualified in the tourism industry, certain manufacturing sectors, farming and mining.

The Botswana currency — at 10 pula to the dollar — is slightly stronger than the rand, which is hovering at around R12 to
the greenback.

"Botswana consistently ranks as one of the strongest-governed countries in Africa, especially in its role in containing corruption, regionally ranking the highest in both the World Bank assessment and Rule of Law index," says the BBC report. The national revenue from diamond mining has been fairly well distributed across the country.

But Botswana is not the human rights haven that Khama makes it out to be, say journalists and opposition politicians.

While Batswana salute their flag and generally behave themselves, a substantial number of South Africans cock a snook at their national colours and give the rule of law the middle finger. But Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba was cock-a-hoop when he reported back after a week at Davos. "Our investment order book is full," he enthused in a radio interview.

The potential investments weren’t exactly signed orders but "serious enquiries" that would be handed over to industry and commerce.

The steadily strengthening rand is further evidence of the economic tide turning from an ebb to a flow. Yet Moody’s and Fitch did not immediately buy into the narrative of the arrival of SA’s Spring — the climate is "wait and see".

But there are green shoots in two other countries in the region formerly ruled by self-enriching men – Angola and Zimbabwe. As Botswana, SA, Zimbabwe and Angola are demonstrating, a rotten government will eventually fall while a strong, fair government is sustainable.

Botswana has shown that good governance can happen with a strong hand at the helm. Is Cyril Ramaphosa such a skipper? Can SA be more like Botswana?

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