Is Botswana good for Indians
Where Africa is successful
Saturday evening in Mauritius. Large families have occupied the barbecue areas on the beach at Mahébourg, and there is a smell of spicy curry, cinnamon and juicy mangoes. In the lukewarm water of the Indian Ocean, old women in sari sit, splash and chat. The men play boules and drink beer from well-chilled half-liter bottles. A little apart, young people stand together in a semicircle, drum and dance séga. The last glow of the evening has faded, the ribbon of the Milky Way stretches across the sky. Just Africa.
Here, too, is Africa. In Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, around 4,000 kilometers west of Mauritius, customers stroll through "The Mall", Africa's oldest pedestrian zone. The air is dry as dust, the sun burns vertically on the pavement. Parisian fashion hangs in the boutiques. Street vendors sit in the shade of their stalls selling canned beverages, fruit, phone cards and handicrafts. The record store has put two boxes in front of the door, if you stop to greet a friend, you bob along with the rhythm. No trace of the hectic pace, here you have time. Just Africa.
Or rather: Africa as it could be. Because it is seldom as relaxed and peaceful as on the beach in Mauritius and the shopping street in Botswana in Africa. Colonialism, wars and corruption have ruined most of the continent. Today two thirds of all Africans live in dire poverty, the average life expectancy is less than 50 years, and the population is growing faster than economic output, so the gross national product per capita is falling even further. Of the 48 countries south of the Sahara, a good half are not even granted long-term development opportunities by international development organizations. A few countries, including South Africa, Cape Verde and Ghana, are at least considered to be potential growth regions. As successful models, however, there are always only two countries at the top of all inner-African rankings: Botswana and Mauritius.
Why is that? Why does what works in these two states what fails in the rest of the continent? At first glance, they couldn't be more different. Botswana is an extremely sparsely populated desert state far from any coast in the center of southern Africa. Mauritius, on the other hand, is a tropical island far out in the Indian Ocean. Mauritius is only half the size of Mallorca, Botswana extends further than Spain or France. Botswana repeatedly suffers from drought, but is rich in raw materials such as copper, gold and, above all, diamonds. In Mauritius, tropical downpours fill the reservoirs at any time, but there are no mineral raw materials at all on the island, which rose from the ocean as a volcano seven million years ago. And yet the so different states also have something in common, says someone who knows them both. The manager Chand Badhein comes from Mauritius and has worked in Botswana for several years.
"If you look at the two countries, they are pretty similar. Mauritius has no access to land and Botswana has no access to the sea. So Mauritius is also a long way from the important markets. If you look at the population, there are again similarities - 1.6 million in Botswana, 1.2 million in Mauritius. The gross national product per capita is also more or less the same, about $ 4,000. "
4,000 dollars a year - by African standards that is an absolute top position - well ahead of the Republic of South Africa. Mauritius and Botswana are similar in that they were only granted independence late by the former colonial power Great Britain, Botswana 1966, Mauritius 1968. In this way they were able to learn from the failures of the neighboring countries. And they were forced to do it very quickly because the colonial power had left them almost nothing. At the time of independence, there were just five kilometers of tarred roads in huge Botswana, and nothing but sugar cane plantations in Mauritius.
"If you look at the various reports that were written before independence, there were, for example, studies by respected professors from Cambridge and Oxford who wrote off Mauritius completely. But then Mauritius created an economic miracle after independence. Mauritius is the only developing country that has completely eradicated unemployment. In 1991/92 we began to recruit foreign workers. "
The Mauritian prime minister's recipe for success: he declared the entire island a free trade zone. Those who invested and created jobs here were allowed to import raw materials duty-free and export the products made duty-free. This is how remote Mauritius became a center of the textile industry.
150 women sit close together in the Wally Plush Toys production hall in the small town of Petite Rivière. This is where teddies, dolls and stuffed animals are made for the German market. In the office, only separated from the workers by a pane of glass, sits Sylvette Krück, the owner and manager of the factory. The Mauritian is married to a German and therefore knows her sales market very well.
"Those are the eyes. And of course all the eyes, they are made, everything with plastic or sheet metal disks that do not cause any problems for the children. So that children cannot swallow that or something. All of our animals are already from the EN 71123 standard. The Factory that have existed for the past 30 or 35 years. People have a little bit of experience in the textile industry right now. "
A seamstress earns between 2500 and 5000 rupees - that's 100 to 200 euros - per month, depending on age and qualifications. To do this, she has to work 45 hours a week, and in the months leading up to Christmas she often works overtime on Saturdays.
"We are doing well compared to Africa. But when it comes to working hours and working conditions in the free trade area, we say that there is practically almost slavery there."
Dev Luchmun is the secretary of the Mauritian Federation of Trade Unions. He accepts that the free trade zones were a way to lift Mauritius out of the bitterest poverty after independence. In the meantime, however, it is high time to improve working conditions. Because investors who are only looking for the cheapest labor are now turning their backs on Mauritius anyway.
"Cheap labor is no longer a factor in attracting investors to our country. Madagascar offers the cheapest labor in the region, many companies are now going there. Floréal knitwear, for example. They once employed 15,000 women in Mauritius, but now there are 8,000 more. At the same time, they invested in Madagascar and now employ more than 15,000 people there. "
On January 1, 2005, the preferential treatment, which until then had guaranteed the former British colony Mauritius an exclusive quota for the import of textiles into the European Union, was ended. It was foreseeable that the African island nation would now have to compete with much lower wages in China, India and Vietnam. And that is why the new situation does not come unprepared for Mauritius. Part of the textile industry - like Sylvette Krück's company - specialized in particularly sophisticated products in good time.
"What we're trying to do: We work to a very high quality. For example, I sometimes do wage labor for German companies. That you can't compare us with Asia, but with Europe. We are still cheap for Europe. We are, for example make woven plush and knitted. And in China they haven't made woven plush yet, thank God. "
In parallel to the dismantling of the textile industry, the Mauritian state has invested heavily in the expansion of tourism over the past ten years. Nature gave the island a magical lagoon with corals and white sandy beaches, and the Mauritians themselves had to take care of the necessary infrastructure and, above all, the training of specialist staff for the hotels. Training at the Hotel School of Mauritius is subsidized with up to 10,000 euros per person. The school had all the facilities of a first-class hotel for practice purposes, from the reception to guest rooms, suites and large kitchens to the laundry.
Only the beach is missing. The windows look straight into the industrial area of Rose Hill. Harmon Cellen worked as a stewart on the German cruise ship MS Astor and is now the head of the hotel school.
"We are not able to train enough staff for the market, especially in view of the number of hotels that will soon open. That puts us under pressure. Many graduates also go abroad, not only to Dubai, but also to the Seychelles. That is why we have to redefine our training strategy now. We need a system that prevents too great a migration of our qualified personnel to these countries. But because the world is becoming a globalized world, we cannot do so much. The walls have all come down now . "
The world has moved closer together, and the isolated island of Mauritius knows how to take advantage of it. Right next to the hotel school, a "cyber city" is growing up out of a lot of steel, glass and concrete. The main investor is the largest Indian software company, which among other things wants to operate a data backup center here.
The sum of many different small industries - that is what makes the Mauritian economy so successful. The prerequisites for this were the establishment of a good infrastructure and high investments in school education. Only in this way was the island nation able to free itself from its former dependence on the sugar monoculture. Mauritius' recipe for success is: diversify.
And Botswana? After work, the country dances to the rhythm of Maxy Sedumedi, known as MaxyMam, local hero of Botswana pop music.
Keep on trying - don't let up. MaxyMam's chorus expresses something of the attitude that one always needed to survive in Botswana. Nothing grows here by itself, the country is so barren that the colonial power England showed no interest in it and largely left Botswana alone. Cattle breeding and some agriculture were just enough to survive, wage labor was only available in the mines in neighboring South Africa. And it would have stayed that way if diamonds had not been discovered two years after independence. Botswana now exports rough diamonds worth over two billion dollars a year, and one in three diamonds mined worldwide comes from Botswana.
In the middle of the Kalahari desert, lush green sports fields are now glowing. The gardens of the neat single-family houses are also well watered. The world's most profitable diamond mine is located in Jwaneng. And the neighboring small town in which the miners live also radiates wealth. The mining engineer Charles Mkandawire can't get out of the raving about it.
"It's fantastic here, this place is so beautiful. It's quiet, peaceful, you can go for a walk at night or during the day. It's wonderful, such a beautiful place. This is real Africa, where you meet such friendly people who welcome you You bring your family here with you, and it's really wonderful to be with the family. You live in four-room houses, very nice houses and big ones. There are good schools of international standards. The shops are good and big. The town may look small, but believe me, there are five furniture stores here alone. Whatever you want to buy, you can get it here. And Gaborone is only 160 kilometers away. "
An armored car with blue lights and a military escort shoots down the dead straight tar road. Content: the complete diamond yield of a week. The precious stones are sorted and exported in the capital, Gaborone. Botswana has no national debt. On the contrary: the state has invested six billion dollars abroad at a profit. The small town of Gaborone, with a population of 200,000, used the proceeds to create a skyline made of glass and stainless steel. But the ministries don't just have a modern facade. A functioning bureaucracy works behind it.
The wealth of diamonds that led to years of bloody wars in Angola, the Congo and Sierra Leone - in Botswana it is firmly in the hands of Debswana, a company that is half owned by the state. Its government is re-elected every five years. Like Mauritius, Botswana is one of the few African countries that has already seen several democratic changes of power. And corruption remained a limited problem. In the ranking of anti-corruption fighters from Transparency International, Botswana received a far better rating than Italy or Greece. That is why it also attracts foreign investors. Many local companies first had to get used to this competition. The manager Louis Nchindo experienced it.
"I still remember how many years ago there was only one supermarket in the pedestrian zone. When the first competitor came along, I think it was Spar, there was an outcry: We would be ousted from the market, we would be killed, But one of these gentlemen, who yelled so loud back then, is probably one of the richest people in Botswana today - through the retail trade, because he woke up and faced the competition. He and the consumer benefited from this also."
Today Botswana is rich and stable enough to allow a large part of the population to live comfortably. And yet life expectancy has fallen from 65 to 39 years - one of the lowest values in the world. The reason: AIDS. More than one in three is HIV positive. Botswana reacted too late to the danger with awareness-raising campaigns. All the more resolutely one tries now to make up for the mistake.
"Because of this epidemic, the country declared a state of emergency, because it has a direct effect on the workforce. The best skilled workers are affected by it. And then all of their training is lost, they die with them. If that happens, it means that all the funds that were used for this training are lost. "
The doctor Kereng Masupu is responsible for coordinating the government programs against the AIDS epidemic. Together with 150 employees, he has the finest office space in the high-rise of the Barclays Bank. But he has no time for the wide view over the capital. The files pile up on his desk.
"Right now the government is cracking down on the epidemic from all sides. With the latest data we have collected, we are very optimistic that we have passed the highest level and that the wave is now flattening out."
Botswana managed to fight the AIDS epidemic on its own. And in contrast to other African countries, the aid actually reaches those affected. 30,000 people infected with HIV receive a drug cocktail that, although it cannot cure them, enables them to lead a largely normal life. Hospital treatment and outpatient support services are available free of charge. Botswana's success is particularly evident in the worst of the crisis.
Democracy, little corruption and a functioning administration - development experts like to call this "good governance" - were the prerequisites for the success of Mauritius and Botswana. But your example also teaches that there is not just one single successful development model for Africa - even if the simplifiers in the World Bank and development theory like to claim it again and again. Mauritius and Botswana did not succeed because they followed the same model, but because they found the right one for their country.
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