Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Botswana experiences sluggish economic growth due to over reliance on Gov’t handouts

According to Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance, Botswana, a middle-income country is experiencing a sluggish economic growth and a rapid urbanisation which has brought in its wake high unemployment, poverty and food insecurity. 

This has led some people to engage in subsistence and commercial urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture to address these problems.  

The Journal says uptake of Urban and Peri Urban Agriculture has been lower for a number of reasons including high GDP before the economic meltdown of recent years, a harsh climate,  lack of water,  poor access to land,  and over-reliance on generous government handouts. United Nations (UN) estimates that by 2050 the global population will reach 9.6 billion, with the majority of that growth taking place in urban areas of less developed regions. 

By 2100 the population is expected to be 11.2 billion. This will lead to a huge rise in demand for resources, and the number of middle-class consumers will increase by three billion. 

Sub-Saharan Africa constitutes a great portion of this projected growth, as the urban population is predicted to expand faster than in any other region and to double between 2010 and 2030.

The rapid expansion of urban populations puts direct pressure on food sources and agricultural production; thus there exists a serious challenge in supplying enough nutritious and safe food in a situation of such rapid urbanisation.

The Journal says despite many technological and mechanical improvements in food production, hunger and malnutrition remain central issues as poverty continues to be prevalent in many cities around the world.  Specifically, it is estimated that 40% of urban inhabitants are living on less than US$1 a day, and 70% are living on US$2 a day.

According to the Journal, to date there has been only limited research on urban agriculture or urban food production in Botswana for two main reasons. Firstly, the sector had until recently been put on the backburner by government and secondly researchers and academics have not been interested in the subject as it is deemed peripheral to the main urban problems of the country.

“From these limited studies and a general observation it is obvious that Urban and Peri Urban Agriculture has not really been on the radar for Botswana’s citizens, for two main reasons: one, for some time Botswana had been enjoying relatively high per capita GNP which masked the underlying poverty that the downturn of the economy has brought to the fore; and secondly, the government has been very generous in providing safety nets to poor and low-income citizens, to the extent that many people are now dependent on them for survival, rather than engaging in Urban and Peri Urban Agriculture,” the journal revealed.

The Journal further revealed that although poverty in Botswana is predominantly rural, the rate of urbanisation (8.4% per annum) is the highest in Africa, and rural migration has led to increasing concern about social and physical changes in urban areas.

 In 1997, the UNDP reported that 20% of people living in urban areas in Botswana were considered ‘poor’ and 9% ‘very poor’. Nearly 20 years later in Gaborone, 20% of the population is still poor and 7% very poor.

Between independence in 1966 and 2011, the proportion of the population living in urban areas increased from 5% to 61%. The proportion has grown from 45.7% in 1991 to 61.8% in 2011, and is expected to exceed 70% in 2021.

Despite being a middle income country Botswana is still plagued by many development problems common to low-income countries.

The Journal also attributed the slow economic growth to the decline in diamond exports, on which Botswana is highly dependent.

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The Telegraph October 28

Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 28, 2020.