Botswana,republic in southern Africa, a landlocked country, bounded on the north and west by Namibia, on the northeast by Zambia and Zimbabwe, and on the southeast and south by the Republic of South Africa. The total area of Botswana is 600,372 sq km (231,805 sq mi).
Land and Resources
Most of Botswana is a tableland with an average elevation of about 1000 m (about 3300 ft). The Kalahari Desert covers most of the southwestern portion of the country. The principal stream is the Okovango River, which flows southeast from the Angola highlands into northwestern Botswana and drains into the Okovango Basin, where it forms a vast marshland. During the rainy season the flow continues east on the Botletle River to Lake Dow and the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan. The southern part of the country has no permanent streams. In general, Botswana has a semiarid subtropical climate. The average annual rainfall varies from about 635 mm (about 25 in) in the north to less than 230 mm (less than 9 in) in the Kalahari. Rainfall is concentrated in the summer months (December to April). Precipitation, however, is undependable, and the country is subject to drought. Savanna vegetation predominates in most parts of Botswana, and consists of grasslands interspersed with trees. Principal species include acacia, bloodwood, and Rhodesian teak. Wildlife is abundant in Botswana and includes lions, giraffes, leopards, antelope, elephants, crocodiles, and ostriches. Mineral resources include diamonds, copper, nickel, coal, cobalt, manganese, asbestos, and salt.
The country is named for the people that constitute the overwhelming majority of the population, the Tswana, who are divided into eight major groups. The majority of people live in towns or large villages that are surrounded by agricultural land.
The population of Botswana (1993 estimate) is 1,325,920, giving the country an overall population density of about 2.2 persons per sq km (about 5.7 per sq mi). The majority of the population is concentrated in the eastern part of the country. Besides the Tswana, major ethnic groups include the San (Bushmen), Kalanga, and Herero. Gaborone, the capital and a main business center, has a population (1981) of 59,657. Other business centers are Francistown (31,065), Selebi-Pikwe (29,469), Kanye (20,215) and Lobatse (19,034).
About half the people of Botswana are Christian; the remainder follow traditional religions. English is the official language, but most of the people speak Setswana, the language of the Tswana, which belongs to the Sotho subgroup of Bantu languages.
In the mid-1980s, Botswana's adult literacy rate exceeded 70 percent. Most primary schools are supervised by the district councils and township authorities and are financed from local government revenues assisted by grants-in-aid from the central government. In the mid-1980s Botswana's primary schools had an annual enrollment of about 235,900, and secondary schools enrolled about 36,000 annually. Specialized education was provided by teacher-training schools and vocational-training schools. About 2300 students were enrolled in the University of Botswana (1976), in Gaborone.
The economy of Botswana was formerly dependent on the export of live cattle and meat. Since the late 1960s the discovery and exploitation of mineral resources, notably diamonds, have assumed primary importance in export earnings. Income is also derived from the export of labor to South Africa. The estimated budget for the 1989-1990 fiscal year included revenues of about $1.2 billion and expenditures of about $1.1 billion.
A slaughterhouse, opened at Lobatse in 1954, became of great importance to the economy in that it allowed for the modernization of the Botswana livestock industry. In the late 1980s the number of cattle was about 2,350,000; sheep, 220,000; and goats, 1,100,000. Major diamond deposits are at Orapa and Letlhakane, in the north, and at Jwaneng, in the south. Diamond production amounted to 15.2 million carats annually in the late 1980s. Important copper and nickel deposits are in the Selebi-Pikwe area. Manufacturing activity in Botswana is essentially limited to food and mineral processing.
Botswana is linked to South Africa in a customs union that also includes Lesotho and Swaziland. In 1976 Botswana established its own currency, the pula (2.6 pulas equal U.S.$1; 1994). In the late 1980s Botswana's annual imports cost about $883 million; yearly exports earned about $1.5 billion, with diamonds accounting for about 75 percent of that figure. South Africa is Botswana's leading trade partner.
Botswana has about 8390 km (about 5215 mi) of roads and about 710 km (about 440 mi) of railroads. Air Botswana links major domestic communities and has regular schedules to foreign cities. Botswana has about 40,200 telephones, which are connected to the telephone system of South Africa. Radio Botswana, in Gaborone, broadcasts in English and Setswana.
Botswana is governed under a constitution promulgated in 1965. Executive power is vested in the president, assisted by a vice president and a cabinet of about ten ministers. The president is elected by members of the National Assembly, which constitutes the supreme legislative body. The National Assembly consists of 40 members elected to five-year terms by universal adult suffrage, four specially elected members, the speaker, and the attorney general, who may not vote. The House of Chiefs, with 15 members (including the chiefs of the eight principal Tswana groups), must be consulted by the government on all matters relating to the chieftaincies and constitutional changes. The leading political grouping is the Botswana Democratic party. The judicial system includes magistrates' courts and the High Court. Appeals in both civil and criminal cases are carried to the court of appeal.
The Tswana migrated to the region that is now Botswana by 1800 and displaced the indigenous San. Missionaries, including David Livingstone and Robert Moffat, arrived in the first half of the 19th century and established missions. The territory was taken under British protection in 1885, after all the principal chiefs complained that Boers, white South Africans from the Transvaal, were invading their territories.
During World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945) contingents from Bechuanaland, as Botswana was then called, served overseas and on their return helped stimulate economic and political change. The first elections to a legislative council were held in 1961. Under the name Botswana, the country achieved independence in 1966, with the former prime minister, Sir Seretse Khama, as the first president. When he died in 1980, he was succeeded by Quett K. J. Masire, who was returned to power in elections held in 1984, 1989, and 1994.
Since independence, Botswana has taken a nonaligned stance in foreign affairs. While it opposed the former racial policies of neighboring South Africa, Botswana has, out of economic necessity, maintained close ties with that country.