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Diplomacy in Action

Botswana (02/01)


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

PROFILE

Geography
Area: 582,000 sq. km. (224,710 sq. mi.), about the size of Texas.
Cities: Capital--Gaborone (pronounced ha-bo-ro-neh), pop. 213,017 (2000). 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 (1999): 1.61 million.
Annual population growth rate (1999): 2.3%.
Ethnic groups: Tswana 55%-60%; Kalanga 25%-30%; Kgalagadi, Herero, Basarwa ("Bushmen"), Khoi ("Hottentots"), whites 5%-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 (1999): 255,618.

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 Peoples Party (BPP), Botswana Freedom Party (BFP).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
Flag: Blue field with horizontal, white-edged black band in the center.

Economy

GDP (1999): $5.2 billion.
Annual growth rate (1998-99): 4.5%.
Per capita GDP (1999): $3,200.
Natural resources: Diamonds, copper, nickel, coal, soda ash, salt, gold, potash.
Agriculture (2.8% of GDP, 1998-99): Products--livestock, sorghum, white maize, millet, cowpeas, beans.
Industry: Types--mining (35% of GDP): diamonds, copper, nickel, coal; textiles, construction, tourism, beef processing, chemical products production, food and beverage production.
Trade (1995): Exports--$4.5 billion: diamonds, nickel, copper, meat products, textiles, hides, skins, and soda ash. Partners--South Africa, Zimbabwe, UK. Imports--$1.8 billion: machinery, transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, chemicals, fuels. Major suppliers--South Africa, Zimbabwe, EU, 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 12 and 3, respectively. The National Assembly has 40 elected and 4 appointed members; it is expanded following each census (every 10 years).

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 remote area dwellers continue to spark controversy and to be revised in response to domestic and donor concerns.

Principal Government Officials

President--Festus G. Mogae
Vice President--Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama
Ambassador to the United States--Kgosi Seepapitso
Ambassador to the United Nations--L.J.M.J. Legwaila

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 highest average economic growth rate in the world at about 9% per year from 1966 through 1999. Growth in formal sector employment has averaged about 10% per annum over Botswana's first 30 years of independence. The government has consistently maintained budget surpluses and has substantial foreign exchange reserves totaling about $6.2 billion in 1999.

Botswana's impressive economic record has been built on a foundation of diamond mining, prudent fiscal policies, international financial and technical assistance, 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 2.8% to GDP--primarily through beef exports--but it remains a social and cultural touchstone. Cattleraising in particular dominated Botswana's social and economic life before independence. The national herd was about 2.5 million in the mid-1990s, though the government-ordered slaughter of the entire herd in Botswana's northwest Kgamiland District in 1995 has reduced the number by at least 200,000. The slaughter was ordered to prevent the spread of "cattle lung disease" to other parts of the country.

Private Sector Development and Foreign Investment

Botswana seeks to diversify its economy away from minerals, the earnings from which have leveled off. In 1998-99, nonmineral sectors of the economy grew at 8.9%, partially offsetting a slight 4.4% decline in the minerals sector. Foreign investment and management have been welcomed in Botswana.

U.S. investment in Botswana is growing. In the early 1990s, two American companies, Owens Corning and H.J. Heinz, made major investments in production facilities in Botswana. In 1997, the St. Paul Group purchased Botswana Insurance, one of the country's leading short-term insurance providers. An American Business Council (ABC), with over 30 member companies, was inaugurated in 1995.

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 decisionmaking authority over duties--held, until at least 1996, exclusively by the Government of South Africa--have been increasingly controversial, and the members began renegotiating the arrangement in 1995. 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.

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 (six weekly newspapers). Two privately owned radio stations began operations in 1999. At the end of July 2000, the government-owned Botswana Television (BTV) was launched, which is Botswana's first national television station. It began broadcasting with 3 hours of programming on weekdays and 5 on weekends, and offers news (Setswana and English), entertainment, and sports, with plans eventually to produce 60% of its programming locally. Foreign publications are sold without restriction in Botswana, and there are three 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 8,000 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 has put a premium on economic and political integration in southern Africa. It has sought to make SADC a working vehicle for economic development, and it has promoted 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, will initially provide training to police and government officials from Southern Africa and eventually from across the continent. The academy is scheduled to begin operation in 2001.

Principal U.S. Officials

Ambassador--John E. Lange
Deputy Chief of Mission--Scott H. De Lisi
USAID Regional Center for Southern Africa Director--Edward J. Spriggs
Defense Attach´┐Ż--Maj. Scott Hathaway
Office of Defense Cooperation--Maj. Ronald Kinser
Centers for Disease Control--Dr. Tom Kenyon
International Board of Broadcasters--Jack Fisher
International Law Enforcement Agency--Appointment pending

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 is located in Otse, about 30 minutes outside of Gaborone. The IBB station is located in Selebi-Phikwe, about 400 kilometers northeast of Gaborone.

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and Public Announcements. Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and include information on entry requirements, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in the country. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: http://travel.state.gov. Consular Affairs Tips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad are on the internet and hard copies can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-4000.

Passport information can be obtained by calling the National Passport Information Center's automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648). It also is available on the internet.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal Government Officials" listing in this publication).

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency.

Further Electronic Information

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; daily press briefings; Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of Foreign Service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at http://www.state.gov.

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information. It is available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.



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