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From Poor to Prosperous: How Sir Seretse Khama, Botswana’s First President, Developed the Country

Oct 01, 2021 11:00AM ● By Oga Africa
Botswana coin with phrase Seretse Khama and profile

Happy Independence Day, Botswana! This country, which gained independence from Britain on September 30th, 1966, experienced rapid economic development after independence. Today we are exploring the South African country’s development, led by leader Sir Seretse Khama, to discover how he achieved this progress, and to investigate duplicatable steps to implement development for other African countries. 

When Botswana gained independence, it had seven miles of paved roads in the whole country and it was experiencing hunger due to drought and crop failure. Sir Seretse Khama, the son of a Bangwato chief of Botswana, founded the Bechuanaland Democratic Party and became Botswana’s first president in 1966.

Khama made education free for all citizens and leveraged the country’s natural resources of diverse wildlife and diamond deposits to propel the country’s economy. Seretse, and his successor, Ketumile Masire, utilized this capital to improve access to healthcare and clean water, innovate farming techniques, develop public schools, and build roads.

 (Jwaneng diamond mine, Botswana. Image by GRID-Arendal via Flickr)

Due to Khama’s popularity, he was re-elected three times, and ruled as president until his death in 1980. After his passing, Ketumile Masire, politician and former cattle herdsman, became the president. Masire, who carried the torch after Khama, continued the development of the country, and maintained the country’s well-being through a drought. In the 1980s, Botswana had become the world’s leading gem diamond-producing country.

 (Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. Image by Shosholoza via Wikimedia Commons)

In the last 50 years, Botswana’s per capita wealth has increased over 100 fold. It is currently an upper-middle-income country. The capital, Gaborone, has well-organized traffic, and the streets are orderly.

Botswana’s story exemplifies critical aspects of development for African countries, which includes good leaders and efficient use of natural resources and revenue.

Although Botswana is currently reeling from COVID-19 exacerbated challenges, like unemployment and income equality. The country is a testament of the potential for African development, which, with good governance, can be leveraged by the natural resources on the continent.

Works Cited

Learn more about Botswana:

Celebrating Botswana Independence Day

Celebrating Botswana Independence Day

Today, September 30th, of 1966, Botswana gained independence from the British. Let’s take a journey inside this unique and prosperous South African country. Read More »