Progress and Prosperity in Botswana...Without Women

Recently named Africa's least corrupt nation, Botswana's progress and prosperity only paints half of the picture.

Botswana is often characterized as an anomaly to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, exemplified by its good governance and booming economy. The nation has achieved stable and rapid growth since independence in 1966, mostly through supportive relationships between an open market economy and a system of elite democracy, successfully blending 'traditional' and modern elements, and offering a range of fairly free and meaningful political choices.  In other words, if you ever happen to take a business/economics class about opportunities in Africa, we'd be surprised if you didn't hear the professor say "Look to Botswana" yes, over the horizon there.

This week headlines again are applauding the nation for achieving the title as "Africa's Least Corrupt Nation." The annual report by Transparency International indicates that Botswana ranks 32 on the globe, highlighting their "success story." These accounts are also cognizant of Botswana's war against HIV/AIDs with the second highest rate in the world. Estimated adult HIV prevalence among 15-49 year olds is 24.8% with young women contracting the disease at much higher rates than men. But the government has made HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment a priority, and is the first African nation to provide free treatment to citizens living with HIV/AIDS.

What might be the problem then? While Transparency International's report hones in on corruption, perhaps we need to be more critical of what we define as an "African model." In their article for the Huffington Post, Nake M. Kamrany and Jennifer Gray describe Botswana as a model for progress and prosperity on the basis of GDP per capita ($16,100), stable population growth rates, an expanding economy, and en effective health agenda against high rates of HIV/AIDS. These facts are all worthy of praise, but it becomes somewhat of a concern in milieu of the decade of African women, when the model for Africa has women represented with only 6.6% of the seats in parliament and only 19% of the position in local government.

Corruption seems to be the talk of the town whenever it comes to leadership throughout the continent. Similar to the controversy surrounding the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Good Governance, governance seems to always place African leaders (typically men) at the forefront of the conversation. In some ways, focusing on corruption and how simultaneously problematic and exciting it is, undermines our ability to see how corruption and governance are implicated in other aspects of leadership and democracy. These aspects specifically being gender and women's political representation. We're not holding African countries to higher standards either, the United States has had an issue with female political participation as well and is still below 20% in Congress. However, the goal for African countries should not simply be: good economy, good governance, no corruption. Women's rights, LGBTQI rights, and political participation have to be worked in and through those aspirations.

In the case of Botswana, NGOs in Southern Africa such as Open Society Initiative have considered these questions and suggested that Botswana's government is "not genuinely committed to promoting and protecting the rights of half the population." A concern throughout southern Africa is Botswana's failure to ratify the SADC gender protocol (Southern African Development Community), which underscores the significance of women's rights and political participation. We're not throwing shade at Botswana's achievement, but we need to change the conversation so that the model we have in mind isn't imported by certain Western models of modernization and capitalism, and most significantly that it necessarily includes and represents women as leaders, politicians, and perhaps the very thing we keep referring to as progress.


Introducing OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 List

Celebrating African Women Laying the Groundwork for the Future

It would not be hyperbole to consider the individuals we're honoring for OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 list as architects of the future.

This is to say that these women are building infrastructure, both literally and metaphorically, for future generations in Africa and in the Diaspora. And they are doing so intentionally, reaching back, laterally, and forward to bridge gaps and make sure the steps they built—and not without hard work, mines of microaggressions, and challenges—are sturdy enough for the next ascent.

In short, the women on this year's list are laying the groundwork for other women to follow. It's what late author and American novelist Toni Morrison would call your "real job."

"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else."

And that's what inspired us in the curation of this year's list. Our honorees use various mediums to get the job done—DJ's, fashion designers, historians, anthropologists, and even venture capitalists—but each with the mission to clear the road ahead for generations to come. Incredible African women like Eden Ghebreselassie, a marketing lead at ESPN who created a non-profit to fight energy poverty in Eritrea; or Baratang Miya, who is quite literally building technology clubs for disadvantaged youth in South Africa.

There are the builds that aren't physically tangible—movements that inspire women to show up confidently in their skin, like Enam Asiama's quest to normalize plus-sized bodies and Frédérique (Freddie) Harrel's push for Black and African women to embrace the kink and curl of their hair.

And then there are those who use their words to build power, to take control of the narrative, and to usher in true inclusion and equity. Journalists, (sisters Nikki and Lola Ogunnaike), a novelist (Oyinkan Braithwaite), a media maven (Yolisa Phahle), and a number of historians (Nana Oforiatta Ayim, Leïla Sy) to name a few.

In a time of uncertainty in the world, there's assuredness in the mission to bring up our people. We know this moment of global challenge won't last. It is why we are moving forward to share this labor of love with you, our trusted and loyal audience. We hope that this list serves as a beacon for you during this moment—insurance that future generations will be alright. And we have our honorees to thank for securing that future.


The annual OkayAfrica 100 Women List is our effort to acknowledge and uplift African women, not only as a resource that has and will continue to enrich the world we live in, but as a group that deserves to be recognized, reinforced and treasured on a global scale. In the spirit of building infrastructure, this year's list will go beyond the month of March (Women's History Month in America) and close in September during Women's Month in South Africa.

100 women 2020

Burna Boy 'African Giant' money cover art by Sajjad.

The 20 Essential Burna Boy Songs

We comb through the Nigerian star's hit-filled discography to select 20 essential songs from the African Giant.

Since bursting onto the scene in 2012 with his chart-topping single, "Like to Party," and the subsequent release of his debut album, L.I.F.E - Leaving an Impact for eternity, Burna Boy has continued to prove time and again that he is a force to be reckoned with.

The African Giant has, over the years, built a remarkable musical identity around the ardent blend of dancehall, hip-hop, reggae, R&B, and afropop to create a game-changing genre he calls afro-fusion. The result has been top tier singles, phenomenal collaborations, and global stardom—with several accolades under his belt which include a Grammy nomination and African Giant earning a spot on many publications' best albums of 2019.

We thought to delve into his hit-filled discography to bring you The 20 Essential Burna Boy Songs.

This list is in no particular order.

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Justice Mukheli. Courtesy of Black Major/Bongeziwe Mabandla.

Interview: Bongeziwe Mabandla's New Album Is a Calm Meditation On Relationships

We speak with the South African artist about his captivating new album, iimini, love cycles, and the unexpected influence of Bon Iver.

"I've been playing at home for so many years and pretending to be having shows in my living room, and today it's actually happening," Bongeziwe Mabandla says, smiling out at me from my cellphone as I watch him play songs on Instagram Live, guitar close to his chest.

Two weekends ago, Mabandla was meant to be celebrating the release of his third album, iimini, at the Untitled Basement in Braamfontein in Joburg, which would no doubt have been packed with some of the many fans the musician has made since his debut release, Umlilo, in 2012. With South Africa joining many other parts of the world in a lockdown, those dates were cancelled and Mabandla, like many other artists, took to social media to still play some tracks from the album. The songs on iimini are about the life and death of a relationship—songs that are finding their way into the hearts of fans around the world, some of whom, now stuck in isolation, may be having to confront the ups and downs of love, with nowhere to hide.

The day before his Instagram Live mini-show, Mabandla spoke to OkayAfrica on lockdown from his home in Newtown about the lessons he's learned from making the album, his new-found love for Bon Iver, and how he's going to be spending his time over the next few weeks.

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Lueking Photos. Courtesy of emPawa Africa.

Interview: GuiltyBeatz Proves He's Truly 'Different'

The Ghanaian producer talks to us about his debut EP, Different, the massive success of "Akwaaba," producing for Beyoncé and more.

GuiltyBeatz isn't a new name in the Ghanaian music scene. A casual music fan's first introduction to him would've likely been years ago on "Sample You," one of Mr Eazi's early breakout hits. However, he had scored his first major hit two years before that, in the Nigerian music space on Jesse Jagz' and Wizkid's 2013 hit "Bad Girl." In the years to come, the producer has gone on to craft productions for some of Ghana's most talented artists.

In the years to come, the producer has gone on to craft productions for some of Ghana's most talented artists, having worked with the likes of Efya, Pappy Kojo, Sarkodie, R2Bees, Stonebwoy, Bisa Kdei, Wande Coal, Moelogo and many more over the last decade. The biggest break of the talented producer's career, however, came with the arrival of his own single "Akwaaba".

In 2018, GuiltyBeatz shared "Akwaaba" under Mr Eazi's Banku Music imprint, shortly afterwards the song and its accompanying dance went viral. The track and dance graced party floors, music & dance videos, and even church auditoriums all around the world, instantly making him one of Africa's most influential producers. Awards, nominations, and festival bookings followed the huge success of "Akwaaba." Then, exactly a year later, the biggest highlight of his career so far would arrive: three production credits on Beyoncé's album The Lion King: The Gift.

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