August, 2004

Explaining Botswana's Success: The Critical Role of Post Colonial Policy

  • Scott Beaulier

    Academic Dean, College of Business at North Dakota State University
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Development economists are shifting their focus away from cross-country empirical studies (Barro, 1997) towards case studies and "analytic narratives" (Rodrik 2003; Bates et al. 1998). Instead of trying to explain all of sub-Saharan Africa’s problems in one grand sweep, economists are engaging in more focused studies of particular nations. Their hope is that by clearly understanding the particulars, broader conclusions can be drawn. This working paper is inspired by the "analytical narrative" turn in economics. The paper seeks to explain the key determinants of Botswana’s economic miracle. As a landlocked country in the middle of sub-Saharan Africa, Botswana should not be growing; yet, Botswana has been one of the fastest growing countries in the world for the past 30 years. Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, and James Robinson (2003) suggest that Botswana’s success can be attributed to Botswana’s "good institutions," but this explanation begs the question of why Botswana adopted "good institutions" in the first place. To understand why the "good institutions" were established in Botswana, economists must look closely at the history of Botswana’s development. By studying the history of Botswana’s development, economists can begin to understand what choices other nations must make to truly reform.