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Botswana (06/03)


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For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Republic of Botswana

Geography
Area: 582,000 sq. km. (224,710 sq. mi.), about the size of Texas.
Cities (note: the 2001 census figures for cities were unavailable as of April 2002): Capital--Gaborone (pronounced ha-bo-ro-neh), pop. 213,017. Other towns--Francistown (101,805 ), Selebi-Phikwe (49,017), Molepolole (47,094), Kanye (36,877), Serowe (33,335), Mahalapye (32,407), Lobatse (32,075), Maun (31,260), Mochudi (30,671).
Terrain: Desert and savanna.
Climate: Mostly subtropical.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Motswana (sing.), Batswana (pl.).
Population (2001): 1.69 million.
Annual population growth rate (2001): 2.38%.
Ethnic groups: Tswana 79%; Kalanga 11%; Kgalagadi, Herero, Bayeyi, Himbukush, Basarwa ("Bushmen"), Khoi ("Hottentots"), whites 10%.
Religions: Christianity 60%, indigenous beliefs 40%.
Languages: English (official), Setswana, Ikalanga.
Education: Adult literacy --68.9%.
Health (1999): Life expectancy--39.9 years. Infant mortality rate--59/1,000.
Work force (2000): 264,000.

Government
Type: Republic, parliamentary democracy.
Independence: September 30, 1966.
Constitution: March 1965.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state and head of government), cabinet. Legislative--popularly elected National Assembly; advisory House of Chiefs. Judicial--High Court, Court of Appeal, local and customary courts, industrial labor court.
Administrative subdivisions: Five town councils and nine district councils.
Major political parties: Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)--37 seats, Botswana National Front (BNF)--6 seats, Botswana Congress Party (BCP)--1 seat, Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM), Botswana Peoples Party (BPP)--0 seats.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Flag: flag of Botswana

Economy
GDP (2000): $5.6 billion.
Annual growth rate (2000-01): 9.1%.
Per capita GDP (2000): $3,380.
Natural resources: Diamonds, copper, nickel, coal, soda ash, salt, gold, potash.
Agriculture (2.6% of GDP, 2000): Products--livestock, sorghum, white maize, millet, cowpeas, beans.
Industry: Types--mining (33% of GDP): diamonds, copper, nickel, coal, tourism, textiles, construction, tourism, beef processing, chemical products production, food and beverage production.
Trade (2000): Exports--$2.50 billion: diamonds, nickel, copper, meat products, textiles, hides, skins, and soda ash. Partners--EU, South Africa, Zimbabwe. Imports--$1.98 billion: machinery, transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, chemicals, fuels. Major suppliers--South Africa, EU, Zimbabwe, U.S.
Annual avg. economic aid: $25 million.

PEOPLE AND HISTORY  
The Batswana, a term also used to denote all citizens of Botswana, refers to the country's major ethnic group (the "Tswana" in South Africa), which came into the area from South Africa during the Zulu wars of the early 1880s. Prior to European contact, the Batswana lived as herders and farmers under tribal rule.

In the late 19th century, hostilities broke out between the Batswana and Boer settlers from the Transvaal. After appeals by the Batswana for assistance, the British Government in 1885 put "Bechuanaland" under its protection. The northern territory remained under direct administration and is today's Botswana, while the southern territory became part of the Cape Colony and is now part of the northwest province of South Africa; the majority of Setswana-speaking people today live in South Africa.

Despite South African pressure, inhabitants of the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Basuotoland (now Lesotho), and Swaziland in 1909 asked for and received British assurances that they would not be included in the proposed Union of South Africa. An expansion of British central authority and the evolution of tribal government resulted in the 1920 establishment of two advisory councils representing Africans and Europeans. Proclamations in 1934 regularized tribal rule and powers. A European-African advisory council was formed in 1951, and the 1961 constitution established a consultative legislative council.

In June 1964, Britain accepted proposals for democratic self-government in Botswana. The seat of government was moved from Mafikeng, in South Africa, to newly established Gaborone in 1965. The 1965 constitution led to the first general elections and to independence in September 1966. Seretse Khama, a leader in the independence movement and the legitimate claimant to traditional rule of the Batswana, was elected as the first president, re-elected twice, and died in office in 1980. The presidency passed to the sitting vice president, Ketumile Masire, who was elected in his own right in 1984 and re-elected in 1989 and 1994. Masire retired from office in 1998. The presidency passed to the sitting vice president, Festus Mogae, who was elected in his own right in 1999.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS 
Botswana has a flourishing multiparty constitutional democracy. Each of the elections since independence has been freely and fairly contested and has been held on schedule. The country's small white minority and other minorities participate freely in the political process. There are two main rival parties and a number of smaller parties. In national elections in 1999, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won 33 of 40 contested National Assembly seats, the Botswana National Front (BNF) won 6, and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) won 1 seat. An additional 4 seats are held by individuals appointed by the President; all 4 are currently held by the ruling BDP. The opposition out-polled the ruling BDP in most urban areas. The openness of the country's political system has been a significant factor in Botswana's stability and economic growth. General elections are held at least every 5 years.

The president has executive power and is chosen by the National Assembly following countrywide legislative elections. The cabinet is selected by the president from the National Assembly; it consists of a vice president and a flexible number of ministers and assistant ministers, currently 13 and 4, respectively. The National Assembly has 40 elected and 4 appointed members; it is expanded following each census (every 10 years; the most recent was conducted in 2001 and results are pending).

The advisory House of Chiefs represents the eight principal subgroups of the Batswana tribe, and four other members are elected by the subchiefs of four of the districts. A draft of any National Assembly bill of tribal concern must be referred to the House of Chiefs for advisory opinion. Chiefs and other leaders preside over customary, traditional courts, though all persons have the right to request that their case be considered under the formal British-based legal system.

The roots of Botswana's democracy lie in Setswana traditions, exemplified by the Kgotla, or village council, in which the powers of traditional leaders are limited by custom and law. Botswana's High Court has general civil and criminal jurisdiction. Judges are appointed by the president and may be removed only for cause and after a hearing. The constitution has a code of fundamental human rights enforced by the courts, and Botswana has a good human rights record.

Local government is administered by nine district councils and five town councils. District commissioners have executive authority and are appointed by the central government and assisted by elected and nominated district councilors and district development committees. There has been ongoing debate about the political, social, and economic marginalization of the San (indigenous tribal population). The government's policies for the Basarwa (San) and other remote area dwellers continue to spark controversy.

Principal Government Officials
President--Festus G. Mogae
Vice President--Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama
Ambassador to the United States--Ceasar Lekoa
Ambassador to the United Nations--Alfred Dube

Botswana maintains an embassy at 1531-1533 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington DC 20036 (tel. 202-244-4990; fax 202-244-4164). Its mission to the United Nations is at 103 E. 37th Street, New York NY 10017 (tel. 212-889-2277; fax 212-725-5061).

ECONOMY
Since independence, Botswana has had the fastest growth in per capita income in the world. Economic growth averaged over 9% per year from 1966-99. The government has maintained budget surpluses for 12 of the last 13 years, has no domestic debt, an insignificant foreign debt, and has stockpiled foreign exchange reserves (over $6.3 billion in 2000) amounting to over 3 years of current imports.

Botswana's impressive economic record has been built on a foundation of diamond mining, prudent fiscal policies, and a cautious foreign policy.

Mining
Two large mining companies, Debswana (formed by the government and South Africa's DeBeers in equal partnership) and Bamangwato Concessions, Ltd. (BCL, also with substantial government equity participation) operate in the country.

Since the early 1980s, the country has been the world's largest producer of gem diamonds. Three large diamond mines have opened since independence. DeBeers prospectors discovered diamonds in northern Botswana in the early 1970s. The first mine began production at Orapa in 1972, followed by the smaller mine at Lethlakane. What has become the single-richest diamond mine in the world opened in Jwaneng in 1982. Botswana produced a total of 21.3 million carats of diamonds from the three Debswana mines in 1999. The Orapa 2000 Expansion of the existing Orapa mine was opened in 2000.

BCL, which operates a copper-nickel mine at Selebi-Phikwe, has had a troubled financial history but remains an important employer. The soda ash operation at Sua Pan, opened in 1991 and supported by substantial government investment, has begun making a profit following significant restructuring.

Tourism
Tourism is an increasingly important industry in Botswana, accounting for almost 12% of GDP. One of the world's unique ecosystems, the Okavango Delta, is located in Botswana. The country offers excellent game viewing and birding both in the Delta and in the Chobe Game Reserve--home to one of the largest herds of free-ranging elephants in the world. Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve also offers good game viewing and some of the most remote and unspoiled wilderness in southern Africa.

Agriculture
More than one-half of the population lives in rural areas and is largely dependent on subsistence crop and livestock farming. Agriculture meets only a small portion of food needs and contributes just 2.6% to GDP--primarily through beef exports--but it remains a social and cultural touchstone. Cattle-raising in particular dominated Botswana's social and economic life before independence. The national herd is between 2 and 3 million head.

Private Sector Development and Foreign Investment
Botswana seeks to further diversify its economy away from minerals, which account for a third of GDP (down from nearly half of GDP in the early 1990s). Foreign investment and management are welcomed in Botswana. Botswana abolished foreign exchange controls in 1999, has a low corporate tax rate (15%), no prohibitions on foreign ownership of companies, and a moderate inflation rate (6.6% in 2001).

With its proven record of good economic governance, Botswana was ranked as Africa's least corrupt country by Transparency International in 1999 and 2000, ahead of many European and Asian countries. The World Economic Forum rates Botswana as the third most economically competitive nation in Africa. In 2001 Botswana was assigned "A" grade credit ratings by Moody's Investors Service as well as Standard & Poor's. This ranks Botswana as by far the best credit risk in Africa, and puts it on par or above many countries in central Europe, East Asia, and Latin America.

U.S. investment in Botswana remains at relatively low levels, but continues to grow. Major U.S. corporations, such as Coca-Cola and H.J. Heinz, are present through direct investments, while others, such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, are via franchise. Recent sovereign credit ratings by Moody's and Standard & Poor's clearly indicate that, despite continued challenges such as small market size, landlocked location, and cumbersome bureaucratic processes, Botswana remains one of the best investment opportunities in the developing world. Botswana has a 30-member American Business Council that accepts membership from American-affiliated companies.

Because of history and geography, Botswana has long had deep ties to the economy of South Africa. The Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), comprised of Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, and South Africa, dates from 1910. Under this arrangement, South Africa has collected levies from customs, sales, and excise duties for all five members, sharing out proceeds based on each country's portion of imports. The exact formula for sharing revenues and the decision-making authority over duties--held exclusively by the Government of South Africa--became increasingly controversial, and the members renegotiated the arrangement in 2001 (the new structure awaits formal ratification by the SACU member states). Following South Africa's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO--Botswana also is a member), many of the SACU duties are declining, making American products more competitive in Botswana.

Botswana's currency--the pula--is fully convertible and is valued against a basket of currencies heavily weighted toward the South African rand. Profits and direct investment can be repatriated without restriction from Botswana. The Botswana Government has eliminated all exchange controls.

Gaborone is host to the headquarters of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC). A successor to the Southern Africa Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), which focused its efforts on freeing regional economic development from dependence on apartheid in South Africa, SADC embraced the newly democratic South Africa as a member in 1994 and has a broad mandate to encourage growth, development, and economic integration in Southern Africa. SADC's Trade Protocol, which was launched on September 1, 2000, calls for the elimination of all tariff and nontariff barriers to trade by 2012 among the 11 signatory countries. If successful, it will give Botswana companies free access to the far larger regional market. The Regional Center for Southern Africa (RCSA), which implements the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Initiative for Southern Africa (ISA), is headquartered in Gaborone as well.

Transportation and Communications
A sparsely populated, arid country about the size of Texas, Botswana has nonetheless managed to incorporate much of its interior into the national economy. An "inner circle" highway connecting all major towns and district capitals is completely paved, and the all-weather Trans-Kalahari Highway connects the country (and, through it, South Africa's commercially dominant Gauteng Province) to Walvis Bay in Namibia. A fiber-optic telecommunications network has been completed in Botswana connecting all major population centers.

In addition to the government-owned newspaper and national radio network, there is an active, independent press (seven weekly newspapers). Two privately owned radio stations began operations in 1999. In 2000, the government-owned Botswana Television (BTV) was launched, which is Botswana's first national television station. Foreign publications are sold without restriction in Botswana, and there are 11 commercial Internet service providers. Two cellular phone providers cover most of the country.

DEFENSE
The president is commander in chief of the Botswana Defense Force (BDF). A defense council is presidentially appointed. The BDF was formed in 1977 and has approximately 12,000 members.

The BDF is a capable and well-disciplined military force. Following positive political changes in South Africa and the region, the BDF's missions have increasingly focused on anti-poaching activities, disaster-preparedness, and foreign peacekeeping. The United States has been the largest single contributor to the development of the BDF, and a large segment of its officer corps has received U.S. training. It is considered an apolitical and professional institution.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Botswana puts a premium on economic and political integration in Southern Africa. It seeks to make SADC a working vehicle for economic development, and promotes efforts to make the region self-policing in terms of preventative diplomacy, conflict resolution, and good governance. It has welcomed post-apartheid South Africa as a partner in these efforts. Botswana joins the African consensus on most major international matters and is a member of international organizations such as the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

U.S.-BOTSWANA RELATIONS
The United States considers Botswana an advocate of and a model for stability in Africa and has been a major partner in Botswana's development since its independence. The U.S. Peace Corps closed out its presence in Botswana on December 1997, bringing to an end 30 years of well-regarded assistance in education, business, health, agriculture, and the environment. Similarly, the USAID phased out a longstanding partnership with Botswana in 1996, after successful programs emphasizing education, training, entrepreneurship, environmental management, and reproductive health. Botswana, however, continues to benefit along with its neighbors in the region from USAID's Initiative for Southern Africa and the USAID Regional Center for Southern Africa is headquartered in Gaborone. The United States International Board of Broadcasters (IBB) operates a major Voice of America (VOA) relay station in Botswana serving most of the African Continent.

In 1995, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) started the BOTUSA Project in collaboration with the Botswana Ministry of Health in order to generate information to improve TB control efforts in Botswana and elsewhere in the face of the TB and HIV/AIDS co-epidemics. Under the 1999 U.S. Government's Leadership and Investment in Fighting an Epidemic (LIFE) Initiative, CDC through the BOTUSA Project has undertaken many projects and has assisted many organizations in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana.

The Governments of Botswana and the United States entered into an agreement in July 2000 to establish an International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Gaborone. The academy, jointly financed, managed and staffed by the two nations, provides training to police and government officials from Southern Africa and eventually from across the continent. The academy's permanent campus, in Otse outside of Gaborone, is scheduled to open in late 2002.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Joseph Huggins
Deputy Chief of Mission--Leslie Bassett
USAID Regional Center for Southern Africa Director--Patrick Fleuret
Defense Attach´┐Ż--Maj. Jay Connors
Office of Defense Cooperation--Maj. Al Rumphrey
Centers for Disease Control--Dr. Tom Kenyon
International Board of Broadcasters--Jack Fisher
International Law Enforcement Agency--Seymour Jones

The U.S. Embassy is on Embassy Drive off Khama Crescent--P. O. Box 90, Gaborone (tel. 267-353-982; fax 267-356-947). USAID is located on Lebatlane Road. DAO and ODC are located at the embassy. CDC is located on Ditlhakore Way in Gaborone. ILEA will be located in Otse, about 30 minutes outside of Gaborone. The IBB station is located in Selebi-Phikwe, about 400 kilometers northeast of Gaborone.

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.



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