Since its independence in 1966, Botswana has been able to make great economic and social strides under stable political conditions. But over the last 15 years, development has been increasingly sluggish. Growing social inequality, high unemployment and stubborn, extreme poverty: Botswana is no longer considered to be an African exception, let alone everybody's darling - the African "miracle", as it were. Cracks and deficits in democracy are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore in the political system. Although the institutional structures of a democracy such as rule of law, a multi-party system and regular elections are all in place and civil rights are enshrined in the Constitution and laws, these institutions have been undermined over the years. They are becoming more and more unwieldy and have become detached from citizens' and their interests. The economy is still one-sidedly focused on mining, while attempts at economic diversification have failed. Environmental problems in Botswana's sensitive ecological system are on the rise.
Botswana is at a crossroads and the next few years will decide whether the political realm and society are capable of vigorously tacking needed reforms to steer the country along a sustainable development path. The citizenry will play a crucial role in this reform process. Politics are still more of a consumer good, while active involvement and public commitment are limited to a cross on the ballot sheet. On the other hand, the democratic institutions of Botswana need to finally open up to true debate and societal interests.
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) has been working in Botswana since 1973 and has sought to strengthen the Parliament vis-à-vis the executive branch, bolster civil society positions, encourage more active participation of young people in political processes and support trade unions in shaping the sociopolitical debate in various projects. At present, the focus of project work is on reinforcing citizens' participation rights and opportunities to take part in decision-making and opinion-formation processes. Direct target groups include decision-makers and officeholders as well as multipliers in the civil society area, in politics and trade unions.
Learn more about our work in Botswana on the project's website.