Botswana

Info

Capital

Gaborone

Population

2,127,825 (July 2013 est.)

Climate

Arid to semi-arid

Currency

7.65 pulas (BWP) = 1 USD (2012 est.)

Important Cities

Ghanzi, Nata, Serowe

Area

581,730 sq. km.

People

Nationality

Botswanan

Major Peoples

San

Religion

Christian 71.6%, Badimo 6%, other 1.4%, unspecified 0.4%, none 20.6% (2001 census)

Literacy

84.5%

Principal Language

Khoesan, Kalanga, Herero, English

Official Language

English and (Se)Tswana

Politics

Head Of State

Seretse Ian Khama (since 2008)

Type of Government

Parliamentary Republic

Date of Independence

September 30, 1966

Major Exports

Diamonds, Copper, Nickel, Soda Ash, Meat, Textiles

Precolonial History

Hunters, gatherers, and herders occupied Botswana from about 17,000 BCE. Bantu-speaking farmers migrated from the north and settled in the area by 1000 CE. The Tswana, a Bantu people, came to dominate the region. European missionaries, notably David Livingstone of Scotland, began arriving in the 19th century, and both Germany and Britain engaged in colonial expansion. In 1885, the British proclaimed “Bechuanaland” a protectorate over their Tswana allies. In 1895, the Bechuanaland Protectorate was divided into a northern territory, which became modern Botswana, and a southern territory, which became part of Cape Colony in South Africa. In 1909, Britain assured the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Lesotho, and Swaziland that their territories would not be incorporated into the proposed Union of South Africa, but the threat of assimilation remained until the early 1960s.

Postcolonial History

Britain accepted proposals for self-government in 1964, leading to a new constitution, a new seat of government at Gaborone, and the country’s first general elections in 1966. Independence leader Seretse Khama became Botswana’s first president, was re-elected three times, and died in office in 1980. He was succeeded by his vice president, Sir Ketumile Masire, who re-established diplomatic relations with South Africa after apartheid was abolished in the early 1990s. Masire was re-elected until he retired in 1998, and was succeeded by his vice president, Festus Mogae. In 2000, floods devastated eastern Botswana, and with a doubling of production and revenues from the diamond-mining industry, the Economist rated Botswana’s economy as the second-fastest growing in the world. In 2006, Botswana celebrated forty years of independence, and archaeologist Sheila Coulson discovered a 40,000 year-old painted relief of a snake in the Tsodilo Hills. In 2007, the country enlarged the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, in cooperation with South Africa and Namibia. Ian Khama, the eldest son of Seretse Khama, ascended to the presidency upon Mogae’s retirement in 2008. Although its HIV rate of nearly 25% is the second highest in the world, Botswana is considered one of the world’s least corrupt countries and a model African nation.

Recommended Sources:

U.S. Department of State Country Background Notes Archive, “Background Note: Botswana” (http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ERC/bgnotes/af/botswana9302.html).

Fred Morton, Jeff Ramsay, and Part Themba Mgadla, The Historical Dictionary of Botswana (Lanham, Maryland, Toronto, Plymouth, UK: The Scarecrow Press, 2008).

Neil Parsons, “A Brief History of Botswana,” The Botswana History Pages, 1999 (http://www.thuto.org/ubh/bw/bhp1.htm).