Supporting Botswana Reach its Digital Aspirations

To support Botswana’s digital aspirations the World Bank has just released the Digital Economy Diagnostic of Botswana (DE4A) funded by Digital Development Partnership (DDP). This report provides an overview of the current state of the digital economy, including strengths, weaknesses, and actionable recommendations.

Botswana is a landlocked country in the heart of Southern Africa with 2.3 million inhabitants. Since independence from British rule in 1966, Botswana has rapidly transitioned from one of the world’s poorest countries into a middle-income country with aspirations of becoming a high-income country by 2036. However, combined with the continued economic repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial aftermath of a severe drought, Botswana’s economy is facing unprecedented pressure with reduced fiscal buffers.

Vision 2036 outlines the road towards high income status, and the need to become a knowledge-based economy that leaves no-one behind. Pillar 1 of this strategy details the key components necessary for this evolution: “sustainable economic development through the use of science, technology and innovation to propel the economy to high levels of efficiency to support socio-economic development.” The digital economy is ascribed a critical role in enabling this vision and thus the Country diagnostic is central to supporting the country chart its path.

Botswana has put digital development at the forefront of its development strategies. A stronger digital economy can propel Botswana’s ambition of economic diversification by enabling other sectors to digitize, and by becoming a strong sector in its own right.

However, with its small population and landlocked geography, Botswana needs to overcome high-structural barriers to actualize the digital economy strategies. Compared to neighboring South Africa, Botswana has neither the economies of scale nor natural access to sub-marine cables and international digital infrastructure that is critical to drive this development. These constraints can be overcome but require creative responses and cross-sector collaboration, as well as leveraging and servicing the much larger regional markets.

To inform the report, teams engaged with a broad range of stakeholders from government, parastatal organizations, educational institutions, private sector, and representatives from the entrepreneurship ecosystem, among others. The analysis also draws on regional and global benchmarking using standardized indicators from the DE4A methodology.

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