FRANCISTOWN: Botswana’s recent Global Peace Index (GPI) standing has been pinned on unemployment, contentious election results and other factors that, according to experts, have contributed to its decline.
Last year, Botswana was ranked the 30th peaceful country in the world, but is now ranked 33rd.
Unemployment, cited as one of the contributing factors to the decline, has been a burning issue in the socio-economic climate of Botswana hence it was not surprising that during the height of political campaigns last year, all political parties in the country made it one of the cornerstones of their campaigns. Data from Statistics Botswana shows that the unemployment rate in the country jumped to 22.2% as at December 2019, from 20.7% in September. The data indicates a troubling jobs scenario prior to the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which is expected to have significantly worsened the numbers.
The number of unemployed people in the country rose by nearly 16,800 between September and December last year, while the number of the formally employed fell by about 2,600 people.
The number of unemployed people aged between 15 and 35 years rose by about 20,000 between September and December last year, to 274,786, translating to a youth unemployment rate of 28.8% up from 26.7%.
Trend analysis within the latest data also shows that most employed people are aged between 35 and 39 years of age, followed by those aged 25 to 29 and those aged 30 to 35.
The number of employed people aged below 30 years was 196,394 as at December 2019, while those aged 30 and above numbered 545,984. Just over 49,000 people were aged 60 years and older, with nearly 5,500 aged above 75 years.
The data agency’s numbers also show that women dominate both the employed and unemployed figures, while the majority of unemployed people were those with secondary school education only. Graduates accounted for 9.8 percent of the unemployed while those with just primary education accounted for 15% of the unemployed.
The statistics above shows that the government must adopt a paradigm shift to create job opportunities for many of its citizens, especially the youth who are feeling frustrated and unhappy about the status quo.
In Africa, the 2020 GPI shows that Botswana is second after Mauritius while Iceland is ranked the most peaceful country in the whole world.
Data from GPI shows that there was sub-Saharan Africa recorded a slight fall in peacefulness on the 2020 GPI, with an overall score deterioration of 0.5%. Twenty countries in the region improved in peacefulness while 24 deteriorated.
Disputes over election results (Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe and other countries) and demands for political change have led to civil unrest and political instability in several countries across the region, with violent protests breaking out in many countries over the past year, according to the GPI. The results this year show that the level of global peacefulness deteriorated, with the average country score falling by 0.34%. This is the ninth deterioration in peacefulness in the last 12 years, with 81 countries improving,
The 2020 GPI reveals a world in which the conflicts and crises that emerged in the past decade have begun to abate, only to be replaced with a new wave of tension and uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The spokesperson of Botswana’s main opposition party, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Moeti Mohwasa said the country’s decline in the ranking is a non-starter.
Although the country’s courts have already dismissed the election petitions that were lodged by the UDC, Mohwasa was adamant that the elections were rigged hence it was not surprising that some people in the country are still unhappy and have no peace of mind.
“They (elections) have definitely played a role in the deterioration of Botswana’s GPI since it is becoming clear that the outcome of the elections did not reflect the wishes of the people. This has obviously aroused anger, resentment and disappointment to the ruling regime by the masses,” Mohwasa said.
“There is also a growing level of frustration over lack of jobs and rise in poverty levels. More people are beginning to feel marginalised in the economy. The rising levels of corruption have also not been helpful,” he added. Political science lecturer at the University of Botswana (UB), Adam Mfundisi expressed Mohwasa’s sentiments. Mfundisi was of the opinion that the outcome of the elections disappointed a lot of people in the country.
Mfundisi said: “The decline in the country’s GPI will not puzzle observers of the country’s socio-political dynamics. Since the controversial 2019 general elections, there have been disturbing allegations of electoral fraud and manipulation of electoral outcomes. In the history of Botswana, we have never witnessed unprecedented electoral petitions recorded in 2019…”
Another UB politics expert, Dr Kebapatse Lotshwao echoed Mohwasa and Mfundisi’s sentiments.
“I think the issue of unemployment, especially amongst the youth, may have contributed to the decline. Many other challenges afflicting contemporary Botswana may have also contributed to the decline. Amongst these are poverty, inequality, corruption, poor service delivery, elite impunity and the absence of a credible alternative to the ruling party,” he said.
The GPI, is compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), which is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank dedicated to shifting the world’s focus to peace as a positive, achievable, and tangible measure of human wellbeing and progress.
IEP achieves its goals by developing new conceptual frameworks to define peacefulness; providing metrics for measuring peace; and uncovering the relationships between business, peace and prosperity as well as promoting a better understanding of the cultural, economic and political factors that create peace.
It is headquartered in Sydney with offices in New York, The Hague, Mexico City and Brussels. It works with a wide range of partners internationally and collaborates with intergovernmental organisations on measuring and communicating the economic value of peace.