U.K.-born Christopher Roy Garland has lived and worked in Gaborone, Botswana, since the 1990s. During his nearly 40 years as a business advisor and fiduciary in Southern Africa, he has been involved in dozens of public-private development partnerships and parastatal infrastructure initiatives across the region.
We spoke to Garland recently about his career, the projects he has been part of, and his outlook for Botswana and the rest of the 16-country Southern African Development Community.
How did you land in Botswana?
Growing up in the U.K. was a real privilege, but I never quite felt like I belonged. As soon as I was old enough to strike out on my own, I headed south — first to South Africa, and later to Botswana. The continent’s boundless possibility spoke to me and still does.
What was Botswana like when you arrived and how has it changed since?
Botswana felt like home as soon as I arrived. Compared with London and even Johannesburg, where I’d previously spent time, Gaborone was quieter and more friendly. Botswana has grown considerably in terms of population and per capita income since I arrived, but the country’s character and friendly people hasn’t really changed.
To what factors do you credit Botswana’s success? What lessons does it hold for the rest of the SADC?
Botswana is seen as an example throughout the region (and really across Africa) of post-independence political stability and technocratic competence. Its abundant mineral resources don’t hurt, but these are the keys — other African countries with mineral riches haven’t been so fortunate.
While the recipe for other SADC countries isn’t quite as simple as “do what Botswana is doing,” we consistently advise leaders elsewhere to implement political reforms and economic development initiatives in line with Botswana’s.
Where do you see Botswana in 2040?
I expect Botswana to continue to strive for self-sufficiency, or at least more independence, in energy and raw materials production. I also look for a shift away from overreliance on production of a handful of raw materials, like diamonds, to drive the country’s economy.
Mining and natural resources management will remain a significant part of the equation, however, even as manufacturing and professional services account for a greater share of output.
Tell us about an accomplishment or two that you’re particularly proud of.
Professionally, I’m quite proud of the work I’ve done to help SADC member nations develop strategic infrastructure, such as railways and deepwater ports. It’s impossible to name just one or two such projects — they’ve all mattered in their own way.
On a personal level, I’m immensely proud of my children, who are now grown with families of their own.
What else do you do in your spare time (if you have any)?
I’m a big supporter of The Equinox Trust, an amazing charity based in South Africa. I enjoy flying small planes, though less so than in the past. But mostly I like spending time with my family to the extent that I’m able — I’m still quite busy with work these days.