OIL IN AFRICA PART ONE: What makes Botswana different?

With the recent oil discoveries in Africa, the region is emerging as one of the key areas for oil exploration. Despite the oil and gas wealth not many countries in the African continent have been able to benefit from it.  Oil in Africa has become a curse. Botswana is the only country in the continent that was able to escape the pitfalls of the resource curse.

How did Botswana manage to turn its resources into a blessing rather than a curse?

Below is an extract of an analysis written by Akosua K. Darkwah of the Department of Sociology of the University of Ghana.

The key message is simple and not new: good governance is a pre-condition. 

The most interesting part is about how a country and its leaders see their resources and biodiversity as an asset for sustainable development: something that needs to be conserved and not depleted, something that needs to be protected for future generations.

Botswana has made a clear choice: developing tourism, protecting biodiversity, wildlife and its environment is a stewardship responsibility of all of us and for future generations.  That makes a difference!

but what if the best and only solution will be to:


Looking back at 2013-2016 (SV)


The presence of substantial amounts of oil and gas reserves has been identified by
many authors as a potentially mixed blessing for oil producing countries (World Bank 2006).

Although the discovery of oil creates a sense of hope and expectation that the revenue would lead to the development of local communities and countries as a whole, in most cases, this dream has remained illusory as the exploration of the oil resources has led to the destruction of local communities and anarchy in oil-producing developing countries.

Evidence around the world suggests that whether or not a community/country benefits from its discovery of oil and gas is a function of the global position of the oil-producing country in question (Bloomfield 2008; Hartzok 2004; National Academy of Sciences 2003; UNCTAD 2007). In most instances, local communities and oil producing nations in the global West seem to derive more blessings from the oil discovery and exploration in comparison to those in the global South.

One key exception to the assertion that only developed countries with natural resources do well is the case of Botswana. For almost twenty years, specifically between 1966 and 1989, Botswana was the world’s fastest growing economy (Sarraf and Jiwanji 2001: 9) and is currently considered an upper-middle income economy. Its success is due to the discovery of diamonds a year after it gained independence from Britain and the state’s ability to implement policies that ensured the judicious use of the revenue. The emphasis on a fund similar to the Norewegian Future Generations Fund is evident in the words of Hon. Sir Masire, the President who presided over much of Botswana’s economic growth who noted:

…We intend to conserve our resources wisely and not destroy them.  Those of uswho happen to live in Botswana in the 20th century are no more important thanour descendants in centuries to come.

(Sarraf and Jiwanji 2001: 1)

To make it possible for future generations of Botswana to derive benefits from the diamonds discovered on their land, the state accumulated international reserves and ran budget surpluses in anticipation of leaner seasons ahead. Unexpected increases in revenue were not spent, but rather saved. New development projects were only undertaken if the resources were available to cover the long term recurrent costs associated with such a project. In addition, like the Norwegians although less successfully than the Norwegians, the state sought to diversify the manufacturing, services and agricultural sectors of the economy so that revenue was generated from sources other than minerals. Finally, great pains have also been taken to ensure that mining operations are environmentally sound so that communities that live in close proximity to the mines do not suffer unduly from the mining of the natural
resources (Sarraf and Jiwanji 2001).

Key to which way the tables turn is the implementation of appropriate policies prior
to the influx of the oil revenues that ensure the judicious use of the financial bonanza such as a future generations fund and substantial investments in health and education across the board. Currently the consensus is that in countries of the global south such as Nigeria where the discovery of oil has had little or no effect on the population, corruption is the culprit.

Akosua K. Darkwah
Department of Sociology
University of Ghana


REVISED Version – Four Years Later, Reflecting and Learning

Four years later and we ask ourselves should we really ask oil producing countries to implement appropriate policies prior to the influx of the oil revenues , or should we better ask governments to keep the oil in the soil?

Why Should we Ask African Governments to Keep the Oil in the Soil?

“If governments are determined to implement their climate policies [eg. Paris Agreement], a focus on efficiency, although important, will not achieve absolute reductions. According to the UK’s Carbon Tracker Initiative and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, part of the London School of Economics, the world’s ‘carbon budget’ is about 1.000 gigatons (Gt CO2) between now and 2050.

Total proven international fossil-fuel reserves already contain about 3 times as much carbon, according to the International Energy Agency’ ‘World Energy Outlook’. Most of the reserves are owned by governments or state energy firms; they could be left in the ground by public-policy choice, i.e., if governments took their own policy objectives seriously. Exploring and exploiting new sources of fossil fuels now means to propel CO2 emissions above 550 ppm. It is an irresponsible waste of money, and policy is called upon to stop this squandering of resources.

Oil and gas extraction, and coal mining, even using the most modern techniques, will always be dirty business. There is no ethical, environmental or social justification for mobilising reserves with above-average environmental and social impacts, including deep sea oil, tar sands, or fracking for shale gas, destroying riverine delta ecosystems and other wetlands, densely populated farmland, biodiverse forests or coral gardens.”

Source EJOLT 

Read more about Keep the Oil in the Soil

Unburnable Fuel: High time for a new European policy approach to tackle climate change

Read the full report here:


Read more about Botswana Case here:

“Beating the Resource Curse: The Case of Botswana. Environment Department Working Paper #83, Report #24753”