Christian von Soest

Stagnation of a “Miracle”: Botswana’s Governance Record Revisited

GIGA Working Paper, No. 99, April 2009

Abstract
Botswana has been dubbed an "African miracle." The country has been praised not only for maintaining a multiparty system and high growth rates since independence but also for its good governance record. In contrast to other African countries, the extent of neopatrimonialism, which runs counter to good governance, is said to be low. This article aims to a) precisely assess Botswana’s neopatrimonial profile and b) put forward explanations for the comparatively low level of neopatrimonialism and for the recent "stagnation of a miracle." The paper finds that there have always been neopatrimonial tendencies in Botswana, though they have been largely overlooked by mainstream analyses. The crucial difference is the limited nature of these tendencies relative to other African countries. This can be attributed to the independence period, characterized by the homogeneity of political, economic, and administrative interests in safeguarding private property rights through a "strong" rational-legal state, that is, by limiting neopatrimonialism. Financed by massive revenues stemming from diamonds, the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), and the Bank of Botswana, the government of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was able to secure its reign through the provision of public goods and limited neopatrimonial exchange relations. However, due to decreasing electoral dominance and elite cohesion, the ruling party is now reverting to some neopatrimonial and authoritarian means in order to safeguard its rule.

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Dr. Christian von Soest is a lead research fellow at the IAA and head of Research Programme 2 “Peace and Security.” His work focuses on international sanctions, the persistence and change of authoritarian regimes, foreign policy, and limited statehood, as well as on corruption and its effects on political regimes.

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