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Vol. 2 No.1: June, 2014

Debating Developmental States in Africa: Reflections on Culture and Civil Society in Botswana

  • Afolayan Gbenga Emmanuel
February 29, 2016


The debate about developmental states raises numerous conceptual and
contextual questions. Beginning with a critical reflection on the export of
„developmental states model‟ from Asia to Africa, this paper—which considers the
emergence of developmental states—explores questions of increasing significance
across Sub-Saharan Africa: What might “developmental states model†actually mean
in post-colonial Africa? How much component does the concept of developmental states
have? How can we relate this discussion about each developmental state within the
wider debate about developmental states in Sub-Saharan Africa? How does it engage
with local cultures and civil society? This article addresses these questions by
providing the conceptual explanations of developmental states as well as their features,
before considering the potency of culture and civil society. It further explains the
conditions that favour the emergence of developmental state in Botswana. The article
will argue that the conditions that have significantly favoured Botswana‟s post-colonial
economic success are: legitimate state-apparatus, good governance and democracy,
commercial customs, strong property rights, and inter-ethnic harmony. The article
concludes that the peculiar case of Botswana‟s success is not only located in its
economic system but also, in particular, in its culture (Tswana) which was developed
before and during the colonial period. This particular factor has significantly helped
other factors in shaping Botswana‟s post-colonial developmental accomplishments.