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Social Justice and a Green Transition in Botswana



Writer: Boitumelo Pauline Marumo


20 February is World Day of Social Justice, let's celebrate it by fostering understanding and compassion. By acknowledging the impact of climate change on vulnerable communities, we can work towards a future where everyone, regardless of their background, enjoys the same rights and opportunities. World Day of Social Justice reminds us each year of the need to build fairer, more equitable societies. The International Labour Organisation marks the occasion this year with a series of seven events held in major cities around the globe. Read more about this day: https://www.un.org/en/observances/social-justice-day



Botswana stands at the crossroads of economic promise and social challenges. With Africa's real domestic product (GDP) forecasted to average 3.8% in 2024 and 4.2% in 2025 (1)—outpacing global averages—the nation has a unique opportunity to channel this growth towards a sustainable and socially just future (2). Botswana's economic landscape is witnessing transformative growth, with the African Development Bank Group reporting a remarkable 11.9% real GDP increase in 2021, rebounding from the pandemic-induced contraction (3). This economic resurgence provides a platform for Botswana to address pressing issues of social justice, unemployment, and climate change while fostering sustainable development. However, key challenges in unemployment, minimum wage disparities, and skill gaps underscore the need for a comprehensive strategy that embraces a green transition while promoting social justice. Botswana's vulnerability to multiyear droughts necessitates strategic climate policies. With an estimated climate mitigation financing need of $9.2 billion for 2020–30, Botswana received $570 million in climate finance over 2010–20, highlighting a substantial financing gap (3). The National Climate Change Policy provides a framework for mobilizing climate finance, but obstacles such as limited institutional investor interest and insufficient adaptation data need addressing.


The 2021/22 balanced budget and the 2022/23 fiscal deficit of 1.0% of GDP reflect Botswana's economic stability and responsible fiscal management (3). Despite a high unemployment rate of 25.4%, driven by youth unemployment at 39.9%, the country maintains a low poverty headcount ratio of 20.8% (3). These indicators underscore the need for targeted initiatives to bridge economic gaps.


Botswana's unemployment rate, currently at 25.40% (4), represents a pressing challenge. Yet, it also signifies an untapped workforce eager for meaningful employment. The country's minimum wage, at 2,150 Botswana Pula per month (5), reflects a baseline that, while commendable, requires periodic review to ensure it keeps pace with the rising cost of living.


Skill gaps, especially among the youth (37.8% unemployment rate), emphasize the need for targeted education and training programs (5). Aligning these initiatives with the demands of the emerging green job market can address unemployment while nurturing a skilled workforce for the future.


Climate Change Challenges and Policy Options


Botswana's vulnerability to multiyear droughts necessitates strategic climate policies. With an estimated climate mitigation financing need of $9.2 billion for 2020–30, Botswana received $570 million in climate finance over 2010–20, highlighting a substantial financing gap (3). The National Climate Change Policy provides a framework for mobilizing climate finance, but obstacles such as limited institutional investor interest and insufficient adaptation data need addressing. Botswana's 2024-2025 National Budget Speech has a proposed budget is 1.37 billion Botswana Pula for Green Transition and 1.02 billion Botswana Pula for Research and Development which includes climate change. As Botswana embraces a green transition, addressing social justice and equity becomes imperative. The mining-dependent economy, mainly diamonds, requires diversification to sustain growth. Investing in renewable energy, eco-tourism, and sustainable agriculture presents opportunities for job creation and economic resilience. Currently, only 6% of the energy mix is derived from renewable sources (2), indicating substantial room for growth and job creation in the green sector. Bridging gender pay gaps, improving minimum wages, and upskilling the workforce can ensure that the benefits of this green transition are inclusive.


While Botswana has made strides in environmental conservation, only 3% of its GDP is from renewable energy investments (2). Increasing this share requires strategic investments in renewable projects. Such endeavors not only contribute to environmental sustainability but also significantly impact GDP growth, propelling Botswana into a more resilient economic future.


The absence of specific policies addressing climate-related social justice is a notable gap in Botswana. Strengthening labor laws, ensuring fair wages, and incorporating social justice principles into national policies are crucial steps to build an inclusive society (2). The gender pay gap in Botswana is stark, with women earning, on average, 67% of what men earn (5). Addressing this disparity and acknowledging the unique challenges faced by vulnerable communities are critical steps toward achieving equity and fostering an environment where everyone can thrive.


Botswana's journey towards social justice and a green transition is marked by both progress and gaps. By addressing unemployment through green job creation, increasing investments in renewable energy, fortifying social justice policies, and striving for equity, Botswana can position itself as a leader in sustainable development. This comprehensive strategy not only fosters prosperity for all its citizens but also contributes to global efforts to combat climate change. The country's economic growth is marked by undeniable progress, yet it grapples with persistent challenges, particularly in terms of inequality. .


While economic growth has been robust, certain segments of the population still face disparities in income, access to education, and healthcare (6). Botswanaad needs policies that not only spur economic growth but also ensure that the benefits are equitably shared among the populace. Addressing these gaps is crucial for fostering a more inclusive society. Botswana should improve inclusive governance of work, extending social protections, and promoting lifelong learning to enhance employability (7). These strategies are integral to achieving not only economic growth but also social justice.



RECOMMENDATIONS


To advance social justice and decent work in Botswana, consider implementing the following recommendations.


  • Initiate targeted education reforms, ensuring equitable access to quality education through scholarship programs and vocational training.

  • Establish progressive taxation policies to address income inequality, placing a higher burden on the affluent.

  • Invest in green economy projects, creating employment opportunities while promoting sustainable practices.

  • Develop robust social protection systems, including unemployment benefits and healthcare coverage.

  • Encourage collaborative social dialogues involving government, employers, workers, and civil society.

  • Empower marginalized groups through inclusive entrepreneurship programs and skill development initiatives.

  • Support community-based projects addressing localized challenges.

  • Advocate for flexible work arrangements to promote inclusivity.

  • Launch public awareness campaigns to foster a culture of social responsibility.


These comprehensive strategies can pave the way for a more equitable and sustainable future in Botswana.



  1. African Development Bank 2024

  2. Botswana Climate Change Network 2023

  3. World Bank 2022

  4. Statistics Botswana 2022

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