Wednesday, March 22, 2023

It’s unhelpful to compare Botswana with failed African states?

We are in that season of the year again when our country, and indeed our State President, are receiving all kinds of nice accolades from all over the world for being the best behaved guys on the African continent.

It is a competition the results of which our government never misses an opportunity to ram through our throats.

But caution will be of some help.

“This year, H.E. the President, Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama was one of only two African leaders awarded an “A” grade as a “best performer” according to the newly released 2012 African Leadership Index. The Index was compiled by Kenya-based Nation Media Group (NMG) in collaboration with 5 international governance tracking organisations, and is being published in this month’s edition of the African Review periodical. President Khama shares top marks on the continent with the Prime Minister of Mauritius, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Navin Ramgoolam,” reads a statement from the head of government communications, Jeff Ramsay.

As any student and indeed any sportsman will tell you, it is nice and pleasant feeling to be given the highest score. But more important is also the knowledge of the quality and calibre of one’s competition.

As it is, the list against which our President was competing includes the likes of Francois Bozize of the Central African Republic, Teodoro Biang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir of Sudan, Robert Gabriel Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Mswati III of Swaziland and Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar.

And more depressing is the fact that these are not even the worst characters there are in the list at which our Khama emerged top.

Given his competitive streak, it’s doubtful President Khama would be happy at the quality of his opponents.

I have no intention to spoil the celebrations, but it is an insult to put Botswana’s president in the same basket as Chad’s, Democratic Republic of Congo’s, Somalia’s, Eretria’s and Guinea Bissau’s.

The only thing common we have with these countries is that like them we happen to be African. And that is as far as our similarities with them go.

Beyond that we are a world apart.

Our value systems, our level of adherence to governance and democracy, our respect for law and even our moral codes have nothing in common.

May be it serves them some good, but personally I see no reason for the Kenya based Nation Media Group to mention Botswana together with these other well known failed states.

My view is that we are a distinctive nation that has nothing in us to be compared to say Gabon.

As Batswana, we should set the bars higher. And should not apologise for that.

We should insist that even as we are Africans and would do everything to promote the continent, when it comes to measuring our standards, we only want to be compared with the best in the world.

Comparing ourselves with such shenanigans as Swaziland can only mean that Botswana will always emerge a winner, which on its own cannot be good for us because it will bring a kind of complacency we do not need given our own problems.

As a qualified teacher, Dr Ramsay should know better than many of us that put in a class of underperformers a brilliant student soon slips to just above the rest because they do not have to put any extra effort to be the best in their class mix.

More disappointing, however, has been the undisguised excitement from our government at a statement telling us that Botswana is a much better country than these outpost of dictatorships where people are routinely slaughtered and where corruption is accepted as a way of life.

Has it not always been clear to our government that for all its shortcomings, Botswana is a much better place than all these African countries with unsavoury track records? Or is the schoolboy-like excitement on the part of our government an unconscious admission that our standards may actually be slipping towards the rest of Africa?

There is no doubt that besieged by a litany of bad news that we are not accustomed to as a country; the economy, electricity, water and unfinished projects we now are clamouring for a good story to export from our shores.

Lowering the bars as to allow ourselves to be compared with even one-eyed anarchists is nothing short of joining the race to the bottom.

But hat is just one part of the story.

In yet another communication, Jeff Ramsay writes; “Botswana’s worldwide 2013 GPI [Global Peace Index] rank is 32 out of 162 countries measured in the latest survey. This latest ranking places Botswana above half of the European region countries surveyed, as well as all five of the Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council [i.e. UK (44), France (53), USA (99), China (101) and Russia (155)].”

“On the continent,” continues Ramsay, “Botswana remains behind Mauritius (21) and is followed by Namibia (46), Zambia (48) and Lesotho (49) while neighbouring South Africa (121) and Zimbabwe (149) were further behind. This year Iceland was again ranked as the world’s most peaceful nation, followed by Denmark, New Zealand, Canada and Japan. Somalia remained the world’s least peaceful country, followed from the bottom by Afghanistan, Sudan and Iraq,” concludes Dr Ramsay.

If there is a story that we should sell to the world, this is the one, Dr Ramsay.

In it Botswana is put properly in the context of where our ambitions as a nation are.

As a country we want to be compared with the best in the world, and when we emerge at position 32 as we have, we should be worried and ask ourselves why we are not in the top ten bracket.

More importantly, we should ask ourselves what it is that Mauritius is doing properly that we are failing to achieve.


Read this week's paper