What Should I Know About Botswana?

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  • Written By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2019
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The Republic of Botswana is a landlocked country in Africa, located to the north of South Africa, but also sharing borders with Namibia and Zimbabwe. Home to the impressive Kalahari Desert, Botswana is a semiarid place, with very hot summers and warm winters. The country is primarily flat, with some gently rolling hills.

In the late 1800's, Botswana existed as The Bechuanaland Protectorate, a protectorate of the United Kingdom. As disagreements arose between the Tswana people of Botswana and the Ndebele people of the Kalahari Desert, the British government divided Bechuanaland into two, with the northern part becoming Botswana in 1966. The first president, Seretse Khama, served three terms. Today the government continues as a parliamentary republic.

Mining, especially the mining of diamonds, is an essential part of Botswana's economy. In addition to diamonds, the country is rich in copper, salt, nickel, coal, silver, iron ore, potash, and coal. Considered a middle income country, the GDP of Botswana was over $11,000 US Dollars (USD) in 2006. Tourism is becoming a large contributor to the economy as well, but unemployment rates are still high — the exact figures are disputed but there is thought to be between 23% and 40% unemployment.


Like many Sub-Saharan African nations, Botswana is facing some serious environmental problems due to droughts, overgrazing, limited fresh water, and desertification. Food-borne, waterborne, and vector-borne diseases are common, including malaria, typhoid, and hepatitis A. The portion of the population that is HIV positive in Botswana is disputed, with figures ranging from 21% to almost 40%, depending upon the source.

The citizens of Botswana, known collectively as Batswana — Motswana is the singular — has over 81% literacy and boasts one university: The University of Botwana, located in the city of Gaborone; and six technical colleges scattered throughout the country. The country has two official languages: Setswana, also known as Tswana, and English.

Tourism in Botswana is becoming more popular, in part because of its game reserves and national parks. The most popular destinations are the Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park. Wildlife includes hyenas, lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, and antelope. Botswana was the setting for the best-selling book by Mark and Delia Owens, The Cry of the Kalahari, as well as the move The Gods Must Be Crazy.


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