Area: 582,000 sq. km. (224,710 sq. mi.), about the size of Texas.
Cities: Capital-Gaborone (pronounced ha-bo-ro-neh), pop. 174,583
towns -- Francistown (84,075), Selebi-Phikwe (44,581), Molepolole
(34,202), Serowe (31,782), Mahalapye (30,294), Lobatse (29,172), Maun
Terrain: Desert and savanna.
Climate: Mostly subtropical.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Motswana (sing.), Batswana (pl.).
Population (1996 est.): 1.49 million.
Annual growth rate (1996): 3%.
Ethnic groups: Tswana 55%-60%; Kalanga 25%-30%; Kgalagadi, Herero,
("Bushmen"), Khoi ("Hottentots"), whites 5%-10%.
Religions: Christianity 60%, indigenous beliefs 40%.
Languages: English (official), Setswana, Ikalanga.
Education: Adult literacy (1993)--68.9%.
Health (1991): Life expectancy--60 years. Infant mortality
Work force (1995): 234,500.
Type: Republic, parliamentary democracy.
Independence: September 30, 1966.
Constitution: March 1965.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state and head of
Legislative -- popularly elected National Assembly; advisory House of
Chiefs. Judicial --
High Court, Court of Appeal, local and customary courts, industrial/labor
Administrative subdivisions: 5 town councils and 9 district
Major political parties: Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)--31
National Front (BNF)--13 seats, Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), Botswana
Suffrage: Universal at 21.
Flag: Blue field with horizontal, white-edged black band in the
GDP: $4.5 billion.
Annual growth rate: 3.1%.
Per capita GDP: $3,000.
Natural resources: Diamonds, copper, nickel, coal, soda ash, salt,
Agriculture (4% of GDP): Products--ivestock, sorghum, white maize,
Industry: Types--mining (33% of GDP): diamonds, copper, nickel,
(assembly), textiles, construction, tourism, beef processing.
Trade (1995): Exports--$2.2 billion: diamonds, vehicles, nickel,
products, textiles, hides and skins. Partners--Switzerland, South Africa,
Imports--$1.5 billion: machinery, transport equipment, manufactured
chemicals, minerals, fuels. Major suppliers--South Africa, Zimbabwe, EU,
Annual avg. economic aid: $20 million.
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
The Batswana, a term inclusively used to denote all citizens of
Botswana, also refers
to the country's major ethnic group (the "Tswana" in South
Africa), which came
into the area from South Africa during the Zulu wars of the early 1880s.
Prior to European
contact, the Batswana lived as herders and farmers under tribal rule.
In the late 19th century, hostilities broke out between the Batswana
and Boer settlers
from the Transvaal. After appeals by the Batswana for assistance, the
in 1885 put "Bechuanaland" under its protection. The northern
under direct administration and is today's Botswana, while the southern
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.
Despite South African pressure, inhabitants of the Bechuanaland
Basutoland (now Lesotho), and Swaziland in 1909 asked for and received
that they would not be included in the proposed Union of South Africa. An
British central authority and the evolution of tribal government resulted
in the 1920
establishment of two advisory councils representing Africans and
in 1934 regularized tribal rule and powers. A European-African advisory
council was formed
in 1951, and the 1961 constitution established a consultative legislative
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
Gaborone in 1965. The 1965 constitution led to the first general
elections and to
independence in September 1966. Seretse Khama, a leader in the
independence movement and
the legitimate claimant to traditional rule of the Batswana, was elected
as the first
president, re-elected twice, and died in office in 1980. The presidency
passed to the
sitting vice president, Ketumile Masire, who was elected in his own right
in 1984 and
re-elected in 1989 and 1994.
Botswana has a flourishing multiparty, constitutional democracy. Each
of the elections
since independence has been freely and fairly contested and has been held
on schedule. The
country's small white minority and other minorities participate freely in
process. There are two main rival parties and a number of smaller
parties. In 1994, the
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won 27 of 40 contested National Assembly
seats and the
Botswana National Front (BNF) won 13. The opposition out-polled the
ruling BDP in most
urban areas. The openness of the country's political system has been a
in Botswana's stability and economic growth. General elections are held
at least every
five years. The next national election is in 1999.
The president has executive power and is chosen by the national
country-wide elections. The cabinet is presidentially selected from the
it consists of a vice president and a flexible number of ministers,
currently 11. The
National Assembly has 40 elected and four appointed members; it is
expanded following each
census (every 10 years).
The advisory House of Chiefs represents the eight principal sub-groups
of the Batswana
tribe, and four other members are elected by the sub-chiefs of four of
the districts. A
draft of any National Assembly bill of tribal concern must be referred to
the House of
Chiefs. Chiefs and other leaders preside over customary, traditional
courts, though all
persons have a right to request that their case be considered under the
British-based legal system.
The roots of Botswana's democracy lie in Setswana traditions,
exemplified by the
Kgotla, or village council, in which the powers of traditional leaders
were limited by
custom and law. Botswana's High Court has general civil and criminal
are presidentially appointed and may be removed only for cause and after
a hearing. The
constitution has a code of fundamental human rights enforced by the
courts, and Botswana
has a good human rights record.
Local government is administered by nine district councils and five
District commissioners have executive authority and are appointed by the
government and assisted by elected and nominated district councilors and
development committees. There has been ongoing debate about the
political, social, and
economic marginalization of the Basarwa (Bushmen). The government's
policies for remote
area dwellers continue to spark controversy and to be revised in response
to domestic and
Although there is a government-owned newspaper and the government
operates the only
national radio network, there is an active, independent press (mostly
Foreign publications are sold without restriction in Botswana.
Principal Government Officials
President--Sir Ketumile Masire
Vice President--Festus G. Mogae
Ambassador to the United States--Archibald Mogwe
Ambassador to the United Nations--L. J. M. J. Legwaila
Botswana maintains an embassy at 3400 International Drive NW., Suite
DC 20008 (tel. 202-244-4990; fax 202-244-4164). Its mission to the United
Nations is at
103 E. 37th
Street, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-889-2277; fax 212-725- 5061).
Since independence, Botswana has had an impressive economic growth
rate, averaging over
10% per year from 1976 through 1991. Growth in formal sector employment
has averaged about
10% per annum over Botswana's first 30 years of independence. Recently,
the government has
maintained budget surpluses and substantial foreign exchange reserves
totaling about $4.6
billion in 1996.
Botswana's impressive economic record has been built on a foundation
of diamond mining,
with prudent fiscal policies, international financial and technical
careful foreign policy ensuring success.
Two large mining companies, Debswana (formed by the government and
Debeers in equal partnership) and Bamangwato Concessions, Ltd. (BCL-also with
substantialgovernment equity participation) operate in the country.
Since the early 1980s, the country has become the world's largest
producer of quality
diamonds. Three large diamond mines have opened since independence.
discovered diamonds in northern Botswana in the early 1970s. The first
production at Orapa in 1972, followed by the smaller mine at Lethakane.
What has become
the single-richest diamond mine in the world opened in Jwaneng in 1982.
a total of 16.8 million carats of diamonds from the three Debswana mines
BCL, which operates a copper-nickel mine at Selebi-Phikwe, has had a
history but remains an important employer. Similarly, a soda ash
operation at Sua Pan,
opened in 1991 and supported by substantial government investment, has
been a continual
More than one-half of the population lives in rural areas and is
largely dependent on
subsistence crop and livestock farming. Agriculture meets only a small
portion of food
needs and contributes just 4% to GDP--primarily through beef exports-but
it remains a
social and cultural touchstone. Cattle raising in particular dominated
and economic life before independence. The national herd was
approximately 2.5 million in
the mid-1990s, though the government-ordered slaughter of the entire herd
northwest Ngamiland District in 1995 has reduced the number by at least
slaughter was ordered to prevent the spread of "cattle lung
disease" to other
parts of the country.
Private Sector Development and Foreign Investment
Botswana seeks to diversify its economy away from minerals, the
earnings from which
have leveled off. In 1994-95, non-traditional sectors of the economy grew
at over 5%,
partially offsetting a slight decline in the minerals sector. Foreign
management have been welcomed in Botswana as keys to diversification, and
manufacturing, tourism, and financial services have all generated
U.S. investment in Botswana is growing. In the early 1990s, two
Owens Corning and Lazare Kaplan, made major investments in production
Botswana. A brick-making plant in Lobatse started in 1992 with
participation by Interkiln
Corporation of Houston. An American Business Council (ABC) with over 30
was inaugurated in 1995.
Because of history and geography, Botswana has long had deep ties to
the economy of
South Africa. The Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), comprised of
Lesotho, Swaziland, and South Africa, dates from 1910. Under this
Africa has collected levies from customs, sales, and excise duties for
all five members,
sharing out proceeds based on each country's portion of imports. The
exact formula for
sharing revenues and the decision-making authority over duties (held,
until at least 1996,
exclusively by the Government of South Africa) have become increasingly
the members began renegotiating the arrangement in 1995. While the
Customs Union has
benefited Botswana through duty-free access to the much larger South
African market, SACU
has also made prohibitive the import of non-South African capital and
Following South Africa's accession to the World Trade Organization
(WTO-Botswana is also a
member), many of the SACU duties are declining, making American products
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
can be repatriated with virtually no restriction from Botswana.
Gaborone is host to the 12-nation Southern Africa Development
Community (SADC). A
successor to the Southern Africa Development Coordination Conference
focused its efforts on freeing regional economic development from
dependence on apartheid
in South Africa, SADC incorporates South Africa and has a broad mandate
growth, development, and integration in Southern Africa. The Regional
Center for Southern
Africa (RCSA), which implements the U.S. Agency for International
Initiative for Southern Africa (ISA), is headquartered in Gaborone as
Transportation and Communications
A sparsely populated, arid country about the size of Texas, Botswana
managed to incorporate much of its interior into the national economy. An
circle" highway connecting all major towns and district capitals is
paved, and the all-weather Trans-Kalahari Highway will connect the
country (and through it
South Africa's commercially dominant Guateng Province) to Walvis Bay in
completion before the turn of the century. A fiber-optic
telecommunications network has
been completed in Botswana connecting all major population centers.
The United States considers Botswana a force for stability in Africa,
and it has been a
major partner in development from the country's independence. U.S. Peace
Corps will close
out its presence in December 1997, bringing to an end 30 years of
in education, business, health, agriculture, and the environment.
Similarly, the USAID
ended a longstanding partnership with Botswana in 1996, after successful
emphasizing education, training, entrepreneurship, environmental
reproductive health. Botswana will continue to benefit along with its
neighbors in the
region from USAID's initiative for Southern Africa. The United States
operates a major
Voice of America (VOA) relay station in Botswana serving most of the
African continent. In
1995, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) initiated a tuberculosis
monitoring program in
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Gillian Milovanovic
USAID Regional Center Director--Valerie Dickson-Horton
Public Affairs Officer--Steve Lauterbach
Peace Corps Director--Francis Hammond
Office of Defense Cooperation--Ltc. James Smaugh
The U.S. Embassy is on Embassy Drive off Khama Crescent-PO Box 90,
267-353-982; fax 267-356-947). USIS is at the Embassy. USAID is located
at the former
Training Center, off the Molepolole Road on Lebatlane Road. Peace
Corps is located on
the Old Lobatse Road.
For more information, visit the State Departments home page.