Country Facts


Location: Landlocked between South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe;

Area: 582,000 km2 (roughly the size of France or US state of Texas);

Time: GMT + 2; Country Phone Code: 267; Electricity: 230 V AC 50 hz;

Weights & Measures: Metric System;

Main Towns: Gaborone, Francistown, Selebi-Phikwe, Lobatse.


Botswana is a huge, shallow sand-filled semi-arid basin at an average elevation of 1,000 metres. The edge of the basin is higher and broken in the east forming low hill ranges facing across the Limpopo’s drainage system. This area has the most favourable rainfall and agricultural potential, and the bulk of the population. The rest of the country is generally undulating to flat over the bulk of its area. The whole basin appears to be tilted to the northeast, with the Makgadikgadi pans forming its lower part. To the west it rises higher towards Namibia.

The Kalahari Desert area which covers two-thirds of the country consists of large deposits of wind blown sand – as much as 120 m thick in places. Its semi-arid climate supports a low savannah-type vegetation in the wide flat plains. Large parts of the sand veld are thought to be very fragile ecosystems.


Mostly subtropical but varies with altitude and experiences extremes in both temperature and weather. Poor and erratic rainfall. Seasons are reversed from northern hemisphere. Summer (October/November to March) is time of highest rain (peaks in December/January and March) and humidity. Heat is stifling: day temperatures can rise to over 400C and usually drop to 250C during the night. The annual average rainfall is around 475 mm. The northern areas receive up to 700 mm, while the Kalahari Desert area averages 225 mm.

Winter (late May to August) is usually dry and cold. Maximum daytime temperatures average 260C. Subfreezing night-time temperatures are normal in June and July. The best time to visit is from April to October when the days are sunny and cool to warm (250C). Evening temperatures however drop sharply. This is also the best time for game viewing.

Brief History

The region now known as Botswana has long been home to the hunter-gatherer San, who have inhabited the Kalahari for at least 30,000 years. They were joined by the Hottentots, then much later on, either in the 1st or 2nd century AD, the agricultural and pastoral Bantu arrived. These three groups seem to have coexisted peacefully, trading and intermarrying. Zulu wars forced the Tswana, a Bantu group which in the 14th century had settled the country’s southeastern strip, further into the Kalahari.

1886 – After much lobbying by Tswana chiefs, the British reluctantly proclaimed the Protectorate of Bechuanaland to stem the advance of Boer and German settlers from the south and southwest respectively.

1896-1897 – British construct railway in the eastern portion of the country.

1965 – Self-government attained after 80 years as a British Protectorate.

30th July 1966 – Republic of Botswana achieves Independence as a non-racial, multi-party democracy which guarantees the freedoms of speech, the Press, and association.

1980 – Sir Seretse Khama, Botswana’s first president (re-elected three times) dies. Dr. Quett Masire succeeds him.

The present Constitution, which has remained largely intact since it was written and adopted in 1966, provides for the Legislature, Judiciary, and the Executive as the main organs of Government.

Botswana’s democratic heritage dates back before its recorded history, and has its roots in the traditional Kgotla system of consultation. The Kgotla was a forum for community discussion and acted as a judicial court involving the whole community in adjudication. With its emphasis on free speech and on the leader consulting with the public, it limited the powers of the chiefs forcing them, to a very large extent, to rule in the interest of the people. It is said that in those early days of even more sparse populations, a chief who failed to heed criticism, or failed to live up to his subjects’ expectations, was simply deserted by them. This is neatly summed up in the Tswana saying: “The Chief is only the chief by the will of the people”.


Population: 1.3 million (1992); 59% under 20 years; 45% urbanisation; Density: 2/km2; Growth Rate: 4.6% (Doubles every 26 years); Infant mortality: 43/1000; Life Expectancy: 60 years (M), 65 years (F); Literacy Rate: 30%; Main Ethnic Groups: Batswana (76%), Shona (12%), San (3%), Hottentot (3%), Ndebele (1%), Other (5%); Languages: English official & widely spoken. Setswana (75%), Shona (12%), Khoisan (6%), Other (5%); Religions: Traditional (50%); Christian (50%).


Republic; Non-racial multi-party democracy with a functioning Westminster-style Parliament. Head of State: Sir Quett Ketumile Joni Masire (1980). Major political parties: Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana People’s Party, Botswana Independence Party (BIP), Botswana Progressive Union (BPU), Botswana Labour Party (BLP).


GNP (1991): US$ 1,446 millions – Agriculture 3%; Industry 55%; Services 42%; Annual Growth Rate: 11%; Per Capita: $1,149; GNP Education: 7.7%; GNP Defence: 2.2%; Balance of Trade (1990): US$ 147,000,000. Inflation: 11.2%; ExchangeRate (1996): US$1 = P3.42; Principal Exports (1992): Diamonds (78.9%), Copper/Nickel (7.2%); Beef (3.5%), Textiles (2.1%); Principal Imports (1992): Food, beverages and tobacco (18.7%); machinery and electrical equipment (18.8%); vehicles and transport equipment (10%); metal and metal products (14%). At independence in 1966, Botswana was one of the poorest countries in the world. It was surrounded by hostile white minority governments, and had very few known prospects for economic improvement. There was virtually no infrastructure, save for a railway in the eastern part, less than 20 km of tarred roads, one public secondary school, almost no industry, and no known mineral deposits. Today, following the discovery of minerals in 1967 and prudent management, Botswana is one of the three wealthiest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and one of the most successful economies in the developing world, with a post independence growth averaging 13% annually. Thanks to the Government’s commitment to “sustainable development”, this success has been achieved without destroying the country’s most valuable possession – its natural environment.

Investing in Botswana the Blue Chip of Africa

In a drive to broaden and diversify its economy, Botswana is open for business. The Government welcomes and supports foreign investment and technology, especially joint ventures and new enterprises, which provide substitutes for imports or have export potential, and which also generate employment.


Investors are attracted by an investment climate which includes:

The security of investment provided by the political stability and economic prosperity of one of the fastest growing free market economies in the world.

Minimal legislative procedures.

High foreign exchange reserves

Liberal exchange control regulations, providing for repartriation of investment capital brought into Botswana, personal remittances and transfer of profits. The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (a World Bank affiliate) provides guarantees in this regard.

Good and modern national telecommunications network;

Abundant and low-cost unskilled labour;

Botswana, South Africa Lesotho, Swaziland, and Namibia are members of the Common Customs Area (Southern African Customs Union). Botswana exports have free access to these markets;

Botswana has duty-free access to the EC markets under the Lome IV agreement;

Botswana has a quota free and preferential access to American markets.



Farm machinery; irrigation, water pumping, well-drilling, and water transportation equipment; poultry rearing and meat processing; crop production and storage; tanning, taxidermy and leather work.


Administrative; consulting; distribution and marketing; engineering; insurance/pension; and publishing.


Textiles, footwear, diamond processing construction materials, furniture, soda ash products, modular housing, and electronic assembly.


Tour operators, accommodation, entertainment, transportation, food services and products.


Financial Assistance Policy (FAP) can provide the investor in the agricultural, industrial and mining sectors with tax holidays, unskilled labour grants, and capital sales augmentation grants over a five year period.

The Local Preference Scheme provides a price advantage over goods of foreign manufacturers, to Botswana manufacturers who sell to the government, local authorities and parastatals.

The Special Incentives Package for projects located in Selebi-Phikwe, and which meet established criteria, include a capital grant, reimbursement of a portion of labour costs, training grant, sales augmentation and tax advantages.

The National Conservation Strategy (NCS)

In the early 80s, the Government recognised the need for urgent legislation to protect and nourish the wide range of natural resources that exist in Botswana. Over a five-year period of nationwide consultation at all levels, the NCS which bases economic development on environmental considerations was developed. Its key component is that environmental impact assessment must be completed by an independent body before any development projects may be undertaken. Its main objectives are, firstly, to direct the use of renewable resources into more beneficial and environmentally friendly economic activities; and, secondly, to sustain the utilisation of such resources for future economic benefits. The strategy empowers people to utilise their resources in an environmentally responsible way to better their standards of living. One of its activities, for example, is to seek ways to diversify away from cattle production (and reduce herd sizes) towards other industries such as tourism, wildlife utilisation, manufacturing, harvesting of veld products, financial services, and others more environmentally sustainable than livestock.

Wildlife Resources

Mammals: 164 species including elephant, hippo, rhino, buffalo, zebra, antelope, warthog, wild pig, hare, otter, mongoose, aardvark, ratel, caracal, wilddog, brown hyena, leopard and lion.

Birds: About 550 species including eagle, owl, falcon, vulture, kite, flamingo, pelican, ostrich, stork, heron, crane, goose, duck, sandgrouse, bee-eater, swallow, crake and shrike.

Reptiles: 157 species including lizards, crocodiles, tortoise and python.

Amphibians: 38 species including frogs and toads.

Fish: Over 80 species including tigerfish, silverfish, tilapia, catfish, pike, carp and mormyrids.

Plants: Over 3,000 species including baobab, ivory and date palm, leadwood, sausage tree, fig mophane, acacias, camelthorn, teak, mahogany, and paperbark tree.

Wildlife Policy

The country is divided into five geographical zones for their landscape and variety of wild animals, each of which has a different set of wildlife issues. The central theme of the wildlife policy, which applies across the country, is that Botswana is committed to maintaining or, where necessary, restoring whatever has been lost of its naturally occurring flora and fauna.

A total of 78,000 km2 of the Kalahari semi-arid system have been set aside as protected areas, and the National Conservation Strategy (NCS) discourages any future large scale development in this area.

Use of all land in Botswana is considered in the light of the wildlife conservation policy. For example, even veterinary cordon fences (designed to stop epidemics of foot and mouth disease) are not allowed to cut across wildlife migration routes. Overall, the National Land Use Plan ensures that wildlife does not lose out to human development. Seventeen per cent of the country is set aside as National Parks and Game Reserves, in which all commercial farming and hunting is prohibited. A further 22 per cent of the country is being designated as Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), where wildlife will be given priority. Strict controls will be imposed on commercial activities such as tourism and hunting. However, sustainable activities that allow local people to benefit from the wildlife resource will be allowed.

In addition to land use planning, other wildlife protection methods include: drilling boreholes in strategic areas to avail water during drought; improving field monitoring of wildlife; initiating new licensing procedures including restriction in hunting licence transfer; improving field monitoring of wildlife; decentralising area management to enable local communities to participate in the management of the wildlife resource; computerising licensing allocation and tracking procedures; enforcing more strict and efficient anti-poaching measures.