Migration and Development: A Study of Tswana Male Labor Migration to the Diamond Mines of Botswana and its Impact on the Local Tswana Economy

Open Access
Helmich, Isabelle Ann Marie
Area of Honors:
African Studies
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Clemente K. Abrokwaa, Thesis Supervisor
  • Kevin J.A. Thomas, Honors Advisor
  • migration
  • mineral extraction
  • diamonds
  • Tswana
  • Botswana
  • internal migration
  • colonial legacy
  • labor reserve
  • rural development
  • economic development
The purpose of the study was to examine the impact of migration on national economies. It focused specifically on the periodic migration of Tswana males to Botswana’s diamond mines and its effects on rural Tswana communities and their economies. Colonialism greatly impacted the Southern Africa region, as it did in the rest of the African continent, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. Great Britain colonized the Botswana region from the period 1890 to 1966, when Botswana gained its political independence. During colonial rule, the British discovered an abundance of natural resources in the area, including diamonds-- a discovery which has greatly impacted the cultures and ways of life of the various ethnic groups of the region, including the Tswana, into the post-independence era. Several political and economic forces, such as the increased need for labor in South African diamond mines and colonial tax systems, soon necessitated male Tswana migration from their local communities to seek wage employment in South African diamond mines. The discovery of diamonds thus transformed the traditional occupational lifestyle of the Tswana from cattle-herding to wage-earning labor. This system of periodic migration persisted into the post-independence era, as larger and more lucrative diamond mines continued to be discovered domestically in Botswana. Migration thus has reallocated labor from Tswana domestic economic activities to the diamond mining sector of the country’s national economy. The development of the diamond industry as well as the absence of males due to migration continues to impact the economic development in rural areas of Botswana. The findings of the study confirmed the original hypothesis that periodic Tswana male migration to work in the diamond sector of Botswana’s economy has had adverse impacts on rural Tswana communities and their economies. The study also found that the diamond industry’s domination of the national economy did achieve some sustained economic growth for the country initially, but in general, has failed to contribute to economic development especially in the rural areas. Several recommendations have been proposed for the government and other interested parties, including investors, based on the findings of the study to assist with efforts to achieve balanced economic development for the country. Data collection for the study employed library resources, including books, ethnographic research reports, journal articles, statistical reports published by international organizations, and Internet sources.