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Essay:Comparing two countries in Southern Africa

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It's safe to say that, for many African countries since independence, things haven't gone quite as we'd all hoped. Numerous countries across the continent are plagued by war, famine and poverty. How did this happen though? How did countries with incredible resource wealth and a lot of potential descend into extreme poverty. Here in the Western World, we seem to have two schools of thoughts on this. The first one from our friends in the alt right is that Africans are obviously inferior and can't run a country, which is so clearly bullshit it doesn't need to be pointed out, and that all of Africa was permanently fucked by colonialism, which although a lot better intentioned and more reasonable, is still inaccurate. To try and make my point on what I think the problem is. I'm gonna compare two Southern African countries, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Why these two? Well for starters they're right next to each other and if you're comparing two countries compare two that are right next to each other, and just seeing where they were just after independence and where they are now suggests where the problem lies with one of them.


After gaining independence from Britain in 1966, it's safe to say Botswana's first President Sir Seretse Khama had his work cut out for him. The country was the 2nd poorest on Earth with a GDP per capita of just $70 and 12km of paved roads. It had next to no university graduates and the vast majority of its people were subsistence farmers. To change this, his Government brought in a series of policies that would result in one of the most impressive economic transformations in recent memory. For starters, Botswana was founded as a multiparty democracy and Khama's Government implemented effective checks and balances that helped to prevent corruption. At the time there were many foreign workers in Botswana's public service and Khama's Government was under pressure to replace them with native Batswana. However this didn't happen as Khama wanted positions to be awarded based on merit rather than skin colour. His Government's economic policies differed from the African socialist ideals of contemporary African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, keeping taxes low and encouraging foreign investment. Khama wanted to create an economy based off of mining and cattle. His Government signed an agreement with De Boer mining company to set up Debswana, a partially state owned company that mined Botswana's diamonds. Foreign investment in Botswana's mining industry would be crucial as foreign companies would find addition deposits of resources. His administration signed an agreement with the EEC(what they called the EU at the time) to sell beef to its member states. These decisions would go on to pay dividends, with Botswana's economy becoming the fastest growing in the World at the time an it's budget running at a surplus. Because of the countries general lack of corruption, this money was effectively invested by Khama's and subsequent administrations into creating a universal healthcare system, subsidising education, and other social programs. Nowadays Botswana is one of the wealthiest countries in Africa with a GDP per capita of $18,503. It has the highest Human Development Index score in Sub-Saharan Africa, the lowest rate of corruption and the highest level of economic freedom. It's also Africa's oldest multiparty democracy. The country is far from perfect, having serious problems with unemployment, AIDS and income inequality among other things, but it's miles ahead of many of its neighbours and has the potential to become Africa's first developed country.


When Zimbabwe was founded in 1980, the country had a lot of potential. The country produced a ton of food and had decent infrastructure. Hell the country was known as both bread basket of Africa and the jewel of Africa. All it needed was a decent leader and it would've became the richest country in all of Africa and could've even reached Western living standards. Unfortunately that's not what it got. At the start of Robert Mugabe's rule of the country things weren't too bad. His Government invested heavily in healthcare and education and started industrialising the country while the economy wasn't going too badly either. Then in the 90s everything went to shit. Mugabe was obsessed with staying in power and would do anything to ensure he wasn't deposed. He started by getting back at his old rival Joshua Nkomo by slaughtering his Ndebele tribe and kicking him out of his administration after accusing him of plotting a coup. Mugabe notoriously brutal and North Korean trained(which isn't really surprising when you think about it) fifth brigade killed between 20,000 and 80,000 Ndebeles before Nkomo and Mugabe reached a deal in 1987. He then declared himself the Executive President of Zimbabwe that same year, meaning he was the Head of State, Head of Government and Commander of the Military. His Government then bought all the newspapers and sacked the white editors(Sound familiar?) As you can probably tell Mugabe wasn't a big fan of white people and blamed all of Zimbabwe's problems on them. Ironically, Zimbabwe's economic problems were heavily influenced by Mugabe kicking white people off their farms under his land reforms. Regardless of anyone's opinions on colonialism the fact of the matter is that those farms were well run and incredibly important to Zimbabwe's economy. Although an ethical land reform could've been an incredible success the borderline genocidal land reform Mugabe started was full of human rights abuses, damaged his relationship with the UK and US and didn't even benefit ordinary black Zimbabweans, with all the land unsurprisingly going to Mugabe's cronies. These guys weren't arsed farming the land and this led to economic chaos and food shortages. Things didn't get that much better when Mugabe spent millions involving his troops in the Congo civil war. A conflict so ridiculously complicated it makes WW1 look too simple in comparison. To deal with the debt he racked up through all this Mugabe decided to print more money, this made things worse creating monstrous inflation. Eventually the old fuck was finally deposed and kicked the bucket soon after, but his successor appears to be even crazier. Nowadays Zimbabwe is one of the poorest countries on Earth with a GDP per capita of just $2,953. It's 10th on the fragile states index scoring worse than Iraq Libya and Venezuela, and its healthcare system, once the best in Africa, has collapsed.


Zimbabwe had every possible advantage over Botswana at the time of its independence yet is a significantly worse country to live in now. Why's that? Style of Government. If Zimbabwe was a liberal democracy with a capitalist(with some Government intervention obviously) economy it could be the richest country in all of Africa. Instead it became a one party Marxist dictatorship that quickly descended into chaos. Ultimately people vote with their feet and tens of thousands of Zimbabweans have fled to Botswana in the last couple decades. I think what I'm trying to say is this. Liberal democracy, secularism and capitalism(again with some Government intervention obviously) create wealth while Marxism, religious fundamentalism and non-democracy in general create poverty.


From 2nd Poorest Country to Fastest Growing Economy in the World | Sir Seretse Khama's Botswana Wikipedia article on Botswana Why has Botswana been such a success when neighboring countries weren't? Wikipedia article on Zimbabweans in Botswana Robert Mugabe: Zimbabwe’s Downward Spiral A Brief History of Robert Mugabe RWs article on Zimbabwe Wikipedia's article on Zimbabwe Wikipedia's article on Robert Mugabe List of countries by GDP(PPP) Per Capita List of countries by Fragile States Index