Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Former Botswana President Addresses Building Democracies in Africa

Ketumile Masire, former president of the Republic of Botswana (1980-1998) and a leading statesman in the region, shared the success and challenges of "Building Democracies in Africa," in a forum held at Santa Clara University, October 20, 2005.

Despite the instability and conflict that have characterized the region, Masire reiterated the need to recognize "the ongoing and very significant endeavors for self-determination by African peoples."

Masire recounted his experience in observing elections in Nigeria, Mozambique, Malawi, and Ethiopia. Despite noticing some irregularities, Masire noted a "strong wave of democratic transformation in some of the countries."

Of his own country's experience in the 1960s, Masire recalled, "When we asked for independence, some people said we were either very brave or foolish." Botswana, he said, has come a long way since then, when there were no public secondary schools and only six miles of paved roads in the whole country.

Today, the landlocked nation in Southern Africa has been cited by World Bank for having the fastest growth in per capita income in the world, with economic expansion averaging 9 percent from 1966 to 1999.

The former president shared his philosophy: "We tried to be sure all our projects were sound. We avoided prestige projects, and we were prudent in our spending."

Masire acknowledged that the HIV/AIDS pandemic poses a major challenge for the country and the continent as every sector of the economy is affected with declining productivity and rising costs.

He said, "The issue is a very broad-based political and social one, not simply a medical or health problem." Masire remains hopeful that the African peoples can overcome this challenge head on.

Masire's talk was part of the Laughlin Lecture Series sponsored by the Global Leadership and Ethics Program of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

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