Dr. Ketsumile Masire
Former President of the Republic of Botswana
Under the leadership of President Masire, sustained efforts to develop nutrition, health, education and housing have greatly improved the quality of life for Botswana's people. Botswana's IMR (infant mortality rate) of 52 (per 1,000 live births) is one of the lowest in continental sub-Saharan Africa.
Shortly after President Masire's election in 1980, Botswana was hit by one of the worst droughts in its history, lasting from 1981 through 1987. Crop production was devastated, falling from 55,000 metric tonnes to 6000, and 1/3 of the livestock herd perished. President Masire's government was committed to, and succeeded, in ensuring that no one starved because of the drought. He established the Drought Relief Programme nutritional surveillance and early warning systems, as well as the Food for Work and other distribution programs to ensure that food was distributed to those in need.
Botswana earns most of its foreign exchange from the sale of its mineral resources on the international market. President Masire has wisely invested this income in the smallscale agricultural sector to enhance food security and to secure the well-being of his people.
President Masire's administration can point to considerable achievements in rural development:
- increased coverage of villages by the water supply program and upgrading of rural roads by both capital and labor intensive methods;
- increased decentralization of planning and decision making to strengthen local authorities;
- expansion of education and health facilities in the rural areas;
- formulation of land use plans for many parts of the country;
- launching of intensive, area specific, integrated development schemes in selected parts of the country;
- establishment of extension officer cadres to promote small, village based industries;
- continued expansion of livestock production.
Botswana is known for its democratic institutions, a strong record in human rights, a free press, an independent judiciary and a commitment to a nonracial society. As president, Dr. Masire is renowned for his integrity in government and for his role in strengthening the democratic institutions of his country.
Under President Masire's leadership, Botswana has also maintained a highly principled stance in the international sphere, taking a strong stand against apartheid.
Despite six years of devastating drought and a hostile political environment with the apartheid regime then in South Africa, President Masire's government engineered and managed the most sustained and balanced economic growth of any country in Africa. Botswana has had an average annual economic growth rate of 12 percent for the last 10 years, largely due to prudent use of mineral resources, including diamonds.
Born 23 July 1925 in Kanye, Botswana. Received a teaching certificate in 1949, founded the secondary school in Kanye and served as its headmaster. Worked as a journalist from 1958, and cofounded the Botswana Democratic Party in 1962. Elected to the National Assembly in 1965, deputy prime minister in 1966, during which he played a key role in negotiations for independence. From independence in 1966 to his election as president in 1980, Dr. Masire served as vice president and finance minister. President Masire was chairman of SADCC, the Southern African Development Coordination Conference, from 1981 to 1984.