In 1966, Botswana gained independence and was listed as the second poorest country in the world with no university. Fast forward to the present day and Botswana’s success story is one that should be applauded.
Botswana is now classified as an upper middle-income country with low levels of debt. The country has stood out as a model of economic growth and poverty reduction. Between 1965 and 1995, Botswana’s economy grew at an average rate of 7.7%, the highest in the world for that period.
One of the most significant achievements of Botswana has been investment in education and healthcare. Botswana is one of the few African countries that offer free education from primary to tertiary level. This free education system has had significant impacts on the country’s development, including increased access to education for both boys and girls, and improvements in literacy rates. Since the introduction of the free education policy, enrollment rates for primary and secondary schools have nearly doubled, and the literacy rate, according to the World Bank, increased from 54.7% in 1981 to 88.5% in 2018.
Botswana has also become a hub for tertiary education, with various universities and institutions offering high-quality education across various fields. The free education system has therefore been instrumental in creating a skilled and educated workforce, enhancing economic growth and overall development in the country.
Botswana is one of the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa that offers free healthcare to its citizens. The government is committed to providing quality healthcare services to all its populace, irrespective of their socioeconomic status. Since the introduction of the free healthcare system in 2007, there has been a significant impact on the health outcomes of the population.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the life expectancy in Botswana has increased from 45.6 years in 2000 to 62.2 years in 2019. Also, the under-five mortality rate has reduced from 69 deaths per 1,000 live births to 29 deaths per 1,000 live births. The country has seen an increase in the number of healthcare facilities, with 558 primary healthcare centres and clinics, 33 hospitals, and five specialized referral hospitals.
Botswana has also invested in training and retaining healthcare professionals, resulting in an increase in the number of doctors per 1,000 population from 0.34 in 2005 to 0.62 in 2018. The free healthcare system has improved access to health services for the most vulnerable populations, leading to positive health outcomes, and has been a significant contributor to Botswana’s economic growth.
On the other hand, Nigeria, one of the largest African economies has struggled in recent years. Despite the country’s vast oil resources and human capital, Nigeria has been unable to keep up with Botswana’s achievements. Nigeria has grappled with rising debt levels, a sluggish economy, and underfunded critical sectors such as education and healthcare.
The privatization of the health sector in Nigeria has resulted in expensive healthcare services that are inaccessible to the majority of Nigerians. According to the World Health Organization, only 4% of Nigerians have access to health insurance, leaving the majority of the population to pay out of pocket for healthcare services. This has led to a situation where healthcare is prohibitively expensive, with the average household spending up to 70% of their income on healthcare.
Unfortunately, this high cost has made healthcare inaccessible to the poor who cannot afford it, leading to increased mortality rates in the country. Therefore, while the privatization of the health sector promised improved healthcare services, it has only resulted in increased expenses and inequalities in access to healthcare for the poorest in the Nigerian population.
According to the World Bank, as of 2016, there were only 0.39 doctors per 1,000 people in Nigeria. This is significantly less than the recommended minimum of 2.5 doctors per 1,000 people set by the World Health Organization.
The education sector in Nigeria has been facing a decline for several years. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world, with over 10 million children not attending school. The quality of education in Nigeria is also poor, with a high number of illiterate adults and low literacy rates among children.
Furthermore, the government’s expenditure on education has been consistently lower than the recommended 26% of the national budget, with only 7% allocated to education in the 2021 budget. This has led to inadequate funding for the sector, resulting in poorly equipped schools, lack of qualified teachers, and insufficient teaching materials. The decline in the education sector has had significant consequences, such as rising unemployment, low productivity, and increased poverty levels in the country.
Additionally, Nigeria’s government recently made the unpopular decision to remove subsidies on PMS, electricity, education and healthcare, which has met with wide repugnance from its citizens. In contrast, Botswana’s government continues to offer free education and healthcare to its population.
The lesson from Botswana’s success story is that investment in education and healthcare can lead to improved economic performance and poverty reduction. While other African countries continue to grapple with underfunded sectors such as education and healthcare, Botswana’s example shows that investing in these sectors can be the foundation of a sustainable future.