The Country That Diamonds Built

When the news about conflict diamonds first broke, it was hard to look past the horrors in Sierra Leone and think that diamonds could be a force for positive change elsewhere in Africa. But diamonds do, in fact, represent development and growth, and the nation of Botswana is living proof. Botswana became independent in 1966; diamonds were discovered there in 1967; and the country, once among the poorest nations in the world, now boasts an annual per capita GDP of approximately $7,800 (2002 figures)—roughly comparable to Mexico, Russia, and much of South America—and higher than India or China. It has the highest sovereign credit rating in Africa. Joseph Huggins, the U.S. ambassador to Botswana, says it's one point higher than Japan's. Its GDP annual growth rate is also among the fastest in the world. The country is the longest-running democracy in Africa and was one of the first s

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