Monday, March 2, 2009

The beginning of all this: Botswana

Yes, there is another assignment available. I was told that I had great variety in my resume and that they would try for an assignment more in line with my current interests and passions.

A few weeks later, there was an affirmative interest in my skills and experience and a request for me to do teambuilding, support counsellor training and, hopefully, some HIV / AIDS education in Botswana, a country with a very high HIV infection rate of between 30 and 37%, one of the higher rates in Africa.
Botswana is a country just east and south of Namibia, west of Zimbabwe, touching Zaire to the north and north of South Africa. In fact it was a protectorate of Britain until its independence in 1966, before its wealth of diamonds had been discovered . It was seen as the home of the Kalahari Desert; therefore readily set to run on its own. “Botswana provided a rare example of an African state that used its bonanza of mineral riches [and other resources] wisely.” (Meredith, The Fate of Africa; p.285)

From Wikipedia we learn:

“Botswana adopted its new name upon independence in 1966. Four decades of uninterrupted civilian leadership, progressive social policies, and significant capital investment have created one of the most dynamic economies in Africa. Mineral extraction, principally diamond mining, dominates economic activity, though tourism is a growing sector due to the country's conservation practices and extensive nature preserves. Botswana has one of the world's highest known rates of HIV/AIDS infection, but also one of Africa's most progressive and comprehensive programs for dealing with the disease.

Botswana has maintained one of the world's highest economic growth rates since independence in 1966, though growth slowed to about 5% annually in 2006-08. Through fiscal discipline and sound management, Botswana has transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country with a per capita GDP of nearly $15,800 in 2008. Two major investment services rank Botswana as the best credit risk in Africa. Diamond mining has fuelled much of the expansion and currently accounts for more than one-third of GDP and for 70-80% of export earnings. Tourism, financial services, subsistence farming, and cattle raising are other key sectors. On the downside, the government must deal with high rates of unemployment and poverty. Unemployment officially was 23.8% in 2004, but unofficial estimates place it closer to 40%. HIV/AIDS infection rates are the second highest in the world and threaten Botswana's impressive economic gains. An expected levelling off in diamond mining production overshadows long-term prospects.

Seen here is Gaborone, the Capital

Botswana is experiencing one of the most severe HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world. The national HIV prevalence rate among adults ages 15 to 49 is 24.1 %, which is among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. The primary mode of transmission is heterosexual contact, with the military and young women at higher risk of HIV infection than other populations. Young men ages 15 to 24 experience an HIV prevalence rate of 5.7 %, while young women in the same age group experience prevalence rates of 15.3 %. HIV infection rates
also vary by geographical region and are highest
in towns, lower in cities, and lowest in villages. The
United Nations Development Programme estimates that by 2010 more than 20 percent of all children in Botswana will be orphaned. Extended families and communities have exhibited resourcefulness and generosity in their willingness to absorb and care for these orphaned children, but this capacity is being exhausted, especially as the current generation of grandparents begins to die.”

Botswana has only about 1.8 million people in a country that is a bit just smaller than either France or the state of Texas. Just like Canada, the majority of its people live within a hundred miles of its southern / southeastern border.

By some interesting roll if the die, I am going to one of the most stable countries in Africa and one with one of the more severe HIV / AIDS epidemics.

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