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Ways of the World

Carol Stone, business economist & active Episcopalian, brings you "Ways of the World". Exploring business & consumers & stewardship, we'll discuss everyday issues: kids & finances, gas prices, & some larger issues: what if foreigners start dumping our debt? And so on. We can provide answers & seek out sources for others. We'll talk about current events & perhaps get different perspectives from what the media says. Write to Carol. Let her know what's important to you:

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Meeting the Bishop of Botswana

I was privileged the other evening to go with Mother Crafton to a reception for the Bishop of Botswana, the Rt. Rev. M. T. S. Mwamba. The gathering was a small, informal event in the Rectory at St. Michael's Church in Manhattan, and there was ample opportunity to talk with him and other guests. These included my own Bishop, Orris Walker of Long Island, who had met Bishop Mwamba in South Africa last year.

Bishop Mwamba is a native of Zambia and has extensive education in law, theology and social anthropology. He has served churches in England and Zambia and performed administrative roles for dioceses in Zambia and Botswana and for the Church of the Province of Central Africa (Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe). He became the Bishop of Botswana in early 2005. The Bishop has also worked in the private sector; he was Head of Legal and Compliance at Standard Chartered Bank Botswana Limited from 1999 to 2004.

Botswana, which is located just north of South Africa, is a relatively prosperous place. It has the advantage of a number of natural mineral resources, especially diamonds, and benefits when commodity prices rise, as they have done recently. Its government is a stable one, independent since 1966 and fully democratic. There have been no violent revolutions, tribal wars or riots as have plagued other African countries. The Bishop explains that this is at least partly due to a societal structure that is evolutionary in nature, in which the leaders have seen fit to transition gradually from old institutions to modern ones. The leaders too have not been militant dictators, nor have they grabbed all the money income for themselves. These are relative conditions: deep poverty remains prevalent among the ordinary people, unemployment is high and the rate of HIV/AIDS infection is the second highest of any African nation.

So Bishop Mwamba is visiting in the US on an aid mission. But it is a different kind of "aid" he is seeking. He is using contacts from his banker days to approach companies, looking for strategic, long-term investment alliances. What he hopes is to bring home business arrangements that can help put his people to work and broaden the economic base of his country. Most directly, his goal is to build the church in Botswana by bolstering the financial well-being of the community.

This sounds like a sound plan to us – if we may be so bold to opine. It is an approach that avoids the burden of heavy debt even as it engages the people it wants to help, not through hand-outs, but through jobs. Many countries that have listened to Keynesian economics have used public works to put people to work, trying to jump-start their economies. Sometimes this succeeds, but often, as soon as the projects are finished, so are the jobs. The Japanese went through this several times during their trials of stagnation during the 1990s. So Bishop Mwamba's idea to go after real businesses seems promising to help build a firmer commercial foundation. Not simply a coincidence, we suspect, the Bishop's wife Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba heads a quasi-governmental business-relations agency, Botswana Export Development and Investment Authority.

Clearly, developing countries face many hurdles – that's why they are still developing. But efforts such as Bishop Mwamba's can help move them forward. We wish him and the good people of Botswana the best as they keep trying.

And we very definitely thank the Rev. Canon George Brandt, Rector of St. Michael's, for his generosity in hosting this pleasurable evening.


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