Botswana: Democracy and a Buoyant Economy Ten Years after Its Bold Start, an Economic Bloc of Front-Line States Fighting Apartheid Is Shifting Its Strategy. Spurred by Political Reforms in South Africa, Neighboring States Now Are Preparing to Include the Regional Giant in Efforts to Promote Growth and Political Stability. Series: POINTS OF THE COMPASS. Part 3 of a Series. First of Four Articles Appearing Today

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BOTSWANA, a rare example of capitalism and democracy in Africa, has played a key role in the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC). Quett Masire, President of Botswana, is the current chairman of the group. His predecessor, Sir Seretse Khama, was the first chairman of the conference, which established its headquarters in 1980 in Gaborone, Botswana's capital.

Botswana was one of the continent's poorest nations at independence in 1966. It now has Africa's fastest growing economy, and stands out on a continent suffering from scarcity, mismanagement, and debt. As one of Africa's three multiparty democracies, its politics are characterized by open debate, efficient government, and a free-market philosophy.

Economic success followed the discovery of diamond deposits in 1967, one year after independence. And in 1989, for the fourth successive year, Botswana was the world's leading diamond producer by value.

Prudent management and use of the diamond wealth has been important to the country's stability. While wealth is still unequally distributed, international observers have recognized effective government efforts to care for all citizens during the 1981-87 drought.

Botswana faces little of the intertribal conflict that has divided many other African nations. …