Botswana

Republic of Botswana

President: Ian Khama (2008)

Land area: 226,012 sq mi (585,371 sq km); total area: 231,803 sq mi (600,370 sq km)

Population (2012 est.): 2,098,018 (growth rate: 1.48%); birth rate: 22.02/1000; infant mortality rate: 10.49/1000; life expectancy: 55.74; density per sq km: 3

Capital and largest city (2009 est.): Gaborone, 196,000

Monetary unit: Pula

Current government officials

Languages: English 2% (official), Setswana 78%, Kalanga 8%, Sekgalagadi 3%, other (2001)

Ethnicity/race: Tswana (or Setswana) 79%, Kalanga 11%, Basarwa 3%, other (including Kgalagadi and white) 7%

National Holiday: Independence Day (Botswana Day), September 30

Religions: Christian 72%, Badimo 6%, none 21% (2001)

Literacy rate: 81.2% (2011 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2011 est.): $30.09 billion; per capita $16,300. Real growth rate: –6.2%. Inflation: 7.8%. Unemployment: 7.5%. Arable land: 1%. Agriculture: livestock, sorghum, maize, millet, beans, sunflowers, groundnuts. Labor force: 1.269 , million (2011); agriculture n.a., industry n.a., services n.a. Industries: diamonds, copper, nickel, salt, soda ash, potash; livestock processing; textiles. Natural resources: diamonds, copper, nickel, salt, soda ash, potash, coal, iron ore, silver. Exports: $5.509 billion f.o.b. (2011 est.): diamonds, copper, nickel, soda ash, meat, textiles. Imports: $5,426 billion f.o.b. (2011 est.): foodstuffs, machinery, electrical goods, transport equipment, textiles, fuel and petroleum products, wood and paper products, metal and metal products. Major trading partners: European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Southern African Customs Union (SACU), Zimbabwe (2004).

Member of Commonwealth of Nations

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 137,400 (2011); mobile cellular: 2,363,000 (2011). Radio broadcast stations: AM 8, FM 13, shortwave 4 (2001). Television broadcast stations: 1 (2001). Internet hosts: 2,674 (2011). Internet users: 120,000 (2011).

Transportation: Railways: total: 888 km (2011). Highways: total: 29,798 km; (2011). Ports and harbors: none. Airports: 78 (2011 est.).

International disputes: commission established with Namibia has yet to resolve small residual disputes along the Caprivi Strip, including the Situngu marshlands along the Linyanti River; downstream Botswana residents protest Namibia's planned construction of the Okavango hydroelectric dam at Popavalle (Popa Falls); Botswana has built electric fences to stem the thousands of Zimbabweans who flee to find work and escape political persecution; Namibia has long supported and in 2004 Zimbabwe dropped objections to plans between Botswana and Zambia to build a bridge over the Zambezi River, thereby de facto recognizing their short, but not clearly delimited Botswana-Zambia boundary.

Major sources and definitions

Flag of Botswana

Geography

Twice the size of Arizona, Botswana is in south-central Africa, bounded by Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Most of the country is near-desert, with the Kalahari occupying the western part of the country. The eastern part is hilly, with salt lakes in the north.

Government

Parliamentary republic.

History

The earliest inhabitants of the region were the San, who were followed by the Tswana. About half the country today is ethnic Tswana. The term for the country's people, Batswana, refers to national rather than ethnic origin.

Encroachment by the Zulu in the 1820s and by Boers from Transvaal in the 1870s and 1880s threatened the peace of the region. In 1885, Britain established the area as a protectorate, then known as Bechuanaland. In 1961, Britain granted a constitution to the country. Self-government began in 1965, and on Sept. 30, 1966, the country became independent. Botswana is Africa's oldest democracy.

The new country maintained good relations with its white-ruled neighbors but gradually changed its policies, harboring rebel groups from South Rhodesia as well as some from South Africa.

Although Botswana is rich in diamonds, it has high unemployment and stratified socioeconomic classes. In 1999, the nation suffered its first budget deficit in 16 years because of a slump in the international diamond market. Yet Botswana remains one of the wealthiest and most stable countries on the continent.

After 17 years in power, President Ketumile Masire retired in 1997, and Festus Mogae, an Oxford-educated economist, became the new president. Mogae has won high marks from the international financial community for continuing to privatize Botswana's mining and industrial operations.

AIDS: Botswana's Biggest Challenge

Although Botswana's economic outlook remains strong, the devastation that AIDS has caused threatens to destroy the country's future. In 2001, Botswana had the highest rate of HIV infection in the world (350,000 of its 1.6 million people). With the help of international donors, however, it launched an ambitious national campaign that provided free antiviral drugs to anyone who needed them, and by March 2004, Botswana's infection rate had dropped significantly. But with 37.5% of the population infected, the country remains on the brink of catastrophe. President Mogae won a second and final four-year term in Oct. 2004.

After serving 10 years as deputy president, Ian Khama, the son of Botswana's first president, Seretse Khama, was inaugurated as president in April 2008. Festus Mogae stepped aside after 10 years in office. Khama won another five-year term in October 2009, when his Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) party won 45 out of 57 seats in Parliament.

See also Encyclopedia: Botswana
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Botswana
Central Statistics Office http://www.cso.gov.bw/cso/index.html .


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