I landed in Gaborone sans luggage for the second time this trip. Such short layovers in Johannesburg will do that to a traveler, I guess. With no scheduled down-time, only three days in the city and required presence at customs to pick up my bag, I was pressed for time. Fortunately, I made the retrieval the afternoon before I left for Namibia. While my luggage has seen better days, this particular trip pushed it over the edge. One wheel had fallen off, the zipper had been ripped open and all of the trinkets I had bought in Zimbabwe had been stolen.
In the realm of international development, Botswana is one of the world’s great success stories. Botswana is a small, landlocked country, and after independence from England in 1966 it was one of the poorest countries in Africa. In the 40+ years following its independence, Botswana has made remarkable improvements. It’s now one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Seretse Khama, Botswana’s first president, has a lot to do with the positive turnaround. In the 70s, he instituted strong measures against corruption and helped turn the country into an export-based economy, built around diamonds, beef and copper. Unlike other newly independent countries in Africa, Botswana was governed well, under market-friendly policies like low, stable taxes, liberalized trade and non-racialism. All of the money generated from increased economic activity was reinvested into countrywide infrastructure, health and education costs. Currently, the country’s standard of living is compared with that of Turkey and Mexico. It’s an amazing case study in successful developmental practices.
photo credit to kirakar
That being said, Botswana still has a long way to go. Income equality is incredibly high. It’s a middle-class country but maintains a large, poor population. Approximately one out of every six Batswana has HIV, giving the country the second highest infection rate in the world, behind Swaziland. There are still many improvements to be made.
I enjoyed my short-lived experience in Botswana. Rather than bounce around town, looking for any and all tourist opportunities available (the Kalahari Desert occupies 70% of the country!), I decided to keep my travels within Gaborone. Lazy and idle, a special kind of travel, slow, the kind that lends itself to reading, long and engaging conversations, cups of coffee, thinking, appreciating, catching up. I’m reminded of a quote from celebrated writer, Alduos Huxley.
Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty-his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.
He’s absolutely right, you know.