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
adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth
on 30 September 1966.
bordered by South Africa to the south
and southeast, Namibia to the west
and north, and Zimbabwe to the
northeast. It meets Zambia at a single
Geographically the country is flat and up to
70% of Botswana is covered by the Kalahari Desert.
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
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
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
, 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
Transvaal 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
Union of South Africa was formed in 1910 out of the main British
colonies in the region, the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Basutoland (now Lesotho) and
Swaziland (the "High Commission Territories") were not
included, but provision was made for their later
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
Mafikeng in South
Africa, to the newly established Gaborone, which sits
near its border.
The 1965 constitution led to the first
general elections and to independence on 30 September 1966.
, 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,
, 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
231,788 mi² (600,370 km²), Botswana is the world's
45th-largest country (after Ukraine).
comparable in size to Madagascar, and it is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of
Map of Botswana
It is predominantly flat, tending toward
gently rolling tableland
. Botswana is dominated
by the Kalahari
Desert, which covers up to 70% of its land surface.
Delta, the world's largest inland delta, is in the northwest. The Makgadikgadi
Pan, a large salt
pan, lies in the north.
River Basin, the major landform of all of southern Africa, lies partly in Botswana, in
the southeast of the country. The Chobe River lies to the north, providing a boundary between
Botswana and Namibia (Caprivi
Region). The Chobe River meets with the Zambezi River at a place called Kazungula (meaning a small sausage tree, a point where
Sebitwane and his Makololo tribe crossed the Zambezi into
The Zambezi River is the boundary between Botswana
Botswana has diverse areas of wildlife habitat. In addition to the
delta and desert areas, there are grasslands
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
National Park, 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
National Park and Moremi Game Reserve (in the Okavango Delta) are major tourist
destinations. Other reserves include the Central
Kalahari Game Reserve located in the Kalahari desert in Ghanzi
Pans National Park and Nxai Pan National Park are in Central
District in the Makgadikgadi Pan.
Mashatu Game Reserve is privately owned:
located where the Shashe River
Limpopo River meet in eastern Botswana. The other privately
owned reserve is Mokolodi Nature Reserve near Gaborone.
There are also specialized
sanctuaries like the Khama Rhino Sanctuary (for Rhinoceros) and
Makgadikgadi Sanctuary (for Flamingos). They are both located in
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
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
. The judiciary
independent of the executive and the legislature. According to Transparency International,
Botswana is the least corrupt country in Africa and ranks similarly
close to Portugal and South
The national anthem is Fatshe leno la rona
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
Districts of Botswana
Botswana is divided into 10 districts
- Central District
- Ghanzi District
- Kgalagadi District
- Kgatleng District
- Kweneng District
- North-East District
- North-West District
- South-East District
- Southern District
- Chobe District (Separated from
At the time of independence Botswana had no armed forces. It was
only after attacks from the Rhodesian
armies that the
Botswana Defence Force
was formed in self-defense in 1977. The president is commander in
chief and appoints a defence council. The BDF has approximately
Following political changes in South Africa and the region, the
BDF's missions have increasingly focused on combatting poaching
, 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
Since independence, Botswana has had one of the fastest growth
rates in per capita income
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 Mexico and
to the International Monetary Fund, economic growth
averaged over 9% per year from 1966 to 1999.
Botswana has a
high level of
compared to other African countries. The
government has maintained a sound fiscal
, despite consecutive budget
in 2002 and 2003, and a negligible level of foreign debt
. It earned the highest sovereign
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.
, 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
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
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
; in 2006 it was
estimated that life expectancy
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
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
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 Gaborone, 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
The most common sites of cancers were skin
The Cancer Association of
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
patients and offering support and
counseling to those affected.
The most popular sport in Botswana is soccer
and other popular sports include cricket
. Botswana is an
associate member of the International Cricket
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
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
. 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
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
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.
northern part of Botswana, women in the villages of Etsha and Gumare 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
Other notable artistic communities include Thamaga Pottery
and Oodi Weavers
, both located in the southeastern
part of Botswana.
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 Kalahari 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.
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
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
students enter the University of Botswana, Botswana College of
Agriculture, and The Botswana Accountancy college in
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
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.
Botswana's main ethnic groups are (in order) Tswana
also known as basarwa. Other tribes are Bayei
, 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
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
Since 2000, because of deteriorating economic conditions in
Zimbabwe, the number of Zimbabweans in Botswana
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
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.
American 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'
, based on the No. 1 Ladies' Detective
series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith
. The series is
set in Botswana.
Notes and references
- Human Development Indices, Table 3:
Human and income poverty, p. 34. Retrieved on 1 June 2009
- Transparency International 2008 Corruption Perception Index 2008 retrieved
- US Department of State website, Background Note: Botswana, May 2009, retrieved
- GNI PPP table
- HIV and Aids in Botswana, Avert (International Aids
Charity), retrieved 2009-23-7.]
- Usually in late March or early April.
- Usually in May
- BBC News website, Botswana brings back school fees, retrieved
- African Bushmen Tour U.S. to Fund Fight for
Land. National Geographic News.
- U.S. Department of State
- Denbow, James and Thebe, Phenyo C., Culture and Customs of