The terrain is mostly an arid plateau (c.3,000 ft/910 m high); in the east are hills. The Kalahari Desert lies in the south and west. In the northwest the Okavango (Cubango) River drains into the vast region of the Okavango Delta and Lake Ngami, thus forming a huge marshland. Rainfall varies from less than 9 in. (23 cm) per year in the southwest to about 25 in. (64 cm) in the north. The climate is subtropical, but droughts are common.
The country's population is mainly Tswana, who speak a Bantu language and are divided into eight major groups. There are also small minorities of Kalanga, Basarwa, Kgalagadi, and other poeples. English is the official language, but Tswana is also widely spoken. More than 70% of the population follow Christianity and about 10% adhere to traditional practices.
Cattle raising and the export of beef and other cattle products and subsistence farming are the chief agricultural activities. The country's water shortage and consequent lack of sufficient irrigation facilities have hampered agriculture, and only a small percentage of the land is under cultivation. Sorghum, corn, millet, and beans are the principal subsistence crops, and peanuts, sunflowers, and cotton are the main cash crops.
Mining has become the country's economic mainstay since independence. The only known minerals in the country at the time of independence were manganese and some gold and asbestos, but significant diamond, coal, nickel, and copper deposits have since been found, as well as salt, soda ash, and potash. Botswana's diamond mines collectively make up one of the largest diamond reserves in the world, with stones mined by the government and a South African mining concern. The revenue earned from diamonds has underwritten national health-care and educational programs, and now drives Botswana's economy. The vast coal deposits are also being worked. Deposits of antimony, sulfur, plutonium, and platinum have also been found.
Although Botswana's mineral wealth has made it one of the wealthiest nations of S Africa, high unemployment remains a problem. The government is attempting to diversify the economy by building up other sectors, including safari-based tourism and financial services. Botswana, because of its landlocked position, remains heavily dependent on South Africa, which provides port facilities. Many Botswanans work in South Africa's mines, although their numbers have diminished. There are rail and road links with South Africa and Zimbabwe, its chief trade partners. Besides minerals, Botswana exports meat and textiles. Imports include foodstuffs, machinery, electrical goods, transportation equipment, textiles, fuel, petroleum products, wood, paper, and metal.
Botswana is governed under the constitution of 1966. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is indirectly elected to a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. There is a bicameral legislature. The House of Chiefs has 15 members, eight permanent and seven elected for five-year terms. The National Assembly has 63 members, 57 of whom are popularly elected and four appointed by the majority party (the president and attorney general serve as ex-officio members). Members of the National Assembly serve five-year terms and elect the president. Administratively, the country is divided into nine districts and five town councils.
San (Bushmen) were the aboriginal inhabitants of what is now Botswana, but they constitute only a small portion of the population today. The Tswana supplanted the San, who remained as subjects. Beginning in the 1820s, the region was disrupted by the expansion of the Zulu and their offshoot, the Ndebele. However, Khama II, chief of the Ngwato (the largest Tswana nation), curbed the depredations of the Ndebele and established a fairly unified state.
A new threat arose in the late 19th cent. with the incursion of Boers (Afrikaners) from neighboring Transvaal. After gold was discovered in the region in 1867, the Transvaal government sought to annex parts of Botswana. Although the British forbade annexation, the Boers continued to encroach on native lands during the 1870s and 80s. German colonial expansion in South West Africa (Namibia) caused the British to reexamine their policies, and, urged on by Khama III, they established (1884-85) a protectorate called Bechuanaland. The southern part of the area was incorporated into Cape Colony in 1895. Until 1961, Bechuanaland was administered by a resident commissioner at Mafikeng, in South Africa, who was responsible to the British high commissioner for South Africa.
Britain provided for the eventual transfer of Bechuanaland to the Union of South Africa; in succeeding years, however, South Africa's attempts at annexation were countered by British insistence that Bechuanaland's inhabitants first be consulted. The rise of the National party in South Africa in 1948 and its pursuit of apartheid turned British opinion against the incorporation of Bechuanaland into South Africa. Although Bechuanaland spawned no nationalist movement, Britain granted it internal self-government in 1965 and full independence as Botswana on Sept. 30, 1966. Shortly after, Botswana became a member of the United Nations. Seretse Khama, grandson of Khama III, was elected the first president, and served until his death in 1980, when he was succeeded by Dr. Quett Ketumile Joni Masire.
In the period after independence, the country generally maintained close ties with its white-ruled neighbors and refused to let its territory harbor guerrilla operations against them. Prior to Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, however, Botswana became a refuge for guerrillas. In the years before a multiracial government was established in South Africa, Botswana was the target of South African reprisals.
Despite the increased importance of mining in the Botswanan economy, unemployment has been a problem since the 1970s, as subsistence farming has become less profitable and migrant workers have returned from the South African mines in search of work. By 1997, Botswana also had one of the highest rates of HIV infection (25%). On the political scene, the Botswana National Front, an organization acting on behalf of labor, had grown in popularity since independence, but elections in 1989 and 1994 again gave the ruling Botswana Democratic party (BDP) a majority in the national assembly.
President Masire resigned in 1998 and was succeeded by his vice president, Festus Gontebanye Mogae. Mogae won election to the presidency in 1999, after the BDP retained its hold on the national assembly. The BDP remained in power after the Oct., 2004, national assembly elections, and Mogae was subsequently reelected president. In Apr., 2008, Mogae resigned and was succeeded as president by Vice President Seretse Khama Ian Khama, son of Botswana's first president. Despite some unhappiness with Khama among BDP members, the party faced a divided opposition and again won the national assembly elections in Oct., 2009, and Khama was then elected to a full term.
See Z. Cervenka, Republic of Botswana (1970); A. Sillery, Botswana (1974); J. M. Chirenje, A History of Northern Botswana, 1850-1910 (1976); C. Colclough and S. McCarthy, The Political Economy of Botswana (1980); L. A. Picard, The Politics of Development in Botswana (1987).
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When the 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 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, and 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 representing 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 democratic self-government in Botswana. The seat of government was moved from Mafikeng in South Africa, to newly established Gaborone in 1965. 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, and died in office in 1980. 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 next president is Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama from 2008 and ahead of the elections in 2009. He is the son of the first president of Botswana and he is also the former leader of the Botswana army (BDF).
Botswana is dominated by the Kalahari Desert, which covers up to 70% of the land surface of the country. The Okavango Delta, the world's largest inland delta, is in the northwest. The Makgadikgadi Pan, a large salt pan lies in the north.
Botswana has diverse areas of wildlife habitat, including the Okavango Delta, the Kalahari Desert, grasslands and savannas, the latter where Blue Wildebeest and many antelopes as well as other mammals and birds are found. Northern Botswana has one of the few remaining large populations of the endangered African Wild Dog.
Research from the University of Botswana has found that the common practice of overstocking cattle to cope with drought losses actually depletes scarce biomass, making ecosystems more vulnerable. The study of the Kgatleng district of Botswana predicts that by 2050 the cycle of mild drought is likely to become shorter for the region—18 months instead of two years—due to climate change.
The BDF is a capable and well-disciplined military force. Following political changes in South Africa and the region, the BDF's missions have increasingly focused on anti-poaching activities, disaster-preparedness, 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.
The northern boundary between the Caprivi Strip of Namibia and Botswana was the subject of an International Court of Justice dispute over Kasikili or Sedudu island in the Chobe River, which arose over the imprecise description of the border as the thalweg of the Chobe River, defined by Germany and Britain in the Helgoland-Zanzibar Treaty.
Towns and villages
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 with a per capita GDP (PPP) of $16,450 in 2007. Economic growth averaged over 9% per year from 1966 to 1999. 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. Botswana's impressive economic record has been built on the foundation of wisely using revenue generated from diamond mining to fuel economic development through prudent fiscal policies and a cautious foreign policy. Debswana, the largest diamond mining company operating in Botswana, is 50% owned by the government and generates about half 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 prospected in Botswana for diamonds, gold, uranium, copper, and even oil, many coming back with positive results.
However, 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 epidemic; the average life expectancy in Botswana at birth, 1990: 64 years, 2005: 34 years. This is barely half the 59-year average for low-income countries, and Botswana residents, along with those of Swaziland, have the shortest average lifespan in the world. Approximately one in six Batswana has HIV, giving Botswana the second highest HIV infection rate in the world after Swaziland. The government recognizes that HIV/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.
Some of Botswana's budget deficits can be traced to relatively high military expenditures (about 4% of GDP in 2004, according to the CIA World Factbook), which some critics contend is unnecessary given the low likelihood of international conflict (though the Botswana government also makes use of these troops for multilateral operations and assistance efforts).
Botswana seeks to further diversify its economy away from minerals, which account for a third of GDP, down from nearly half of GDP in the early 1990s. Foreign investment and management are welcomed in Botswana. Botswana abolished foreign exchange controls in 1999, has a low corporate tax rate (15%), no prohibitions on foreign ownership of companies, and a moderate inflation rate (7.6% November 2004). The Government of Botswana is currently considering additional policies to enhance competitiveness, including a new Foreign Direct Investment Strategy, Competition Policy, Privatisation Master Plan, and National Export Development Strategy.
Botswana is known to have vast coal deposits making it possibly one of the most coal rich countries in the world. Large coal mines, massive coal fired power plants, as well as a coals to liquid plant (through the Fischer-Tropsch process) to produce synthetic automotive fuel have been planned.
With its proven record of good economic governance, Botswana was ranked as Africa's least corrupt country by Transparency International in 2004, ahead of many European and Asian countries. The World Economic Forum rates Botswana as one of the two most economically competitive nations in Africa. In 2004 Botswana was once again assigned "A" grade credit ratings by Moody's and Standard & Poor's. This ranks Botswana as by far the best credit risk in Africa and puts it on par with or above many countries in central Europe, East Asia, and Latin America.
U.S. investment in Botswana remains at relatively low levels, but continues to grow. Major U.S. corporations, such as H.J. Heinz and AON Corporation, are present through direct investments, while others, such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Remax, are present via franchise. The sovereign credit ratings by Moody's and Standard & Poor's clearly indicate that, despite continued challenges such as small market size, landlocked location, and cumbersome bureaucratic processes, Botswana remains one of the best investment opportunities in the developing world. Botswana has a 90-member American Business Council that accepts membership from American-affiliated companies.
Due to its history and geography, Botswana has long had deep ties to the economy of South Africa. The Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), comprising Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, and South Africa, dates from 1910, and is the world’s oldest customs union. Namibia joined in 1990. Under this arrangement, South Africa has collected levies from customs, sales, and excise duties for all five members, sharing out proceeds based on each countries portion of imports. The exact formula for sharing revenues and the decision-making authority over duties—held exclusively by the Government of South Africa—became increasingly controversial, and the members renegotiated the arrangement in 2001. The new structure has now been formally ratified and a SACU Secretariat has been established in Windhoek, Namibia. Following South Africa's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Botswana also joined; many of the SACU duties are thus declining, making products from outside the area more competitive in Botswana. Currently the SACU countries and the U.S. are negotiating a free trade agreement. Botswana is currently also negotiating a free trade agreement with Mercosur and an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union as part of SADC.
Botswana's currency, the pula, is fully convertible and is valued against a basket of currencies heavily weighted toward the South African Rand. Profits and direct investment can be repatriated without restriction from Botswana. The Botswana Government eliminated all exchange controls in 1999. The Central Bank devalued the Pula by 7.5% in February 2004 in a bid to maintain export competitiveness against the real appreciation of the Pula. There was a further 12% devaluation in May 2005 and the policy of a "crawling peg" was adopted.
Most (70%) of Botswana's electricity is imported from South Africa's Eskom. 80% of domestic production is concentrated in one plant, Morupule Power Station near Palapye. In early 2008, the entire southern African region was hit hard by massive shortages in power, since the region works to share its power resources through the Southern African Power Pool, with most of the capacity coming from South Africa. Botswana has in turn put in place plans through governmental expansion of the Morupule power station, as well as encouraging private investment in the form of a 4,000 megawatt power station by the Canadian Greenfield company CIC Energy to become a net exporter of power to the regional pool.
Gaborone is host to the headquarters of the fourteen-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), a successor to the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC, established in 1980), which focused its efforts on freeing regional economic development from dependence on apartheid South Africa. SADC embraced the newly democratic South Africa as a member in 1994 and has a broad mandate to encourage growth, development, and economic integration in Southern Africa. SADC's Trade Protocol, which was launched on 1 September 2000, calls for the elimination of all tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade by 2008 among the 11 signatory countries. If successful, it will give Botswana companies free access to the far larger regional market. SADC's failure to distance itself from the Mugabe government in Zimbabwe has diminished the number of opportunities for cooperation between the U.S. and SADC.
Botswana is in the process or formulating an Action Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, which is expected to be adopted in the period 2006-2007.
Tourism plays a large role in the Botswana economy. A number of national parks and game reserves, with their abundant wildlife and wetlands, are major tourist attractions. The wildlife, including lions, brown hyenas, cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs and antelope, were described in great detail in the best-selling book "Cry of the Kalahari" by Mark and Delia Owens.
The main safari destinations for tourism are Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta, and Chobe National Park. Botswana is also participating in community based natural resource management projects by trying to involve villagers in tourism. One example is the village of Khwai and its Khwai Development Trust.
Another popular game is the mind sport of Bridge. Bridge was first played in Botswana thirty years ago, but it was the 1980’s 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, for example the BBF can currently boast over 800 members. At its peak there could be as many as 600 children playing bridge – something 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.
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 Kalahari desert.
Botswana forms the setting for a series of popular mystery novels by Alexander McCall Smith. Their protagonist, Precious Ramotswe, lives in Gaborone. The first novel in the series, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, appeared in 1998 in the UK (and 2001 in the US). The light-hearted books are appreciated for their human interest and local colour. The film has now been shot in Kgalewood the filming location at the foot of Kgale Hill in Kgale view Gaborone Botswana.
Unity Dow (born 1959) is a judge, human rights activist, and writer from Botswana. She came from a rural background that tended toward traditional values of the African kind. Her mother could not read English, and in most cases decision-making was done by men. She went on to become a lawyer with much of her education being done in the West. Her Western education earned her a mixture of respect and suspicion.
As a lawyer she earned acclaim most for her stances on women's rights. She was the plaintiff in a case that allowed the children of women by foreign nationals to be considered Batswana. The tradition and law before this stated nationality only descended from the father. She later became Botswana's first female High Court judge.
As a novelist she has had three books. These books often concern the issues concerning the struggle between Western and traditional values. They also involve her interest in gender issues and her nation's poverty.
British author and historian Susan Williams' book, Colour Bar: The Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation, tells the story of the marriage and struggles of Sir Seretse Khama and Lady Ruth Williams Khama.
A collection of humorous true short stories, "Whatever You Do, Don't Run" (released in the United Kingdom and South Africa as "Don't Run, Whatever You Do"), contains many stories from Botswana written by a safari guide, Peter Allison.
|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|
|1 July||Sir Seretse Khama Day|
|19 July||President's Day|
|20 July||Public Holiday|
|30 September||Independence Day||Boipuso|
|26 December/27 December|
|The first Monday after Christmas is also a Public Holiday.|
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 Education (BGCSE). 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 Botswana in Gaborone, a modern, well-resourced campus with a student population of over ten thousand.
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.
The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Botswana was 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.