Monday, November 28, 2022

Developmental disparities between east and west of Botswana should concern us all

When it comes to economic development, as a country, Botswana is literally divided into two.


There is the East ÔÇô which runs along the pre-independence railway line. This is a much more developed belt, right from the south all the way to the north.


Then there is the West, the bulk of which is made of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.


The west is poor, desolate, rugged and sparsely populated. There is very little economic activity to talk of and many of the people there, owing to depravation, unemployment, hunger and poverty have haggard faces.


Though they are two parts of the same country – economically these two regions bear no resemblance to one other. They are like two regions of two countries that could literally be a world away from the other.


In a very arbitrary way, they literally and somewhat crudely divide this nation and country into two.


There are both geographic and historical reasons for it.


The terrain in the west is hostile, inhospitable and the soils are largely unfertile.


Very little rain, if at all is experienced in that side of the country.


The east on the other side is densely populated. The soils are relatively fertile and rains are ÔÇô at least on average, considerably higher.


The terrain is hospitable and the modes of travel and communications are as sufficiently developed as to be sophisticated.


Like we say, these disparities are historical as they are geographical.


But not much has been done to ensure that the west catches up with the east.


Schools in the western belt continue to perform terribly when compared to the east.


To start with, a majority of children from this side of the country never walk through a school gate.


Those who do, never go far enough, either because they drop out or they simply fail, owing to lack of support infrastructure ÔÇô both at home and at school.


A good number of the children fall through the cracks and they are never traced.


And when one remembers the simple fact that education is by far the finest tool for economic progression then it means from birth, a majority of kids born in this part of the country are by birth condemned to a life and existence of poverty, want and near sub-human.




The civil service in this country plays a much bigger and outsized role.


Star performers in the civil service including teachers are seldom posted to the western parts of the country.


This means that people in the west of the country are caught in a vicious cycle from which there is no escape.


The situation is not helped by a mentality from the capital, which is in the east to often want to apply a straightjacket suite of policies for both sides of the country, paying little or no attention to the inherent peculiarities.


That is further compounded by claim also from the capital know what is good for people in the west.


The disparities between west and east have gone for far too long.


They are breeding resentment and it is high time they are resolved.


Not talking about them and pretending that they are not there or that they will n their own go away is at best wishful thinking and at worst churlish.


If left for much longer they have the potential to literally divide this country into two.


All it will take is for the West to produce a charismatic leader who would one day stand up and make secessionist demands.


With such disparities, the ground is fertile and pregnant with followers of such a leader.


We say this not to incite any alarmist or seditious tendencies, but rather to call on those in power to act.


Read this week's paper