What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Botswana? For many, it’s diamonds. These sparkling gems have played a pivotal role in the nation’s development, shaping a success story that’s quite unique in the African continent.

Botswana, a landlocked country in Southern Africa, is home to some of the world’s richest diamond mines. Diamonds were discovered there just after the country gained independence in 1966. This find came at a crucial time for Botswana, which was one of the poorest countries in the world with an economy heavily reliant on agriculture.

By 1971, diamonds were being mined, and Botswana partnered with De Beers, the world’s largest diamond company, to form Debswana, a joint venture that’s been beneficial to both parties. This partnership helped Botswana ensure that its diamond wealth benefited its citizens, not just foreign corporations.

Botswana has used its diamond revenue wisely, investing it in areas like education, healthcare, and infrastructure. According to the World Bank, in 2021, over 90% of Botswana’s children were enrolled in primary school, a significant improvement from 1966 when the figure was just around 40%. This investment in human capital has been a key factor in Botswana’s economic success.

The results speak for themselves. By 2021, Botswana had become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, with a GDP per capita of around $8,260, according to the World Bank. That’s a far cry from the $70 per capita when diamonds were first discovered.

Botswana’s diamond industry has not been without challenges. The global diamond market has fluctuated, and Botswana has had to deal with periods of falling prices and decreased demand. But the country has managed these challenges, even negotiating with De Beers to cut and sort some of its diamonds locally, creating jobs and boosting the domestic economy.

Botswana’s story is a shining example of how a country can leverage its natural resources for broad-based development. It’s proof that with good governance and strategic investment, wealth beneath the ground can be turned into wealth above it, improving the lives of everyday citizens.

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