Geography Area: 582,000 sq. km. (224,710 sq. mi.), about the size of Texas. Cities (2011 census): Capital--Gaborone (pronounced ha-bo-ro-neh), pop. 227,333. Other towns--Francistown (100,079), Selebi-Phikwe (49,724), Molepolole (63,128), Kanye 45,196) Serowe (47,447), Mahalapye (41,316), Lobatse (29,032), Maun (55,784), Mochudi (44,339). Terrain: Desert and savanna. Climate: Mostly subtropical.
People Nationality: Noun and adjective--Motswana (sing.), Batswana (pl.). Population (est.): 2.06 million. Annual population growth rate (2009): 1.5%. Ethnic groups: Tswana 79%; Kalanga 11%; Kgalagadi, Herero, Bayeyi, Hambukush, Basarwa ("San"), Khoi, whites 10%. Religions: Christianity 70%, none 20%, indigenous beliefs 6%, other 4%. Languages: English (official), Setswana, Ikalanga. Education: Adult literacy--84.8%. Health (2011): Life expectancy--58.05 years. Infant mortality rate--11.14/1,000. Work force (2005-2006 est.): 548,600 employed; total including unemployed, 651,500.
Government Type: Republic, parliamentary democracy. Independence: September 30, 1966. Constitution: March 1965. Branches: Executive--president (chief of state and head of government), cabinet. Legislative--popularly elected National Assembly; advisory House of Chiefs. Judicial--High Court, Court of Appeal, local and customary courts, industrial labor court. Administrative subdivisions: Five town councils and nine district councils. Major political parties: Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), Botswana National Front (BNF), and Botswana Congress Party/Botswana Alliance Movement. Suffrage: Universal at 18.
Economy Nominal GDP (2010): $14.8 billion. Real GDP growth rate (2010): 7.5%. Per capita nominal GDP (2009 est.): $6,200. Natural resources: Diamonds, copper, nickel, coal, soda ash, salt, gold, potash. Agriculture (2% of real GDP, 2008): Products--livestock, sorghum, white maize, millet, cowpeas, beans. Industry: Types--mining (40% of real GDP, 2008): diamonds, copper, nickel, coal; tourism, textiles, construction, beef processing, chemical products production, food and beverage production. Trade (2008): Exports--$5.127 billion f.o.b.: diamonds, nickel, copper, meat products, textiles, hides, skins, and soda ash. Partners--EU, South Africa. Imports--$3.931 billion f.o.b.: machinery, transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, chemicals, fuels. Major suppliers--South Africa, EU, and U.S.
PEOPLE AND HISTORY Batswana, a term also used to denote all citizens of Botswana, 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 1800s. Prior to European contact, the Batswana lived as herders and farmers under tribal rule.
In the 19th century, hostilities broke out between the Batswana and Boer settlers from the Transvaal. After appeals by the Batswana for assistance, the British Government in 1885 put "Bechuanaland" under its protection. The northern territory remained under direct administration 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.
Despite South African pressure, inhabitants of the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Basutoland (now Lesotho), and Swaziland in 1909 asked for and received British assurances that they would not be included in the proposed Union of 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 in September 1966. General elections serve to elect members of parliament, and the presidential candidate from the party that wins the most seats in the general election becomes the president. Seretse Khama, a leader in the independence movement and the legitimate claimant to traditional rule of the Bamangwato, became the country’s first president, was 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. 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. Mogae won a second term in elections held October 30, 2004 and stepped down in accordance with national term limits on March 31, 2008. On April 1, 2008 former Vice President Ian Khama assumed the presidency. Khama was elected as President in his own right during the general election held on October 16, 2009.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS Botswana has a flourishing multiparty constitutional democracy. General elections are held every 5 years. Each of the elections since independence has been freely and fairly contested and has been held on schedule. The country's minority groups participate freely in the political process. The openness of the country's political system has been a significant factor in Botswana's stability and economic growth.
The president of Botswana is indirectly elected. The presidential candidate from the political party that wins the majority of the 57 seats in the National Assembly is sworn in as president. The cabinet is selected by the president from the National Assembly; it consists of a vice president and a flexible number of ministers and assistant ministers. The National Assembly has 57 elected and 4 specially elected members; it is expanded following each 10-year census.
There are four main parties and a number of smaller parties. In national elections held October 16, 2009, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won 45 of 57 contested National Assembly seats, the Botswana National Front (BNF) won 6 seats, and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP)/Botswana Alliance Movement pact won 5 seats. For the first time in the history of the country, an independent candidate won a seat in parliament during the 2009 election. Four additional seats filled by individuals elected by the National Assembly went to the ruling BDP. In the city of Gaborone, the BDP took all but one of the five constituencies from the opposition, taking control of the city council. In May-July 2010, 7 BDP parliamentarians and the lone independent changed their membership to the newly created Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). In August 2010, 2 BMD members returned to the BDP, leaving the BMD with 6 seats in parliament.
The advisory House of Chiefs represents the eight principal subgroups of the Batswana tribes, five members specially elected by the president, and 22 members elected from designated regions. The eight principal chiefs are members for life, while the elected members hold office for a period of 5 years. A draft of any National Assembly bill of tribal concern must be referred to the House of Chiefs for advisory opinion. Chiefs and other leaders preside over customary traditional courts, though all persons have the right to request that their case be considered under the formal 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 are limited by custom and law. Botswana's High Court has general civil and criminal jurisdiction. Judges are appointed by the president 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 town councils. District commissioners have executive authority and are appointed by the central government and assisted by elected and nominated district councilors and district development committees. There has been ongoing debate about the political, social, and economic marginalization of the San (an indigenous tribal population). The government's policies for the Basarwa (San) and other remote area dwellers continue to spark controversy.
Principal Government Officials President--Seretse Khama Ian Khama Vice President--Mompati S. Merafhe
Ambassador to the United States--Tebelelo Seretse Ambassador to the United Nations--Charles Ntwaagae
Botswana maintains an embassy at 1531-1533 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington DC 20036 (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).
ECONOMY Botswana has enjoyed one of the fastest growth rates in per capita income in the world since independence, although it slowed considerably due to the global economic downturn. The economic growth rate averaged 9% per year from 1967-2006, but slowed during 2007 and 2008 to only 3% before dropping to minus 3.7% in 2009. In 2010, real GDP grew by approximately 7.5%, and it is expected to post an average growth of 6% in 2011 and 2012. The government reported that the average consumer price inflation rate dropped to 7.0% for 2010 as compared to 8.1% for 2009.
The government has maintained a sound fiscal policy and a negligible level of foreign debt. Foreign exchange reserves were estimated to be $8.4 billion in September 2010, representing approximately 19 months' cover of imports of goods and services. 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. The government recognizes that HIV/AIDS will continue to affect the economy and is providing leadership and programs to combat the epidemic, including free anti-retroviral treatment and a nationwide Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission program.