Developmental Strategies in Africa: Wildlife and Cultural Tourism in Botswana

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The current economic conditions of many African countries, seemingly perpetuated by their traditional lifestyles and economies, have brought poverty and the ailment of the phenomenon to the forefront of development strategies. The modernization theory is the dominant socio-economic development strategy that many developing countries undertake where development is equated to economic growth and tradition is a barrier to development.

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Located in the South African region, Botswana is an example of an African country that has implemented various projects in order to develop and assume its role in modernity. Given the pristine natural environment of Botswana, wildlife tourism such as photographic and safari hunting has flourished in Botswana leading it to be the second largest industry in the country.  Yet, although tourism has the ability to promote economic development, there is a gap in literature that adequately analyzes consequences of tourism on local communities as well as the inequalities developed as a byproduct of tourism.

The high leakages of presumed benefits of modernization are evident in the changing livelihoods of the San, Basarwa “Bushmen” of Botswana. The San people are an indigenous tribe formerly inhabiting the

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A cultural presentation by the San people to tourists is a common attraction in lodges in Botswana

Kalahari Desert in central Botswana that were displaced after government mandated development policies required its entire people to be on the path to modernization. Lasting until the 1990s, the San people were removed from their traditional lifestyles of hunting and gathering and forced to enter modern communities through a high rate of urbanization. In order to participate in the economy, the San people have had to adapt to tourism ventures in which their only access to the market is through the selling of artisan crafts or providing low-skilled labor. With limited access to the tourism market, the San people’s ability to accumulate enough capital will continue to be handicapped as well as losing their culture integrity.

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Two San artists in an artist co-op

Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to remove from discourse of development that forms a hierarchy between developed and developing nations where developing nations desire to become as Western developed nations. Under economically oriented modernization policies, traditional societies are destroyed and slipping into a modern form of poverty without gaining advantages of modernization. Tourism should not be seen as the panacea of poverty alleviation in developing countries but rather as an added measure into inclusive policies that value traditional practices and livelihoods.

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Tobacco and alcohol were recently introduced to the San people after tourism development policies. Alcohol and tobacco abuse are relatively high among San people.

-Jessica Alvarenga

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