Stability, Good Governance Boost Confidence in Botswana

by Magali Rheault

Combating AIDS, unemployment, poverty are population's top development concerns


PRINCETON, NJ -- As a landlocked, semi-arid country located in Southern Africa, Botswana is an unlikely economic powerhouse. Since 1966, when the country became independent, real GDP growth has averaged 7% per year. Diamond wealth, political stability, and sound macro-economic policies have provided the foundations for such a success story. A 2006 Gallup poll found that, compared with many African nations, Botswana stands out with regard to the level of confidence respondents have toward several of their country's social and political institutions. Botswana's military, elections, national government, and judicial system all elicit the confidence of at least 80% of the population.

Thanks to its mining revenue (Botswana is the world's largest producer of diamonds), the government has invested heavily in capital infrastructure by building roads, schools, and clinics. According to Judith Van Allen, a research fellow at Cornell University's Institute for African Development, Batswana are proud of the fact that their country is a peaceful and stable place, where elections are conducted fairly and conflict is resolved by legal means instead of resorting to violence.

Cracks in the Gem

Gallup asked respondents to rank in order the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) according to their level of importance for them as individuals. The results show that HIV/AIDS is the issue that concerns the largest percentage of Batswana. Almost one-third of respondents (29%) say reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS is the most important goal for them as individuals -- not unexpected, considering that Botswana has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection in the world (37% of Batswana aged 15-49 are HIV-positive). And with one-third of the population still living on less than one dollar a day, it comes as no surprise that providing more jobs for youth and reducing poverty are also ranked high on the list.

Could you please rank the following elements on this card in order of importance for you as an individual?

Percentage of total respondents selecting each goal as most important to them


Reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS


Providing more jobs for youth


Reducing poverty


Reducing hunger


Achieving primary education for all


Improving access to safe drinking water


Achieving gender equality and empowering women


Reducing the death rate among children under 5 years old


Reducing the number of women dying during childbirth


Reducing the spread of malaria and TB


Providing access to new technology


Improving access to sanitation facilities


The government has plans to diversify the economy, but mining still represents about one-half of government revenue. "Diamonds bring revenues, but they don't necessarily bring jobs," says Van Allen. Moreover, as family members depend on one another for financial support, a dearth of jobs can have serious effects on the financial wellbeing of entire families. A respondent's answer to a Gallup Poll question about the biggest problem his family faces today encapsulates Batswana' plight: "I am the only one who is working and I earn very little money, and it is very hard to meet the family's basic needs."

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults in Botswana, aged 15 and older, conducted in May 2006. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Regarding the question about the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, two separate sets of six issues each were presented to respondents on a card. On each day of the week, men ranked one set of issues and women ranked the other set. The order of issues was rotated so that both men and women had an equal chance to rank all 12 issues in order of importance for them as individuals.  

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