Botswana celebrates 50 years as an independent nation today. There are formal ceremonies and bashes planned throughout the coming weekend. British author Alexander McCall Smith penned a special short story of his beloved series, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, which is set in Botswana, in honor of the occasion.
In the new story, the lead character, Precious Ramotswe, imagines what it would be like to show her father the Botswana of today. Over a cup of red bush tea, Precious and her highly efficient secretary and assistant detective, Grace Makutsi, marvel at how this often arid landscape has become the site of schools and hospitals. Here’s McCall Smith reading from his story:
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is just one of Botswana’s exports. HBO and the BBC turned the bestselling story of a feisty private investigator into a TV series filmed in Botswana, starring Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose. While the series was cancelled after just one season, McCall Smith has written 16 books that gave viewers a glimpse of life in the capital, Gaborone, and the surrounding regions.
Small, landlocked Botswana is an African success story, and will be rightly congratulated for its achievements in the last half century. Botswana had a per capita GDP of just $70 when it gained independence from Britain in 1966, according to the World Bank. That figure grew to $6,361 by 2015—compared with its large neighbors, South Africa, with a GDP per capita of $5,692, and Namibia with $4,696.
There are of course still challenges, like persistent rural poverty and widening inequality between the cities and the countryside. The economy is struggling to diversify from a dependence on diamonds. Botswana’s people also suffered under the HIV/AIDS pandemic in southern Africa; and 22% of adults are still infected with the virus, according to World Bank figures. Despite all that, it is a country known for its stability and growth.