A lot has been said on Botswana. Some argue that it is a success story, others are very critical. In a new, critical, paper Cook and Sarkin (Sarkin has studied Botswana for several years) conclude:
Since independence in 1966, Botswana has enjoyed much success, especially in comparison to many post-colonial African nations. It has evolved from one of the poorest countries in the world to a symbol of political stability, economic growth, international investment, and development in Africa. Thus, the international community has spent several decades praising the country of Botswana for these achievements.
While these achievements deserve acknowledgement and respect, Botswana has fallen short of its image as the ―African Miracle in many ways. The GOB has failed to address many issues of great concern to a country that could be emblematic of what is possible in Africa. These include severe inequality, government aversion to criticism, limitations on civil society and the media, the dominance of a single political party, extensive executive authority, unemployment, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the marginalization of minority groups, among others. With regard to indigenous issues, the government has used its policy of non-racialism to prove that it is highly sensitive to racial issues and that it strives to provide equal rights to all Batswana. However, the condition of various groups of its people exposes that this image is a distortion. From the minority groups‘ vantage points, it seems as though non-racial policies allow the GOB to marginalize the concerns of minorities in a Tswana-dominated society. To various degrees, many of Botswana‘s minorities are suffering.
On a number of other fronts, Botswana‘s human rights record is wanting. The GOB has not incorporated into domestic law several of the human rights treaties that Botswana has ratified. The government has failed to submit many of the reports required by these agreements. There is no national human rights institution, thus recourse for citizens is not what it ought to be. The Office of the Ombudsman is not playing such a role. Due to this void, an institution is needed that can promote and protect the rights of all the citizens of the country.Botswana cannot serve as an example for Africa unless it confronts these fundamental failures. The country‘s stability and available capital give it the capability to address some of these tough problems. Botswana has the resources required to truly promote a democracy based on the rule of law and human rights. Until the country takes action to address these essential shortcomings, the international community should refrain from referring to Botswana as the ―Miracle of Africa. For Africa to truly succeed, both African nations and the rest of the world must set the bar higher.
How does the Human Development Index look for Botswana compared with a sample of other upper-middle income countries?
Botswana HDI is lower than the index of other upper-middle income countries in other regions, and in the upper tier of Sub-Saharan African countries.
Botswana is clearly not an African Miracle but one can not deny its succesess. Is this a 75% full, 25% empty kind of situation? How one looks at Botswana depends on what is the purpose of the analysis. Broadly speaking:
1) Scholars are more critical of the case because they want the glass full, they want better living standards, less inequality, improved human rights records, etc. Probably most of them are African Scholars who live or have lived there. They are mainly political scientists, sociologists, and anthropologists.
2) Other scholars (mainly US scholars) praise the Botswana case because they want to understand what lessons can be learned from the case. Especially lessons that other countries can implement. They are mainly economists.