Country Profile: Botswana

Country Profile: Botswana

A profile of the nation of Botswana, its people and its challenges.

Published June 22, 2011

 Botswana is a southern African nation that is slightly smaller than the state of Texas and borders South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is named after the country’s largest ethnic group, the Tswana, whose Setswana dialect and English are the primary languages spoken there. As of 2008, the nation, which earned its independence from Britain in 1966, had 1,921,122 citizens, 70 percent of whom are Christian.


In 2010, Botswana ranked third-best in the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s annual survey of the best and worst African nations, which ranks nations based on safety and the rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, and human development. That’s because Botswana, which produces the world’s largest output of diamonds, has wisely invested its rich natural resources to fund roads, schools, clinics and other things that benefit its citizenry, instead of the palaces and lavish lifestyles that political leaders in other African nations have enjoyed. The diamond industry accounts for almost half of the government’s revenue.


In addition, it has a parliamentary political system that respects tribal tradition and includes a 15-member House of Chiefs, an advisory board that represents the country’s eight major Setswana-speaking tribes as well as a group of smaller tribes. Ian Khama, who currently serves as president, was elected in 2008 and is the son of Botswana’s first president, Sir Sereste Khama, when former President Festus Mogae stepped down after 10 years in office.


The country also enjoys a free and vibrant press and does not restrict Internet access. The government also does not interfere with the legal system, which is generally considered to be fair.


That is not to say that the country is not without its problems and it is experiencing one of the world’s worst epidemics of HIV/AIDS. According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s world factbook, in 2009, had the world’s second-worst HIV/AIDS rate, at 24.8 percent. It has had a particularly devastating impact on the nation’s youth, who have been infected at a disproportionately high rate.


Botswana also is in the first stages of recovery following an eight-week strike by its public-sector workers. The 120,000 unionists wanted a 16-percent pay raise after a three-year wage freeze,The Economist reports. But after two months without pay, they agreed to accept a three percent raise if the 1,400 striking health workers who were fired during the strike are reinstated in their jobs.


Moreover, according toThe Economist, the nation needs to find other ways to supplement diamond revenues as production has peaked and could be exhausted by 2030. In addition, the government’s budget is in deficit for the first time since the country gained independence.



Written by Joyce Jones


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