Escaping the Resource Curse: The Sources of Institutional Quality in Botswana Dissertation

(2013). Escaping the Resource Curse: The Sources of Institutional Quality in Botswana . 10.25148/etd.FI13120605

thesis or dissertation chair


  • Gapa, Angela


  • Botswana has recently garnered analytic attention as an anomaly of the “resource curse” phenomenon. Worldwide, countries whose economies are highly skewed towards a dependence on the export of non-renewable natural resources such as oil, diamonds and uranium, have been among the most troubled, authoritarian, poverty-stricken and conflict-prone; a phenomenon widely regarded as the “resource curse". The resource curse explains the varying fortunes of countries based on their resource wealth, with resource-rich countries faring much worse than their resource-poor counterparts. However, Botswana, with diamond exports accounting for 50percent of government revenues and 80percent of total exports, has achieved one of the fastest economic growth rates in the developing world in the last 50 years. Furthermore, the Freedom House ranks it as the safest, most stable, least corrupt and most democratic country on sub-Saharan Africa.

    In attempting to answer why Botswana apparently escaped the “resource curse”, this research assumes that both formal and informal institutions within the state acted as intermediary variables in determining its fortune. This research thus addresses the deeper question of where Botswana obtained its unique institutional quality that facilitated its apparent escape of the resource curse. It traces Botswana’s history through four lenses: legitimacy and historical continuity, political culture, ethnicity and identity management, and external relations; as having explanatory value in understanding the Botswana exception.

    The research finds most evidence of Botswana’s institutional quality emanating from the country’s political culture which it found more compatible with the institutions of development and democracy that facilitate both positive economic and political outcomes. It also found evidence of legitimacy and historical continuity facilitating the robustness of both formal and informal institutions in Botswana, and identity management through assimilation as having buffered against the effects of ethnically motivated resource plunder. It however, found the least support for the assertion that external relations contributed to institutional quality.

publication date

  • November 8, 2013


  • Africa
  • Botswana
  • Development
  • Diamonds
  • Institutions
  • Legitimacy
  • Political Culture
  • Resource Curse

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)