Since independence, Botswana has maintained a stable democracy with regular elections and peaceful transfers of power. It has also achieved remarkable economic growth and social development, thanks to its prudent management of its diamond resources and its good governance. Botswana is considered one of the most successful African countries in terms of political stability, economic performance and human development.
The Population: Botswana has a population of about 2.3 million people, according to the 2019 census. The majority of the population belongs to the Tswana ethnic group, which is divided into eight sub-groups: the Bamangwato, Bangwaketse, Bakwena, Bakgatla, Batawana, Batlokwa, Barolong and Balete. There are also other ethnic groups in Botswana, such as the Kalanga, Basarwa, Bayei, Hambukushu, Herero, Mbukushu, Subiya and Yeyi.
The Landmarks: Botswana has many natural and cultural landmarks that attract tourists and locals alike. Some of the most famous ones are:
Baines Baobabs: A group of seven ancient baobab trees that stand on the edge of a salt pan in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. They are named after the British explorer and painter Thomas Baines who depicted them in his paintings in 1862.
Kalahari Desert: A vast semi-arid region that covers most of Botswana and parts of Namibia and South Africa. It is home to diverse wildlife, such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, meerkats, antelopes and birds. It is also the ancestral land of the San people, who are among the oldest cultures in the world.
Kgale Hill: A prominent hill that rises above the capital city of Gaborone. It offers panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. It is also a popular hiking destination and a site of historical significance, as it was used as a lookout point during the Boer War.
Kubu Island: A rocky outcrop that emerges from the white salt flats of Sowa Pan in the Makgadikgadi Pans. It is surrounded by ancient baobabs and stone walls that date back to prehistoric times. It is considered a sacred place by the local people and a mystical place by visitors.
Livingstone Cave: A large cave that is located near the village of Kobokwe in the Kgatleng District. It is named after the Scottish explorer and missionary David Livingstone who visited it in 1852. It contains rock paintings and engravings that depict animals, humans and geometric patterns.
Matsieng Footprints: A site that contains hundreds of fossilised footprints of humans and animals that are believed to be over 200,000 years old. They are located near the village of Rasesa in the Kgatleng District. They are associated with a local legend that says that Matsieng, a giant one-legged ancestor of the Batswana, emerged from a hole in the ground with his animals and created the first humans.
Okavango River: A river that originates in Angola and flows through Namibia and Botswana before ending in a large inland delta in the north-western part of Botswana. The delta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. It supports a rich biodiversity of plants and animals, including elephants, hippos, crocodiles, buffaloes, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests and hundreds of bird species.
Tsodilo Hills: A range of hills that is located in the north-western part of Botswana near the border with Namibia. They are considered a sacred place by the local San and Hambukushu people who call them “the Mountains of the Gods”. They contain over 4,500 rock paintings that depict animals, humans and abstract motifs. They are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Official Language: The official language of Botswana is English, which was inherited from colonial rule. English is used for written communication and official business. Most of the population speaks Setswana as their first or second language. Setswana is considered to be a national language and is taught in schools. There are also over 20 other languages spoken in Botswana by different ethnic groups.
The Culture: Botswana has a diverse culture that reflects its history and ethnic diversity. Some aspects of Botswana’s culture are:
Music: Music is an important part of Botswana’s culture and includes popular and folk forms. Church choirs are common across the country. Traditional music is based on vocal singing, clapping, drumming and string instruments. Some of the popular genres are jazz, gospel, kwaito, hip hop and kwasa kwasa.
Dance: Dance is another form of cultural expression in Botswana and varies according to the occasion and the ethnic group. Some of the traditional dances are borankana, phathisi, setapa, selete, tsutsube and ndazola. They involve rhythmic movements, costumes, props and songs.
Art: Art in Botswana includes various forms of visual and literary arts. Some of the traditional art forms are pottery, basketry, weaving, wood carving and beadwork. They are used for functional and decorative purposes and reflect the natural environment and cultural beliefs of the people. Modern art forms include painting, sculpture, photography, graffiti and comics. Some of the prominent artists are Wilson Ngoni, Ann Gollifer, Thapong Visual Arts Centre and Berry Bickle.
Literature: Literature in Botswana is mainly written in English and Setswana. It covers various genres such as poetry, novels, short stories, essays and drama. Some of the themes are history, identity, culture, politics, social issues and gender. Some of the notable writers are Bessie Head, Unity Dow, Barolong Seboni, Andrew Sesinyi and Lauri Kubuitsile.
Cuisine: Cuisine in Botswana is influenced by the natural resources and the cultural diversity of the country. The staple food is sorghum or maize porridge called bogobe or pap. It is usually eaten with meat, vegetables or sauces. Some of the common dishes are seswaa (pounded meat), morogo (wild spinach), dikgobe (beans and maize), bogobe jwa lerotse (melon porridge) and magwinya (fried dough). Tea and coffee are popular drinks.
Clothing: Clothing in Botswana is a mix of traditional and modern styles. Traditional clothing is made from animal skins or fabrics such as leteisi (cotton print) or shweshwe (indigo-dyed fabric). They are worn for ceremonies or festivals and have symbolic meanings. Modern clothing is influenced by western fashion and varies according to personal preference and occasion.
The Economic Stability: Botswana is one of the most stable and prosperous countries in Africa. It has a democratic system of government with regular elections and a respect for human rights. It has a market-based economy that is driven by mining, tourism, agriculture and services. It has one of the highest gross domestic products (GDP) per capita in Africa and a low level of debt. It has also made significant progress in reducing poverty, improving health care, education and infrastructure.
The GDP: According to the World Bank, the GDP of Botswana was worth 20.35 billion US dollars in 2022, representing 0.01 percent of the world economy. The GDP growth rate was 8.3 percent in 2021, recovering from a contraction of -7.9 percent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Currency: The currency of Botswana is the pula (BWP), which is subdivided into 100 thebe. Pula means “rain” in Setswana, a symbol of blessing. One US dollar is equal to 13.59 pula as of today. You can use credit and debit cards at most lodges, but cash is preferred at some places.
The Food: Botswana food is influenced by the natural resources and the cultural diversity of the country. The staple food is sorghum or maize porridge called bogobe or pap. It is usually eaten with meat, vegetables or sauces. Some of the common dishes are seswaa (pounded meat), morogo (wild spinach), dikgobe (beans and maize), bogobe jwa lerotse (melon porridge) and magwinya (fried dough). Tea and coffee are popular drinks.
The Major Cities: Botswana has several cities and towns that are important for its economy, culture and tourism. Some of the major cities are:
Gaborone: The capital and largest city of Botswana, with a population of about 231,000 people. It is the political, administrative and commercial center of the country. It hosts the government offices, parliament, university, national museum and stadium. It is also a gateway to the wildlife parks and reserves in the south-eastern region.
Francistown: The second largest city in Botswana, with a population of about 100,000 people. It is located in the north-eastern part of the country, near the border with Zimbabwe. It is a mining and industrial hub, with gold, copper and nickel being the main products. It is also a transport and trade link to the neighboring countries.
Molepolole: The third largest city in Botswana, with a population of about 68,000 people. It is situated in the south-central part of the country, about 50 km west of Gaborone. It is the traditional capital of the Bakwena tribe, one of the main ethnic groups in Botswana. It is known for its cultural heritage and festivals.
Selebi-Phikwe: The fourth largest city in Botswana, with a population of about 50,000 people. It is located in the central-eastern part of the country, near the border with South Africa. It is a mining town, with copper and nickel being the main minerals. It is also a center for education and health services.
Maun: The fifth largest city in Botswana, with a population of about 49,000 people. It is located in the north-western part of the country, on the banks of the Thamalakane River. It is a tourist destination, as it is the gateway to the Okavango Delta, one of the world’s largest inland deltas and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Major Airport: The main international airport of Botswana is Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (GBE), located 15 km north of downtown Gaborone. It is named after Sir Seretse Khama, the first president of Botswana. It was opened in 1984 to handle regional and international traffic. It has flights to destinations such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Harare and Windhoek.
The Major Seaport: Botswana is a landlocked country and does not have any seaports of its own. However, it has access to seaports in neighboring countries through bilateral agreements and regional organizations. Some of the major seaports that Botswana uses are:
Durban: The largest and busiest seaport in South Africa and Africa, located on the Indian Ocean coast. It handles about 60% of South Africa’s cargo and serves as a gateway to southern Africa. Botswana exports and imports goods such as vehicles, machinery, fuel, food and textiles through Durban.
Walvis Bay: The main seaport in Namibia, located on the Atlantic Ocean coast. It handles about 90% of Namibia’s cargo and serves as a hub for fishing, tourism and mining industries. Botswana exports and imports goods such as salt, fish, copper and zinc through Walvis Bay.
Beira: The second largest seaport in Mozambique, located on the Indian Ocean coast. It handles about 30% of Mozambique’s cargo and serves as a link to landlocked countries such as Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia. Botswana exports and imports goods such as coal, sugar, tobacco and cotton through Beira.