After months of preparation, several pre-departure training sessions and over a day of travel I have finally arrived in Botswana have now been here for almost a week! Me and 4 other WUSC interns had 4 days of training in Gaborone, the capital, and then we drove up to Maun, where my internship will take place. The drive from Gaborone to Maun was eventful as we got a flat tire at the beginning and had to stop for plenty of cows, donkeys and horses throughout the trip (there are more cows than people in Botswana); we even had to stop to allow a group of baboons cross the road! On our journey we saw many traditional huts and villages as well as some signs of Botswana’s economic advancement.
Botswana is a fascinating country. English and Setswana are the official languages in the country and Setswana is spoken by 78-90% of the population. Botswanan people are quite friendly and they usually greet people in Setswana by saying Dumela (hello) and wena le kae (how are you?). After its independence in 1966, Botswana was one of the poorest countries in the world, however since diamonds were discovered in the 70s Botswana’s economy has drastically grown. Botswana has a stable democracy and is now considered to be an upper middle-income country and as a result many international aid agencies are pulling out of the country. On paper this appears to be logical, but Botswana still has several issues that require effective local and international assistance. 25% of Botswana’s population is infected with HIV/AIDS, the second highest ranking in the world, and Botswana has high rates of inequality (20% of Botswana’s population has 60% of the income) and poverty (20.3% of the population is considered extremely poor). Botswana also has a need to diversify its economy as diamonds are expected to peak in 2017 and are forecasted to be depleted by 2029; diamonds currently account for 60-70% of Botswana’s export earnings.
My main goals for this internship are to serve and learn and I hope to contribute and work hard in my short time here. This week I will be meeting staff from NCONGO and will begin my mandate. I’m looking forward to better understanding my role with NCONGO and the impact that they have providing grants and training and liaising with over 44 NGO’s in the Ngamiland region of Botswana.