Relative to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, Botswana has recorded exceptionally high rates and levels of urbanisation. At national independence in the 1960s, Botswana was overwhelmingly a rural country. Now, over half of the population currently lives in urban settlements. The discovery and exploitation of the country's rich mineral resources since independence in 1966 have made a significant contribution to the development of new towns, such as Orapa, Jwaneng and Selebi Phikwe. This contribution documents the nature of diamond and copper-nickel mining activities in Botswana and their influence on the urban settlement pattern. Botswana's mining towns are run on welfare capitalist lines by foreign companies, primarily DeBeers, in which the Botswana government has a minority share. The populations of the towns and surrounding areas have grown well beyond their planned levels. The government has been acutely conscious of the limited life of the mines and of the need to make provision for employment after the end of mining. The Selebi Phikwe nickel mine was expected to cease production in 2010 and efforts have been made to create non-mining employment with some success. The dilemmas posed by depleting mineral supplies and the government's attempts to find economic employment alternatives to sustain existing urban settlements are discussed. Given Botswana's reputation for investing mining wealth in infrastructural development and public welfare for current and future generations, this analysis assesses the challenges large-scale mining poses for achievement of sustainable development, social justice and poverty alleviation.
Gwebu, T. Botswana’s mining path to urbanisation and poverty alleviation. Journal of Contemporary African Studies (2012) 30 (4) 611-630. [DOI: 10.1080/02589001.2012.724868]