Botswana facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
Republic of Botswana
Lefatshe la Botswana.
Motto: Pula (Rain)
Anthem: Fatshe leno la rona
(This Land of Ours)
and largest city
• Vice President
• from the United Kingdom
|30 September 1966|
|581,730 km2 (224,610 sq mi) (47th)|
• Water (%)
• 2010 estimate
• 2001 census
|3.4/km2 (8.8/sq mi) (229th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2010 estimate|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2010 estimate|
• Per capita
|HDI (2010)|| 0.633
medium · 98th
|Time zone||Central Africa Time (UTC+02)|
• Summer (DST)
|ISO 3166 code||BW|
The history of Botswana starts more than 100,000 years ago, when the first humans inhabited the region. The original inhabitants of southern Africa were the Bushmen (San) and Khoi peoples. Both speak Khoisan languages and lived as hunter-gatherers. About a thousand years ago, large chiefdoms emerged that were later eclipsed by the Great Zimbabwe empire, which spread into eastern Botswana.
Around 1300 CE, peoples in present-day Transvaal began to coalesce into three main linguistic and political groups, including the Batswana. The Batswana (plural of Motswana), a term used also to denote all citizens of Botswana, remain the country's major ethnic group today. Prior to European contact, the Batswana lived as herders and farmers under tribal rule. As groups broke off and moved to new land, new tribes were created. Some human development occurred before the colonial period.
Contacts with Europeans
During the 1700s, the slave and ivory trades were expanding. To resist these pressures, Shaka, the king of the Zulu Empire, mobilised an army. Conquered tribes began to move northwest into Botswana, destroying everything in their path. In their efforts to re-establish themselves at the end of this period, tribes began to exchange ivory and skins for guns with European traders, who had begun to reach the interior. Christian missionaries sent from Europe also spread to the interior, often at the invitation of tribal chiefs who wanted guns and knew that the presence of missionaries encouraged traders. By 1880 every major village had a resident missionary, and their influence became permanent. Christianization was completed in Botswana under the reign of king Khama III (reigned 1875–1923). There were eight principal tribes (or chiefdoms); the dominant was the Bangwaketse.
In the late nineteenth century, hostilities broke out between Tswana inhabitants of Botswana and Ndebele tribes who were making incursions into the territory from the north-east. Tensions also escalated with the Dutch Boer settlers from the Transvaal to the east. After appeals by the Batswana leaders Khama III, Bathoen and Sebele for assistance, the British Government put Bechuanaland under its protection on 31 March 1885. The northern territory remained under direct administration as the Bechuanaland Protectorate; it gained independence as modern-day Botswana. The southern territory, British Bechuanaland, 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.
When the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910 from the main British colonies in the region, the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Basutoland (now Lesotho), and Swaziland (the High Commission Territories) were not included, but provision was made for their later incorporation. However, the UK began to consult with their inhabitants as to their wishes. Although successive South African governments sought to have the territories transferred to their jurisdiction, the UK kept delaying; consequently, it never occurred. The election of the Nationalist government in 1948, which instituted apartheid, and South Africa's withdrawal from the Commonwealth in 1961, ended any prospect of the UK or these territories agreeing to incorporation into South Africa.
An expansion of British central authority and the evolution of tribal government resulted in the 1920 establishment of two advisory councils to represent both Africans and Europeans. The African Council consisted of the eight heads of the Tswana tribes and some elected members. Proclamations in 1934 regulated 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, the United Kingdom accepted proposals for a democratic self-government in Botswana. The seat of government was moved in 1965 from Mafikeng in South Africa, to the newly established Gaborone, which is located near Botswana's border with South Africa. Based on the 1965 constitution, the country held its first general elections under universal suffrage and gained independence on 30 September 1966. Seretse Khama, a leader in the independence movement and the legitimate claimant to the Ngwato chiefship, was elected as the first President, and subsequently re-elected twice.
The presidency passed to the sitting Vice-President, Quett Masire, who was elected in his own right in 1984 and re-elected in 1989 and 1994. Masire retired from office in 1998. He was succeeded by Festus Mogae, who was elected in his own right in 1999 and re-elected in 2004. The presidency passed in 2008 to Ian Khama (son of the first President), who had been serving as Mogae's Vice-President since resigning his position in 1998 as Commander of the Botswana Defence Force to take up this civilian role.
A long-running dispute over the northern border with Namibia's Caprivi Strip was the subject of a ruling by the International Court of Justice in December 1999. It ruled that Kasikili Island belongs to Botswana.
The country is predominantly flat, tending toward gently rolling tableland. Botswana is dominated by the Kalahari Desert, which covers up to 70% of its land surface. The Okavango Delta, one of the world's largest inland deltas, is in the northwest. The Makgadikgadi Pan, a large salt pan, lies in the north.
The Limpopo River Basin, the major landform of all of southern Africa, lies partly in Botswana, with the basins of its tributaries, the Notwane, Bonwapitse, Mahalapswe, Lotsane, Motloutse and the Shashe, located in the eastern part of the country. The Notwane provides water to the capital through the Gaborone Dam. The Chobe River lies to the north, providing a boundary between Botswana and Namibia's Zambezi Region. The Chobe River meets with the Zambezi River at a place called Kazungula (meaning a small sausage tree, a point where Sebitwane and his Makololo tribe crossed the Zambezi into Zambia).
Botswana has diverse areas of wildlife habitat. In addition to the delta and desert areas, there are grasslands and savannas, where blue wildebeest, antelopes, and other mammals and birds are found. Northern Botswana has one of the few remaining large populations of the endangered African wild dog. Chobe National Park, found in the Chobe District, has the world's largest concentration of African elephants. The park covers about 11,000 km2 (4,247 sq mi) and supports about 350 species of birds.
The Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve (in the Okavango Delta) are major tourist destinations. Other reserves include the Central Kalahari Game Reserve located in the Kalahari desert in Ghanzi District; Makgadikgadi Pans National Park and Nxai Pan National Park are in Central District in the Makgadikgadi Pan. Mashatu Game Reserve is privately owned: located where the Shashe River and Limpopo River meet in eastern Botswana. The other privately owned reserve is Mokolodi Nature Reserve near Gaborone. There are also specialised sanctuaries like the Khama Rhino Sanctuary (for rhinoceros) and Makgadikgadi Sanctuary (for flamingos). They are both located in Central District.
Since independence, Botswana has had one of the fastest growth rates in per capita income in the world. Botswana has transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country. Although Botswana was resource-abundant, a good institutional framework allowed the country to reinvest resource-income in order to generate stable future income. By one estimate, it has the fourth highest gross national income at purchasing power parity in Africa, giving it a standard of living around that of Mexico. Botswana imports refined petroleum products and electricity from South Africa. There is some domestic production of electricity from coal.
Gemstones and precious metals
In Botswana, the Department of Mines and Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, led by Hon Sadique Kebonang in Gaborone, maintains data regarding mining throughout the country. Debswana, the largest diamond mining company operating in Botswana, is 50% owned by the government. The mineral industry provides about 40% of all government revenues. In 2007, significant quantities of uranium were discovered, and mining was projected to begin by 2010. Several international mining corporations have established regional headquarters in Botswana, and prospected for diamonds, gold, uranium, copper, and even oil, many coming back with positive results. Government announced in early 2009 that they would try to shift their economic dependence on diamonds, over serious concern that diamonds are predicted to dry out in Botswana over the next twenty years.
Botswana's Orapa mine is the largest diamond mine in the world in terms of value and quantity of carats produced annually. Estimated to have produced over 11 million carats in 2013, with an average price of $145/carat, the Orapa mine was estimated to produce over $1.6 billion worth of diamonds in 2013.
The Tswana are the majority ethnic group in Botswana, making up 79% of the population. The largest minority ethnic groups are the BaKalanga, and San or AbaThwa, also known as Basarwa. Other tribes are Bayei, Bambukushu, Basubia, Baherero and Bakgalagadi. In addition, there are small numbers of whites and Indians, both groups being roughly equally small in number. Botswana's Indian population is made up of many Indian-Africans of several generations, with some having migrated from Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, South Africa, and so on, as well as first generation Indian immigrants. The white population speaks English and Afrikaans and makes up roughly 3% of the population.
Since 2000, because of deteriorating economic conditions in Zimbabwe, the number of Zimbabweans in Botswana has risen into the tens of thousands.
The official language of Botswana is English although Setswana is widely spoken across the country. In Setswana, prefixes are more important than they are in many other languages, since Setswana is a Bantu language and has noun classes denoted by these prefixes. They include Bo, which refers to the country, Ba, which refers to the people, Mo, which is one person, and Se which is the language. For example, the main ethnic group of Botswana is the Tswana people, hence the name Botswana for its country. The people as a whole are Batswana, one person is a Motswana, and the language they speak is Setswana.
An estimated 70% of the country's citizens identify as Christians. Anglicans, Methodists, and the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa make up the majority of Christians. There are also congregations of Lutherans, Baptists, Roman Catholics, Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Dutch Reformed Church, Mennonites, Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses in the country. In Gaborone, a Lutheran History Centre is open to the public.
According to the 2001 census, the country has around 5,000 Muslims, mainly from South Asia, 3,000 Hindus and 700 Baha'is. Approximately 20% of citizens espouse no religion. Religious services are well attended in both rural and urban areas.
Besides referring to the language of the dominant people groups in Botswana, Setswana is the adjective used to describe the rich cultural traditions of the Batswana—whether construed as members of the Tswana ethnic groups or of all citizens of Botswana.In Botswana most of the tribes have different ways that they use to greet one another, but for easy communication and connection batswana use a three way hand shake or one can just greet another by saying "Dumelang" as a way of saying "hello" without having to use hand shakes. In community celebrations like Dikgafela or during marriage ceremonies batswana women show exitement and happiness by the use of ululations as part of their culture.
Botswana music is mostly vocal and performed, sometimes without drums depending on the occasion; it also makes heavy use of string instruments. Botswana folk music has instruments such as Setinkane (a Botswana version of miniature piano), Segankure/Segaba (a Botswana version of the Chinese instrument Erhu), Moropa (Meropa -plural) (a Botswana version of the many varieties of drums), phala (a Botswana version of a whistle used mostly during celebrations, which comes in a variety of forms). Botswana cultural musical instruments are not confined only to the strings or drums. the hands are used as musical instruments too, by either clapping them together or against phathisi (goat skin turned inside out wrapped around the calf area; it is only used by men) to create music and rhythm. For the last few decades, the guitar has been celebrated as a versatile music instrument for Tswana music as it offers a variety in string which the Segaba instrument does not have. It is the outsider that found a home within the culture. The highlight of any celebration or event that shows especially happiness is the dancing. This differs by regime, age, gender and status in the group or if it's a tribal activity, status in the community. The national anthem is Fatshe leno la rona. Written and composed by Kgalemang Tumediso Motsete, it was adopted upon independence in 1966.
In the northern part of Botswana, women in the villages of Etsha and Gumare are noted for their skill at crafting baskets from Mokola Palm and local dyes. The baskets are generally woven into three types: large, lidded baskets used for storage, large, open baskets for carrying objects on the head or for winnowing threshed grain, and smaller plates for winnowing pounded grain. The artistry of these baskets is being steadily enhanced through colour use and improved designs as they are increasingly produced for international markets.
Other notable artistic communities include Thamaga Pottery and Oodi Weavers, both located in the south-eastern part of Botswana.
The oldest paintings from both Botswana and South Africa depict hunting, animal and human figures, and were made by the Khoisan (!Kung San/Bushmen) over twenty thousand years ago within the Kalahari desert.
The cuisine of Botswana is unique but also shares some characteristics with other cuisine of Southern Africa. Examples of Botswana food are pap (maize porridge), boerewors, samp, vetkoek (fried dough bread) and mopani worms. Foods unique to Botswana include seswaa, heavily salted mashed-up meat.
Botswana Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.