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Botswana

[bot-swah-nuh]
The Republic of Botswana (Lefatshe la Botswana), is a landlocked nation in Southern Africa. Citizens of Botswana are 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, Namibia to the west, Zambia to the north, and Zimbabwe to the northeast. The economy, closely tied to South Africa's, is dominated by mining (especially diamonds), tourism, and cattle.

History

In the 19th century, hostilities broke out between the Tswana inhabitants of Botswana and Ndebele tribes who were migrating into the territory from the Kalahari Desert. Tensions also escalated with the Boer settlers from the Transvaal. After appeals by the Batswana leaders Khama III, Bathoen and Sebele for assistance, the British Government on 31 March 1885 put "Bechuanaland" under its protection. The northern territory remained under direct administration as the Bechuanaland Protectorate and is today's 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 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).

Geography and environment

Summary Botswana is predominantly flat, tending toward gently rolling tableland. The Kalahari Desert is located in the southwest of the country. The Limpopo River Basin is the major landform of all of southern Africa, including Botswana.More detail At 231,788 mi² (600,370 km²), Botswana is the world's 45th-largest country (after Ukraine). It is comparable in size to Madagascar, and is slightly smaller than the state of Texas in the Southern United States.

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.

Politics and government

The politics of Botswana takes place in a framework of a presidential 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. Since independence the party system has been dominated by the Botswana Democratic Party. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Defence

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

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.

Foreign relations

Botswana puts a premium on economic and political integration in Southern Africa. It seeks to make SADC a working vehicle for economic development, and promotes efforts to make the region self-policing in terms of preventative diplomacy, conflict resolution, and good governance. It has welcomed post-apartheid South Africa as a partner in these efforts. Botswana joins the African consensus on most major international matters and is a member of international organisations such as the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations and the African Union (AU). Botswana is also a member of the International Criminal Court with a Bilateral Immunity Agreement of protection for the U.S. military (as covered under Article 98).

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.

Districts and sub-districts

Botswana is divided into nine districts: These districts are subdivided into a total twenty-eight subdistricts. Main population centres (in descending order) Cities

Towns and villages

Economy

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).

Trade

Botswana is part of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) with South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Namibia. The World Bank reports that in 2001 (the most recent year for which World Bank data are available), the SACU had a weighted average common external tariff rate of 3.6 percent. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, "There are very few tariff or non-tariff barriers to trade with Botswana, apart from restrictions on licensing for some business operations, which are reserved for [Botswana] companies." Based on the revised trade factor methodology, Botswana's trade policy score is unchanged. The main export of Botswana is diamonds. Jwaneng, in Botswana, is the world's largest and richest diamond mine thus the demand of diamonds from Botswana is fairly high. The mine was discovered when termites looking for water brought grains of diamond to the surface. If the great demand of diamonds were to go into rapid decline, then the economy of Botswana would suffer greatly as they are highly dependent on this export. The diamond mine in Jwaneng provides many jobs for the unemployed in Botswana as people are needed to physically extract the diamonds, and to build the roads needed for their transport, for example. A source of foreign exchange is also introduced to the economy and it offers a potential basis for industrial development, and thus stimulates improvements within Botswana's infrastructure.

Private sector development, foreign investment

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

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.

Botswana was the location for the 1980 movie The Gods Must Be Crazy. The seventh season of the Amazing Race visited Botswana.

Sports

The most popular sport in Botswana is football, while other popular sports include cricket, tennis, rugby union, softball, volleyball and athletics. Botswana is an associate member of 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 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.

Culture

Language

The official languages of Botswana are English and Setswana. In Setswana prefixes are more important than they are in many other languages. Some of those prefixes are "Bo" which refers to the country, "Ba" which refers to the people, "Mo" which is one person, "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, located in the middle of 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 anyone speaking Setswana. The country is called Lesotho because "Le" is a prefix that means "other," holding lower rank. In Botswana, foreigners, particularly white people, are called "lekgoa". Africans from other countries are not referred to as Lekgoa.

Visual arts

In the 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 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 Kalahari desert.

Literature

Bessie Head is a writer well-known in Southern Africa. In 1964 she fled the apartheid regime in South Africa to live in and write about Botswana. She lived there from 1964 (when it was still the Bechuanaland Protectorate) until her death at the age of 49 in 1986. She lived in Serowe, and her most famous books, When Rain Clouds Gather, Maru, and A Question of Power are set there.

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.

Norman Rush, who served as a Peace Corps director in Botswana from 1978 to 1983, uses the country as the setting of all of his published books, which generally focus on the expatriate community.

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.

Holidays

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
Easter Monday
varies Ascension Day Tlhatlogo
1 July Sir Seretse Khama Day
19 July President's Day
20 July Public Holiday
30 September Independence Day Boipuso
25 December Christmas Keresemose
26 December/27 December
                    > Boxing Day
The first Monday after Christmas is also a Public Holiday.

Education

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 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.

Demographics

Botswana's main ethnic groups are (in order) Tswana, Kalanga, Bushmen or AbaThwa, Others. 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 Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Mauritius, South Africa, etc. as well as first generation Indian immigrants. The white population being native Botswana or from other parts of Africa including Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa. The white population speaks either English or Afrikaans and makes up roughly 3% of the population.

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.

Notes and references

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

See also

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