20 August 2002

Botswana badly hit by crisis

Diamond-rich Botswana, one of the strongest economies in Africa, has been badly hit by the crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe, with tourism, industry and agriculture all suffering, the country's central bank admitted yesterday.

Linah Mohohlo, governor of the Bank of Botswana, said earnings from tourism were down 20 per cent because American and European visitors were being put off by the chaos in Zimbabwe. She said the situation had got so bad that Botswana would try to dissociate itself from its troubled neighbour. "We are not part of Zimbabwe," she said. "We are not part of South Africa. We have the best credit rating in Africa and we have got to teach the world to know us as a country in our own right."

In recent years Botswana earned five per cent of its gross domestic product from tourism but over the last year or so, since the Zimbabwe crisis began, that proportion has dropped to four per cent. Botswana has also seen growing numbers of economic migrants fleeing the chaos in Zimbabwe created by President Robert Mugabe's commercial mismanagement. They come by bus, car and on foot looking for jobs in Botswana. All of southern Africa has suffered from poor rains this season, but unlike poorly managed countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, Botswana has enough resources to buy food to make up for poor harvests. There have been no reports of starvation in Botswana as a result, although the country has the highest recorded rate of HIV infection in the world at just over 30 per cent, meaning there are believed to be more than 400,000 adults carrying the virus at the moment. (ZWNews / Daily Telegraph, UK)

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