Botswana is topographically flat, with up to 70 percent of its territory being the Kalahari Desert. It is bordered by South Africa to the south and southeast, Namibia to the west and north, and Zimbabwe to the northeast. Its border with Zambia to the north near Kazungula is poorly defined but at most is a few hundred metres long.
A mid-sized country of just over 2 million people, Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Around 10 percent of the population lives in the capital and largest city, Gaborone. Formerly one of the poorest countries in the world—with a GDP per capita of about US$70 per year in the late 1960s—Botswana has since transformed itself into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. The economy is dominated by mining, cattle, and tourism. Botswana boasts a GDP per capita of about $18,825 per year as of 2015, which is one of the highest in Africa. Its high gross national income gives the country a modest standard of living and the highest Human Development Index of continental Sub-Saharan Africa.
Botswana is a member of the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the United Nations. The country has been among the hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The death rate due to AIDS or AIDS-related causes has fallen sharply from 2005 to 2013, and the number of new infections in children has also fallen. Despite the success in programmes to make treatments available to those infected, and to educate the populace in general about how to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, the number of people with AIDS rose from 290,000 in 2005 to 320,000 in 2013. As of 2014, Botswana has the third-highest prevalence rate for HIV/AIDS.
The history of Botswana starts more than 100,000 years ago, when the first humans inhabited the region. The original inhabitants of southern Africa were the Bushmen (San) and Khoi peoples. Both speak Khoisan languages and lived as hunter-gatherers. About a thousand years ago, large chiefdoms emerged that were later eclipsed by the Great Zimbabwe empire, which spread into eastern Botswana.
Around 1300 CE, peoples in present-day Transvaal began to coalesce into three main linguistic and political groups, including the Batswana. The Batswana (plural of Motswana), a term used also to denote all citizens of Botswana, remain the country's major ethnic group today. Prior to European contact, the Batswana lived as herders and farmers under tribal rule. As groups broke off and moved to new land, new tribes were created. Some human development occurred before the colonial period.
During the 1700s, the slave and ivory trades were expanding. To resist these pressures, Shaka, the king of the Zulu Empire, mobilised an army. Conquered tribes began to move northwest into Botswana, destroying everything in their path. In their efforts to re-establish themselves at the end of this period, tribes began to exchange ivory and skins for guns with European traders, who had begun to reach the interior. Christian missionaries sent from Europe also spread to the interior, often at the invitation of tribal chiefs who wanted guns and knew that the presence of missionaries encouraged traders. By 1880 every major village had a resident missionary, and their influence became permanent. Christianization was completed in Botswana under the reign of king Khama III (reigned 1875–1923). There were eight principal tribes (or chiefdoms); the dominant was the Bangwaketse.
In the late nineteenth 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 Dutch Boer settlers from the Transvaal to the east. After appeals by the Batswana leaders Khama III, Bathoen and Sebele for assistance, supported by Scottish missionary John Mackenzie, the British Government put Bechuanaland under its protection on 31 March 1885. The northern territory remained under direct administration as the Bechuanaland Protectorate; it gained independence as modern-day Botswana. The southern territory, British Bechuanaland, 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 from 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, the UK began to consult with their inhabitants as to their wishes. Although successive South African governments sought to have the territories transferred to their jurisdiction, the UK kept delaying; consequently, it never occurred. The election of the Nationalist government in 1948, which instituted apartheid, and South Africa's withdrawal from the Commonwealth in 1961, ended any prospect of the UK or these territories agreeing to incorporation 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. The African Council consisted of the eight heads of the Tswana tribes and some elected members. Proclamations in 1934 regulated 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, the United Kingdom 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 is located near Botswana's border with South Africa. Based on the 1965 constitution, the country held its first general elections under universal suffrage and gained 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, and subsequently 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. He was succeeded by 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 had been serving as Mogae's Vice-President since resigning his position in 1998 as Commander of the Botswana Defence Force to take up this civilian role.
A long-running dispute over the northern border with Namibia's Caprivi Strip was the subject of a ruling by the International Court of Justice in December 1999. It ruled that Kasikili Island belongs to Botswana.
At 581,730 km2 (224,607 sq mi) Botswana is the world's 48th-largest country. It is similar in size to Madagascar or France. It lies between latitudes 17° and 27°S, and longitudes 20° and 30°E.
The country is predominantly flat, tending toward gently rolling tableland. Botswana is dominated by the Kalahari Desert, which covers up to 70% of its land surface. The Okavango Delta, one of the world's largest inland deltas, is in the northwest. The Makgadikgadi Pan, a large salt pan, lies in the north.
The Limpopo River Basin, the major landform of all of southern Africa, lies partly in Botswana, with the basins of its tributaries, the Notwane, Bonwapitse, Mahalapswe, Lotsane, Motloutse and the Shashe, located in the eastern part of the country. The Notwane provides water to the capital through the Gaborone Dam. The Chobe River lies to the north, providing a boundary between Botswana and Namibia's Zambezi 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 Zambia).
Botswana has diverse areas of wildlife habitat. In addition to the delta and desert areas, there are grasslands and savannas, where blue wildebeest, antelopes, and other mammals and birds are found. Northern Botswana has one of the few remaining large populations of the endangered African wild dog. Chobe National Park, found in the Chobe District, has the world's largest concentration of African elephants. The park covers about 11,000 km2 (4,247 sq mi) and supports about 350 species of birds.
The Chobe 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 District; Makgadikgadi 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 and Limpopo River meet in eastern Botswana. The other privately owned reserve is Mokolodi Nature Reserve near Gaborone. There are also specialised sanctuaries like the Khama Rhino Sanctuary (for rhinoceros) and Makgadikgadi Sanctuary (for flamingos). They are both located in Central District.
Botswana faces two major environmental problems: drought and desertification. The desertification problems predominantly stem from the severe times of drought in the country. Three quarters of the country's human and animal populations depend on groundwater due to drought. Groundwater use through deep borehole drilling has somewhat eased the effects of drought. Surface water is scarce in Botswana and less than 5% of the agriculture in the country is sustainable by rainfall. In the remaining 95% of the country, raising livestock is the primary source of rural income. Approximately 71% of the country's land is used for communal grazing, which has been a major cause of the desertification and the accelerating soil erosion of the country.
Since raising livestock has proven to be profitable for the people of Botswana, they continue to exploit the land. The animal populations have continued to dramatically increase. From 1966 to 1991, the livestock population has increased from 1.7 million to 5.5 million. Similarly, the human population has increased from 574,000 in 1971 to 1.5 million in 1995, nearly a 200% increase. "Over 50% of all households in Botswana own cattle, which is currently the largest single source of rural income." "Rangeland degradation or desertification is regarded as the reduction in land productivity as a result of overstocking and overgrazing, or as a result of veld product gathering for commercial use. Degradation is exacerbated by the effects of drought and climate change."
Environmentalists report that the Okavango Delta is drying up due to the increased grazing of livestock. The Okavango Delta is one of the major semi-forested wetlands in Botswana and one of the largest inland deltas in the world; it is a crucial ecosystem to the survival of many animals.
The Department of Forestry and Range Resources has already begun to implement a project to reintroduce indigenous vegetation into communities in Kgalagadi South, Kweneng North and Boteti. Reintroduction of indigenous vegetation will help with the degradation of the land. The United States Government has also entered into an agreement with Botswana, giving them $7 million US dollars to reduce Botswana's debt by $8.3 million US dollars. The stipulation of the US reducing Botswana's debt is that Botswana will focus on more extensive conservation of the land.
The United Nations Development Programme claims that poverty is a major problem behind the overexploitation of resources, including land, in Botswana. To help change this the UNDP joined in with a project started in the southern community of Struizendam in Botswana. The purpose of the project is to draw from "indigenous knowledge and traditional land management systems". The leaders of this movement are supposed to be the people in the community, to draw them in, in turn increasing their possibilities to earn an income and thus decreasing poverty. The UNDP also stated that the government has to effectively implement policies to allow people to manage their own local resources and are giving the government information to help with policy development
The constitution of Botswana is the rule of law which protects the citizens of Botswana and represents their rights. 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. The most recent election, its eleventh, was held on 24 October 2014. 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. Botswana ranks 30th out of 167 states in the 2012 Democracy Index. According to Transparency International, Botswana is the least corrupt country in Africa and ranks close to Portugal and South Korea.
It consists of a typical court system of local Magistrates Courts, a High Court and a Court of Appeal. The High Court is a superior court of record with unlimited original jurisdiction to hear and determine any criminal, civil or constitutional cases under any law. Appeals can be heard by the Court of Appeal. The Head of the High Court is the Chief Justice.
The Court of Appeal is the highest and final court in the country and deals with appeals from the High Court and the Industrial Court. The Head of the Court of Appeal is the Judge President.
Judges are appointed by the President of Botswana on the recommendation of the Judicial Services Commission.
At the time of independence, Botswana had no armed forces. It was only after the Rhodesian and South African militaries struck respectively against the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army and Umkhonto we Sizwe bases that the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) was formed in 1977. The President is commander-in-chief of the armed forces and appoints a defence council and the BDF currently consists of roughly 60,000 servicemen.
Following political changes in South Africa and the region, the BDF's missions have increasingly focused on prevention of 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 have received U.S. training. The Botswana government gave the United States permission to explore the possibility of establishing an Africa Command (AFRICOM) base in the country.
Many of the indigenous San people have been forcibly relocated from their land onto reservations. To make them relocate, they were denied from accessing water from their land and faced arrest if they hunted, which was their primary source of food. Their lands lie in the middle of the world's richest diamond field. Officially, the government denies that there is any link to mining and claims the relocation is to preserve the wildlife and ecosystem, even though the San people have lived sustainably on the land for millennia. On the reservations, they struggle to find employment and alcoholism is rampant.
Homosexual acts are illegal in Botswana, as in many African countries.
Botswana's nine districts are: Southern District, South-East District, Kweneng District, Kgatleng District, Central District (Central Serowe/Palapye, Central Mahalapye, Central Bobonong, Central Boteti and Central Tutume), North-East District, North-West District (Ngamiland District, Okavango District and Chobe District), Ghanzi District and Kgalagadi District (Kgalagadi South District and Kgalagadi North District).
Botswana's councils created from urban or town councils are: Gaborone City, Francistown, Lobatse Town, Selebi-Phikwe Town, Jwaneng Town, Orapa Town and Sowa Township.
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. Although Botswana was resource-abundant, a good institutional framework allowed the country to reinvest resource-income in order to generate stable future income. 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.
business development throughout the country. According to the International Monetary Fund, 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.
An array of financial institutions populates the country's financial system, with pension funds and commercial banks being the two most important segments by asset size. Banks remain profitable, well-capitalised, and liquid, as a result of growing national resources and high interest rates. The Bank of Botswana serves as a central bank. The country's currency is the Botswana pula.
Botswana's competitive banking system is one of Africa's most advanced. Generally adhering to global standards in the transparency of financial policies and banking supervision, the financial sector provides ample access to credit for entrepreneurs. The Capital Bank opened in 2008. As of August 2015, there are a dozen licensed banks in the country. The government is involved in banking through state-owned financial institutions and a special financial incentives program that is aimed at increasing Botswana's status as a financial centre. Credit is allocated on market terms, although the government provides subsidised loans. Reform of non-bank financial institutions has continued in recent years, notably through the establishment of a single financial regulatory agency that provides more effective supervision. The government has abolished exchange controls, and with the resulting creation of new portfolio investment options, the Botswana Stock Exchange is growing.
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government respects this in practice. The legal system is sufficient to conduct secure commercial dealings, although a serious and growing backlog of cases prevents timely trials. The protection of intellectual property rights has improved significantly. Botswana is ranked second only to South Africa among sub-Saharan Africa countries in the 2014 International Property Rights Index.
While generally open to foreign participation in its economy, Botswana reserves some sectors for citizens. Increased foreign investment plays a significant role in the privatisation of state-owned enterprises. Investment regulations are transparent, and bureaucratic procedures are streamlined and open, although somewhat slow. Investment returns such as profits and dividends, debt service, capital gains, returns on intellectual property, royalties, franchise's fees, and service fees can be repatriated without limits.
Botswana imports refined petroleum products and electricity from South Africa. There is some domestic production of electricity from coal.
Debswana, the largest diamond mining company operating in Botswana, is 50% owned by the government. The mineral industry provides about 40% of all government revenues. In 2007, significant quantities of uranium were discovered, and mining was 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 to shift their economic dependence on diamonds, over serious concern that diamonds are predicted to dry out in Botswana over the next twenty years.
Botswana's Orapa mine is the largest diamond mine in the world in terms of value and quantity of carats produced annually. Estimated to have produced over 11 million carats in 2013, with an average price of $145/carat, the Orapa mine was estimated to produce over $1.6 billion worth of diamonds in 2013.
The Tswana are the majority ethnic group in Botswana, making up 79% of the population. The largest minority ethnic groups are the BaKalanga, and San or AbaThwa, also known as Basarwa. Other tribes are Bayei, Bambukushu, Basubia, Baherero and Bakgalagadi. In addition, there are small numbers of whites and Indians, both groups being roughly equally small in number. Botswana's Indian population is made up of many Indian-Africans of several generations, with some having migrated from Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, South Africa, and so on, as well as first generation Indian immigrants. The white population speaks English and 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 San people are still living their traditional hunter-gatherer way of life. Since the mid-1990s the central government of Botswana has been trying to move San out of their historic lands. James Anaya, as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people for the United Nations in 2010, described loss of land as a major contributor to many of the problems facing Botswana's indigenous people, citing the San's eviction from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) as an especial example. Among Anaya's recommendations in a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council was that development programs should promote, in consultation with indigenous communities such as the San and Bakgalagadi people, activities in harmony with the culture of those communities such as traditional hunting and gathering activities.