Reporters on the Job

Maryland in Africa: Correspondent Stephanie Hanes has been traveling through Africa for several years now. But when she drove into the capital of Botswana for today's story about booming small cities her first thought was of Columbia, Maryland.

"In my home state, Columbia is synonymous with suburbia – a place of office parks and moderate traffic and plenty of unremarkable housing," she says. "True, you pass more goats on the road in Gaborone than in Columbia, but there was a definite similarity, at least for me."

In sub Saharan Africa, many capital cities are filled with miles of dilapidated shacks, cinder-block homes, and trash. There are also elite, upscale homes with big trees and almost as big security walls, and often a crowded, rundown city center. "In Gabs, the local shorthand for Gaborone, there's none of that. Most of the neighborhoods seem remarkably middle class," says Stephanie. "Botswana is a unique case in southern Africa: it is wealthy and has a democratic government that has returned diamond mining revenue to its people.

"A drive through Gabs undercut many of the stereotypes about African cities overall. And for me it was another reminder of the complex factors that cause the squalor in urban centers. It's more proof that there's nothing inherently African about poverty or misery," she notes.

– David Clark Scott

World editor

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