Gustavus hosted speaker Hilary Chart in Confer Hall for a talk on Botswana and Capitalism at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 8.
Chart is a sociocultural anthropologist and professor at Macalester College in St. Paul. She has an interest in Africa as a whole and has done research on the economy of Botswana in particular.
Professor Paschal Kyoore, Director of the African Studies department, advertised for the talk in hopes to augment student attendance.
Some professors also made the talk a mandatory assignment for their course.
“I, and some of my colleagues, have required students in our classes to attend the talk. In my case, I will have a follow-up discussion on the talk in my class, Introduction to Africa,” Kyoore said.
Botswana is a landlocked country in the south of Africa that has grown exponentially in terms of economic status since its independence from Britain in 1966.
According to the International Monetary Fund, Botswana’s economy grew an average of 9 percent per year from 1966 to 1999.
Botswana’s citizens currently have a living standard similar to that of Mexico’s.
A large portion of Botswana’s economy has come from the government-managed precious metal mines, as well as entrepreneurship becoming a popular idea in the country.
Both of these were discussed by Chart during her talk.
The country’s top export is raw diamonds.
These make up 62 percent of Botswana’s total exports according to the Harvard Center for International Development.
The next most common export is another raw material: nickel.
The government owns and manages the mines that are responsible for extracting these valuables.
“The government is very rich. The citizens know this and see that wealth as their own wealth,” Chart said.
“Enthusiasm for entrepreneurship is growing. It has a certain power to it,” Chart said.
Many people in Botswana are driven to take business into their own hands, partially due to Botswana’s high level of economic freedom, inspired by Americans like Mark Zuckerberg. Many citizens long to be a successful business owner.
Citizens see the country’s GDP almost as a personal responsibility.
Chart discussed how many people who desire the life of an entrepreneur will start by doing small things such as selling candy on the side of the road or by setting up their own car washes.
After Chart finished her talk, students in attendance were allowed to ask questions in order to learn more about the topic.
In all, the event lasted about one and a half hours.
Chart presented on the topics of entrepreneurship and Botswana’s economy for around an hour, then questions took up half an hour.
“I thought the talk was actually very interesting and informative. I had originally attended because my class was offering extra credit but I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the speaker and both her interest and knowledge of the subject matter as well as how effective she was at delivering the message in an easy to understand and interesting way. I learned a great deal about a subject I had really never heard of before,” Senior Chaselyn Miller said.
The subject certainly was a specific one.
It is a topic that not many students have ever considered to learn about before.
“It is inspiring to see people’s hope in self-sufficiency and discovery. I think it offers a unique perspective into a unique country’s strategy for economic development,” Miller said.
This idea of entrepreneurship has certainly taken off in Botswana.
There are many other countries around the world who are following the trend.
Other talks concerning those countries or topic similar to this one may come to campus in the future.
“I would definitely go to another talk by this speaker. I enjoy learning about different countries and I think it offers Gustavus students a way to see more perspectives and hear and learn about things that are happening in the world that they may know little about,” Miller said.
Students seemed to be a fan of both Chart and the opportunity to learn about the world they live in.
“I really only went for extra credit but was so glad I went. I think it is great that Gustavus offers routine speakers as it allows students to gain a more encompassing perspective of the world as a whole. The lessons we learn can then not only be applied to our own lives but in how we are able to help and empower others through service or knowledge,” Miller said.
Gustavus professors and administrators have been working towards offering more talks such as this one where students can learn about and connect with life around the world.