Botswana celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence last week. It has had more political and economic freedom than much of Africa since then.
Marian Tupy writes:
Why? Seretse Khama, the first President, was a tribal chief who maintained the tradition of public meetings or kgotlas. Kgotlas were the traditional way in which Africans made local decisions. It was a good way in which to keep the chiefs honest and accountable. When I visited the country in 2007, a game warden I spoke to in the Chobe National Park reminisced about standing behind the minister of education in the line for groceries. A shop manager recognized the minister and motioned her to the front of the line. The minister flatly refused. The exceptional humility of Botswana’s politicians is just one positive consequence of such “grassroots democracy.”
Khama’s economics were also out of step with the times. He maintained a relatively “hands-off” approach to the economy, which was, for decades, the freest in Africa.