BOTSWANA This peaceful and quietly prosperous country is probably the most convincing success story in all of Africa. Having achieved a non-violent independence in 1966, the country has had a stable government and a very healthy balance of payments ever since. The fortuitous discovery of diamonds very shortly after the conclusion of negotiations that had Britain reluctantly conceding all potential mineral rights to the newly independent republic raised suspicions that Seretse Khama, the first president of Botswana, was a lot smarter than anyone realised.
Those diamond mines, which are incidentally amongst the most profitable in the world, are well complemented by a thriving beef industry, and an extremely well developed tourism sector.
Politically, Botswana is an interesting mix. It is a constitutional republic, but with more than a nod to traditional African power structures, and it seems to have blended the two pretty harmoniously. It is a sparsely populated country, and the provision of infrastructure, education and health is amongst the best in Africa, but it still has a way to go, particularly in the recognition of the land rights of the San of the Kalahari.
Botswana has a larger population of San than any other country in southern Africa. Most of the San, or Basarwa as they are called in Botswana, live in the Kalahari but their tenure of the their ancestral land in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is tenuous at best and only a few retain their traditional way of life. Many are employed on cattle stations.
Most of the country is Kalahari thirstland, where there is virtually no standing water but, in the north, enormous pans form ephemeral shallow lakes after the rains, and the Okavango Delta is a paradise of rivers and lagoons filled with water plants, hippos, crocodiles and many species of fish. A sophisticated tourism industry has developed to take advantage of Botswana’s spectacular wildlife heritage.