Botswana is usually called Africa’s oldest democracy. From time immemorial there has been a system with village assemblies, where decisions have been made about villages’ affairs and where the village chief has ruled over minor disputes. This has provided the country with solid democratic foundations. The state-bearing Botswana Democratic Party has been criticized for authoritarianism, but the country is ranked as the least corrupt on the continent by Transparency International.
Since independence in 1966, Botswana has gone from being one of the world's ten poorest countries to being one of the wealthiest in Africa, largely thanks to its diamond industry. Economic growth has been high, and revenues have contributed to social and health services functioning well, compared to many other of Africa. Despite general lack of public water, almost all Botswanans today have access to clean water. But in spite of the country’s macroeconomic success, income gaps are large and unemployment high. Nearly half of the working population is employed in agriculture, which is dominated by livestock farming.
The constitutional law gives all people the same rights; there is freedom of expression and there are no reports of political prisoners. However, Botswana has retained the death penalty and Botswanan law forbids same-sex relationships.
Dark cloud over achievements
However, behind the success story there is a country with huge poverty and enormous gaps in earnings; nearly half of the population is living in poverty. This problem is made worse by HIV/Aids, which poses a serious threat to the country’s progress.
Botswana is one of the countries where the illness has spread most. Nearly one quarter of the adult population is infected and life expectancy fell from 64 to 53 years between 1990 and 2010. In addition, twelve percent of all children are orphans as a consequence of AIDS. The spread has been halted in recent years. As the first country in Africa, Botswana introduced a general distribution of antiretroviral drugs through the health care system and the number of AIDS-related deaths was more than halved between 2005 and 2009. But providing health care to those affected, taking care of orphans and managing growth while the working age population is disappearing – that is a big challenge for Botswana.
Target to halve poverty
Botswana’s long-term targets are stated in “Vision 2016”, which includes the country’s development targets 50 years after independence. The principal target is to halve poverty and create general welfare for the entire population. This is to be achieved partly through economic development and diversification, rural development and the continued fight against the HIV/Aids epidemic. Increasing women’s integration in development processes is seen as an important contribution to combat poverty.
Swedish development assistance
Sweden and Botswana have had large-scale development co-operation since Botswana gained independence. Traditional development aid ceased in 1998. At that time, the country had built up considerable self-sufficiency and had got their own funds for development. However, Sweden continues to support Botswana through partner driven cooperation until December 2013. Relations are to be built on mutual interests, which in the long term should lead to the relations becoming self-supporting. The purpose of the efforts is that they will contribute to the creation of relations, which, in the long term, can continue without financial support from development cooperation.
Sweden's focus areas in Botswana:
- economic growth
- environment and climate
- Human Rights and Democracy
- HIV / AIDS
Read more about Sida’s work in Botswana.