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The Republic of Botswana ( ) is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. Citizens of Botswana are called "Batswana" (singular: Motswana), regardless of ethnicity. Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966. It is bordered by South Africa to the south and southeast, Namibiamarker to the west and north, and Zimbabwemarker to the northeast. It meets Zambiamarker at a single point.

Geographically the country is flat and up to 70% of Botswana is covered by the Kalahari Desertmarker. Botswana was one of the most impoverished countries in Africa when it became independent in 1966. Today, it is home to a relatively stable political system and a rapidly developing market economy. Being closely tied with the economy of South Africa, the country's economy is one of the most successful in Africa and is dominated by the fast-growing service sector, world-renowned diamond industry, tourism, and manufacturing. For many decades, Botswana had the highest economic growth rate of any nation. It has held free and fair democratic elections since independence.

About 60% of the population live above the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day. Botswana's economic growth rate has outpaced the economic growth of even the Asian Tigers, and the World Bank cites Botswana as one of the world's great development success stories.


In the 19th century, hostilities broke out between Tswana inhabitants of Botswana and Ndebele tribes who were making incursions into the territory from the north-east. Tensions also escalated with the Boer settlers from the Transvaalmarker to the east. After appeals by the Batswana leaders Khama III, Bathoen and Sebele for assistance, the British Government put "Bechuanaland" under its protection on 31 March 1885. The northern territory remained under direct administration as the Bechuanaland Protectorate and is modern-day Botswana, while the southern territory became part of the Cape Colony and is now part of the northwest province of South Africa. The majority of Setswana-speaking people today live in South Africa.

When the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910 out of the main British colonies in the region, the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Basutoland (now Lesothomarker) and Swazilandmarker (the "High Commission Territories") were not included, but provision was made for their later incorporation. However, a vague undertaking was given to consult their inhabitants, and although successive South African governments sought to have the territories transferred, Britain kept delaying; consequently, it never occurred. The election of the National Party government in 1948, which instituted apartheid, and South Africa's withdrawal from the Commonwealth in 1961, ended any prospect of incorporation of the territories into South Africa.

An expansion of British central authority and the evolution of tribal government resulted in the 1920 establishment of two advisory councils to represent both Africans and Europeans. Proclamations in 1934 regularized tribal rule and powers. A European-African advisory council was formed in 1951, and the 1961 constitution established a consultative legislative council.

In June 1964, Britain accepted proposals for a democratic self-government in Botswana. The seat of government was moved in 1965 from Mafikengmarker in South Africa, to the newly established Gaboronemarker, which sits near its border. The 1965 constitution led to the first general elections and to independence on 30 September 1966. Seretse Khama, a leader in the independence movement and the legitimate claimant to the Ngwato chiefship, was elected as the first president, re-elected twice.

The presidency passed to the sitting vice president, Quett Masire, who was elected in his own right in 1984 and re-elected in 1989 and 1994. Masire retired from office in 1998. The presidency passed to the sitting vice president, Festus Mogae, who was elected in his own right in 1999 and re-elected in 2004. The presidency passed in 2008 to Ian Khama (son of the first president), who resigned his position as leader of the Botswana Defence Force to take up this civilian role.

Geography and environment

Map of Botswana

At 231,788 mi² (600,370 km²), Botswana is the world's 45th-largest country (after Ukrainemarker). It is comparable in size to Madagascarmarker, and it is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Texasmarker. It is predominantly flat, tending toward gently rolling tableland. Botswana is dominated by the Kalahari Desertmarker, which covers up to 70% of its land surface. The Okavango Deltamarker, the world's largest inland delta, is in the northwest. The Makgadikgadi Panmarker, a large salt pan, lies in the north.

The Limpopo Rivermarker Basin, the major landform of all of southern Africa, lies partly in Botswana, in the southeast of the country. The Chobe Rivermarker lies to the north, providing a boundary between Botswana and Namibiamarker (Caprivi Region). The Chobe River meets with the Zambezi Rivermarker at a place called Kazungulamarker (meaning a small sausage tree, a point where Sebitwane and his Makololo tribe crossed the Zambezi into Zambia). The Zambezi River is the boundary between Botswana and Zambia.

Botswana has diverse areas of wildlife habitat. In addition to the delta and desert areas, there are grasslands and savannas, where Blue Wildebeest, many antelopes, and other mammals and birds are found. Northern Botswana has one of the few remaining large populations of the endangered African Wild Dog. The Chobe National Parkmarker, found in the Chobe District, has the world's largest concentration of African elephants. The park covers about 1,1000 km² and supports about 350 species of birds.

The Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reservemarker (in the Okavango Delta) are major tourist destinations. Other reserves include the Central Kalahari Game Reservemarker located in the Kalahari desert in Ghanzi Districtmarker; Makgadikgadi Pans National Parkmarker and Nxai Pan National Parkmarker are in Central District in the Makgadikgadi Panmarker. Mashatu Game Reserve is privately owned: located where the Shashe River and Limpopo River meet in eastern Botswana. The other privately owned reserve is Mokolodi Nature Reservemarker near Gaborone. There are also specialized sanctuaries like the Khama Rhino Sanctuary (for Rhinoceros) and Makgadikgadi Sanctuary (for Flamingos). They are both located in Central District.sausages

Politics and government

The politics of Botswana take place in a framework of a representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Botswana is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Parliament of Botswana. Botswana is the only mainland nation in Africa to have maintained free and fair elections since its independence; the most recent election, its tenth, was held on October 16, 2009.

Since independence was declared, the party system has been dominated by the Botswana Democratic Party. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. According to Transparency International, Botswana is the least corrupt country in Africa and ranks similarly close to Portugalmarker and South Koreamarker. The national anthem is Fatshe leno la rona. Botswana's government have over the last year, been heavily critised for imposing communist-like laws on its citizen. Protesting and striking is also illegal and the death penalty still largely looms over those who commit serious crimes. Recently, five tourists were detained by police for critisising the president "Mr Ian Khama". Which again shows little freedom of speech within the country.

Administrative divisions

Districts of Botswana

Botswana is divided into 10 districts
  1. Central Districtmarker
  2. Ghanzi Districtmarker
  3. Kgalagadi Districtmarker
  4. Kgatleng Districtmarker
  5. Kweneng Districtmarker
  6. North-East Districtmarker
  7. North-West Districtmarker
  8. South-East Districtmarker
  9. Southern Districtmarker
  10. Chobe District (Separated from North-West District)


At the time of independence Botswana had no armed forces. It was only after attacks from the Rhodesian and South African armies that the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) was formed in self-defense in 1977. The president is commander in chief and appoints a defence council. The BDF has approximately 12,000 members.

Following political changes in South Africa and the region, the BDF's missions have increasingly focused on combatting poaching, preparing for disasters, and foreign peacekeeping. The United States has been the largest single foreign contributor to the development of the BDF, and a large segment of its officer corps has received U.S. training. It is considered an apolitical and professional institution.


Since independence, Botswana has had one of the fastest growth rates in per capita income in the world. Botswana has transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country. By one estimate, it has the fourth highest gross national income at purchasing power parity in Africa, giving it a standard of living around that of Mexicomarker and Turkeymarker.

According to the International Monetary Fundmarker, economic growth averaged over 9% per year from 1966 to 1999. Botswana has a high level of economic freedom compared to other African countries. The government has maintained a sound fiscal policy, despite consecutive budget deficits in 2002 and 2003, and a negligible level of foreign debt. It earned the highest sovereign credit rating in Africa and has stockpiled foreign exchange reserves (over $7 billion in 2005/2006) amounting to almost two and a half years of current imports.

Debswana, the largest diamond mining company operating in Botswana, is 50% owned by the government. Mineral industry provides about 40% of all government revenues. In 2007, significant quantities of uranium were discovered, and mining is projected to begin by 2010. Several international mining corporations have established regional headquarters in Botswana, and prospected for diamonds, gold, uranium, copper, and even oil, many coming back with positive results. Government announced in early 2009, that they would try and shift their economic dependence on diamonds, as diamonds are predicted to dry out in Botswana over the next twenty years which is a serious cause for concern because forty percent of the country's income is from this precious resource


Life expectancy at birth was at 40 for both males and females in 2004. There were 40 physicians per 100,000 persons in 2004.


Life expectancy in several African countries from 1958 to 2003.
Botswana had the highest life expectancy until HIV/AIDS began to reduce it in the late 1980s.

Like elsewhere in the Sub-Saharan Africa, the economic impact of AIDS is considerable. Economic development spending was cut by 10% in 2002-2003 as a result of recurring budget deficits and rising expenditure on healthcare services. Botswana has been hit very hard by the AIDS pandemic; in 2006 it was estimated that life expectancy at birth had dropped from 65 to 35 years.

Approximately one in six Batswana has HIV, giving Botswana the second highest infection rate in the world after nearby Swazilandmarker. The government recognizes that AIDS will affect the economy and is trying to combat the epidemic, including free anti-retroviral drug treatment and a nation-wide Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission program. Botswana has reduced HIV transmission from infected mothers to their children from about 40% to just 4%.


-Note: Information not sourced.

The cumulative number of cancer cases registered from 1986 to 2005 was 2000 and during the time the second annual cancer registry report was released it reached 4138.

The most affected groups observed were unemployed, peasants, housewives, scholars and self employed workers. The highest numbers of cancer cases were registered from Gaboronemarker, Kweneng East, Serowe Palapye, Katleng and South East districts respectively.

The frequency of cancers was common in the age group 30–49 years of age. Females were more affected than males. 31% of all the cancers documented were of the female reproductive organs.

The most common sites of cancers were skin, cervix, breast, oesophagus, bone marrow, eye and mouth respectively.

The Cancer Association of Botswana is a voluntary non-governmental organization established as a trust in 1998. The Association is a leading service provider in supplementing existing services through provision of cancer prevention and health promotion programmes, facilitating access to health services for cancer patients and offering support and counseling to those affected.


The most popular sport in Botswana is soccer, and other popular sports include cricket, tennis, rugby union, softball, volleyball and athletics. Botswana is an associate member of the International Cricket Council.

Another popular game is the mind sport of bridge. Bridge was first played in Botswana thirty years ago, but it was the 1980s when the game really took off, with many British expatriate school teachers teaching bridge in Botswana’s Secondary Schools. They were not qualified “bridge teachers”, simply enthusiasts who wanted to pass on their own passion to another and younger generation. The result was the foundation of the Botswana Bridge Federation (BBF) in 1988 and so the official organiser of tournaments for the pupils to play in. Since then bridge has continued to be popular in the country and is a fixture of many people’s lives: the BBF can currently boast over 800 members. At its peak there could be as many as 600 children playing bridge – which is unique in Africa. This interest in bridge has developed even further in 2008 when the BBF invited the English Bridge Union to host a bridge teaching programme over a week in May 2008.


Besides referring to the language of the dominant people groups in Botswana, Setswana is the adjective used to describe the rich cultural traditions of the Batswana - whether construed as members of the Tswana ethnic groups or of all citizens of Botswana.


The official languages of Botswana are English and Setswana. In Setswana prefixes are more important than they are in many other languages. These prefixes include "Bo", which refers to the country, "Ba", which refers to the people, "Mo", which is one person, and "Se" which is the language. For example, the main tribe of Botswana is the Tswana people, hence the name Botswana for its country. The people as a whole are Batswana, one person is a Motswana, and the language they speak is Setswana.

Lesotho, an enclave within South Africa, is considered a sister country. It was inhabited by a cousin tribe called the Sotho, who speak a similar language. That language is called Sesotho and can be understood by speakers of Setswana.


Tswana music is mostly vocal and performed without drums; it also makes heavy use of string instruments. Tswana folk music has instruments such as Setinkane, Segankure/Segaba, and for the last few decades, the guitar has been celebrated as a versatile music instrument for Tswana music.

Visual arts

In the northern part of Botswana, women in the villages of Etsha and Gumaremarker are noted for their skill at crafting baskets from Mokola Palm and local dyes. The baskets are generally woven into three types: large, lidded baskets used for storage, large, open baskets for carrying objects on the head or for winnowing threshed grain, and smaller plates for winnowing pounded grain. The artistry of these baskets is being steadily enhanced through color use and improved designs as they are increasingly produced for commercial use.

Other notable artistic communities include Thamaga Pottery and Oodi Weavers, both located in the southeastern part of Botswana.

The oldest paintings from both Botswana and South Africa depict hunting, animal and human figures, and were made by the Khoisan (!Kung San/Bushmen) over twenty thousand years ago within the Kalaharimarker desert.

In addition to these more traditional arts there are a number of extremely talented artists who use modern means to express themselves. There are a few galleries around Botswana that display paintings and sculptures. Some pieces are inspired by the beautiful Botswana landscapes and others by the people themselves.


Date English name Local name
1 January New Year's Day Ngwaga o mosha
2 January Public Holiday
varies Good Friday Labotlhano yo o molemo"goledzwa in kalanga"
Easter Monday
varies Ascension Day Tlhatlogo
1 July Sir Seretse Khama Day
19 July President's Day tsatsi la ga tautona
20 July Public Holiday
30 September Independence Day Boipuso
25 December Christmas Keresemose"khisimose in kalanga"
26 December/27 December Boxing Day
The first Monday after Christmas is also a Public Holiday.


Botswana has made great strides in educational development since independence in 1966. At that time there were very few graduates in the country and only a very small percentage of the population attended secondary school.

With the discovery of diamonds and the increase in government revenue that this brought, there was a huge increase in educational provision in the country. All students were guaranteed ten years of basic education, leading to a Junior Certificate qualification. Approximately half of the school population attends a further two years of secondary schooling leading to the award of the Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE). Secondary education in Botswana is neither free nor compulsory.

After leaving school, students can attend one of the six technical colleges in the country, or take vocational training courses in teaching or nursing. The best students enter the University of Botswanamarker, Botswana College of Agriculture[265], and The Botswana Accountancy college in Gaborone. Many other students end up in the numerous private tertiary education colleges around the country. A high majority of these students are government sponsored.

The quantitative gains have not always been matched by qualitative ones. Primary schools in particular still lack resources, and the teachers are less well paid than their secondary school colleagues. The Government of Botswana hopes that by investing a large part of national income in education, the country will become less dependent on diamonds for its economic survival, and less dependent on expatriates for its skilled workers.

In January 2006, Botswana announced the reintroduction of school fees after two decades of free state education though the government still provides full scholarships with living expenses to any Botswana citizen in university, either at the University of Botswana or if the student wishes to pursue an education in any field not offered locally, such as medicine, they are provided with a full scholarship to study abroad.


Starting fire by hand.
Bushmen in Botswana.
Botswana's main ethnic groups are (in order) Tswana, Kalanga, Bushmen or AbaThwa also known as basarwa. Other tribes are Bayei, Bambukushu, Basubia, Baherero and Bakgalagadi. Other groups of ethnicities in Botswana include whites and Indians both groups being equally small in number. Botswana's Indian population is made up of many Indian-Africans of several generations, from Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, South Africa, etc. as well as first generation Indian immigrants. The white population is native to Botswana or from other parts of Africa including Zimbabwe and South Africa. The white population speaks either English or Afrikaans and makes up roughly 3% of the population.

Since 2000, because of deteriorating economic conditions in Zimbabwe, the number of Zimbabweans in Botswana has risen into the tens of thousands.

Fewer than 10,000 Bushmen live in the traditional way, as hunter-gatherers. Since the mid-1990s the central government of Botswana has been trying to move San out of their lands.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Botswana was estimated at 24% for adults in 2006. In 2003, the government began a comprehensive program involving free or cheap generic anti-retroviral drugs as well as an information campaign designed to stop the spread of the virus.


An estimated 70 percent of the country's citizens identify themselves as Christians. Anglicans, Methodists, and the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa make up the majority of Christians. There are also congregations of Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Seventh-day Adventists, Baptists, the Dutch Reformed Church, Mennonites, and other Christian denominations. Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are also present.

According to the 2001 census, the country's Muslim community, primarily of South Asian origin, numbers slightly more than 5,000. The 2001 census also lists approximately 3,000 Hindus and 700 Baha'is. Members of each community estimate that these figures significantly understate their respective numbers. Approximately 20 percent of citizens espouse no religion. Religious services are well attended in both rural and urban areas.

Popular Culture

Americanmarker soul and R&B singer-songwriter, poet, and actress Jill Scott stars as Precious Ramotswe, the main character of TV series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, based on the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith. The series is set in Botswana.

See also

Notes and references

  1. Human Development Indices, Table 3: Human and income poverty, p. 34. Retrieved on 1 June 2009
  2. Transparency International 2008 Corruption Perception Index 2008 retrieved 7-23-09,
  3. US Department of State website, Background Note: Botswana, May 2009, retrieved 7-23-09.
  4. GNI PPP table
  6. HIV and Aids in Botswana, Avert (International Aids Charity), retrieved 2009-23-7.]
  7. Usually in late March or early April.
  8. Usually in May
  9. BBC News website, Botswana brings back school fees, retrieved 2009-23-7
  10. African Bushmen Tour U.S. to Fund Fight for Land. National Geographic News.
  11. UNAIDS
  12. U.S. Department of State

Further reading

  • Denbow, James and Thebe, Phenyo C., Culture and Customs of Botswana

External links

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