Botswana is in the elite group of seven Africans countries that either met or surpassed the Millennium Development Goals target of halving extreme poverty by 2015. The other six are Egypt, Guinea, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Tunisia. Guinea had met and exceeded its poverty target by 5.9 per cent by 2012, while South Africa, Botswana and Tunisia had surpassed their targets by at least two basis points during the same period. In a 2014 poverty assessment report, the World Bank praised Botswana for having among the world’s strongest poverty reduction efforts.
With the MDGs implementation period officially over and that of the SDGs having just begun, there is need to take stock of the situation. In undertaking such exercise, the African Development Bank (AfDB) found that by 2012, the continent as a whole had not met the MDG target of halving extreme poverty by 2015. Some 19 African countries met or were on track to meet the extreme poverty target by 2012. From that group were the seven countries that had already met or surpassed the target.
“The overall decline in poverty was largely due to improvements in the business and macroeconomic environment coupled with high commodity prices. However, there are more people in poverty now than in the baseline year of 1990: in 1990 280 million Africans were classified as extremely poor, but by 2012 this number had risen to 389 million on account of the failure of income growth to keep pace with rising population growth,” says the bank.
In an ironic twist however, Botswana Namibia and South Africa remain in the group of countries that have exceptionally high income inequalities, tending to increase the overall result for Africa. Removing these and four other outlier countries (Angola, the Central African Republic, Comoros and Zambia) puts Africa at the same level of inequality as other developing countries.
“These trends have almost mirrored (in reverse), the poverty reduction trends in many countries. Poverty has tended to diminish much faster in economies with relatively lower income inequality and more diversified economic structures than countries with large enclave sectors which have higher returns on capital relative to labour. Ultimately, in order for Africa significantly to reduce poverty the economic structure has to shift further towards light manufacturing and industrialization for job creation and a more sustainable human development path for the continent,” AfDB says.
Individually, Botswana is marked down for operational challenges that it faces in implementing sustainable development initiatives. The bank notes that even though the previous four National Development Plans and Vision Beyond 2016 make reference to sustainable development, such intent is merely aspirational. That is a result of the strategic priorities not being accompanied by any major realignment of policies, processes or institutional arrangements to make them a reality.
“In effect, the absence of an integrative framework that makes sustainable development the business and responsibility of all development institutions and stakeholders has plagued the implementation process in Botswana.”