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Area: 581,730 sq km
Population: 1.99 million (2009 estimate)
Capital City: Gaborone, population 225,000 (2008 estimate)
People: Predominantly Bantu-speaking African (c. 90% of whom are Tswana), small San communities and white minorities
Languages: English and Setswana
Religion(s): Christianity and indigenous beliefs; small Muslim population
Currency: Pula. 10.62 - £1 (March 2011)
Political parties: Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana Peoples' Party (BPP)
Head of State: President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama
Foreign Minister: The Hon Phandu Tombola Chaha Skelemani
Membership of international groupings/organisations: United Nations, Commonwealth, Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union (AU), Non Aligned Movement (NAM), Southern African Customs Union (SACU). Botswana is also a member of the implementation committee of NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development).

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Basic Economic Facts

GDP: US$11.6 billion (2009 estimate)
GDP per head: US$6406 (2009)
GDP Growth: 10.7% (2010)
Inflation: 6.9% (Jan 2011)
Major Industries: Diamonds, copper, nickel, beef and tourism
Major trading partners: the EU and fellow members of the Southern Africa Customs Union comprising South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland

Botswana's economy is sustained by diamonds, which account for 30% of GDP. Over the last three decades Botswana has had one of the fastest growing economies in the world, albeit from a low base, sustained by fiscal discipline and sound management. But diamonds are a finite resource, and the need for economic diversification is one of the Government's most pressing economic challenges. The global recession hit diamond production and sales hard, with production falling by almost 50% in 2009 resulting in a contraction of the economy (-6%). Sales are now recovering but are not expected to return to pre-crisis levels until 2012. GDP growth has now improved. Tourism, financial services, light manufacturing and cattle farming are other key sectors. Botswana is notably free of corruption, ranked the least corrupt country in Africa by Transparency International, and the 37th least corrupt country in the world.

Botswana and the IMF (

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In common with many of their neighbours, the Tswana suffered greatly from Nguni and Afrikaner incursions in the mid 19th century, leading to the establishment of a British Protectorate in 1885. Coveted in turn by the early Boer republics, by Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company and then by South Africa, Bechuanaland ('Bechuana' is synologous with 'Batswana', the correct term for the people of Botswana) has often trodden a narrow path between its neighbours' political, military and economic ambitions. Lack of infrastructure within the Protectorate led to it being governed from nearby Mafeking (now Mahikeng) in the adjacent Bechuanaland Crown Colony, which was incorporated into South Africa in 1910. The adoption of apartheid in South Africa in 1948 effectively ended its prospects of incorporating the Protectorate, which instead achieved independence as Botswana in 1966.

The BDP won the first elections, held in 1965 in advance of independence, and its leader, Seretse Khama, was appointed President. The BDP has won all 10 elections (each one free and fair) since independence. In spite of the country's vulnerability to economic coercion (albeit somewhat alleviated by the discovery and exploitation of diamonds from the late 1960s), and occasional military attack by Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa, Khama was a staunch critic of his white minority-ruled neighbours. Botswana's stance and 'front-line' status meant that, notwithstanding the BDP's political and economic conservatism, the country developed friendly (if perhaps slightly formal) relations with its more radical neighbours.

BBC News Country Profile: Botswana (

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Botswana has good relations with its neighbours, and with the international community. Botswana hosts refugees from both Namibia and Zimbabwe. The number of Zimbabwean refugees and migrants increased substantially following the 2008 elections in Zimbabwe.

Botswana houses the headquarters of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat, and will hosts the multi-national regional stand-by brigade which will be SADC's contribution to African peace-keeping. Botswana supplied troops to the UN in Somalia (UNOSOM) and Mozambique, and participated in the SADC intervention in Lesotho in 1998. Although well-equipped and well-trained, the Botswana Defence Force has not recently participated in such operations.

Southern Africa Development Community (
Africa Union (

Bilateral Relations with the UK

Recent Visits


-- TRH Princes William and Harry, June 2010

-- Gareth Thomas MP, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, DFID and Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), July 2008

-- Ian McCartney MP, the then Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs, June 2007

-- The International Development Committee, March 2006

-- Gareth Thomas MP, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development (DFID), May 2004

HRH The Princess Royal, July 2003

-- Hon Dikgakgamatso Seretse, Minister for Defence, Justice and Security, March 2010

-- President Seretse Khama Ian Khama as a Guest of Government, November 2008, and to the pre-G20 London Meeting, March 2009

-- Hon Neo Moroka, Minister of Trade and Industry, June 2006

-- President Festus Mogae as a Guest of Government, June 2003

Cultural Relations

The British Council is the focal point for cultural relations between Britain and Botswana.

British Council, Botswana (


For recent statements of UK policy towards Botswana see:
Hansard ( Botswana in search engine)

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Botswana is a landlocked country situated in southern Africa. It shares borders with Namibia in the west and north, Zambia in the north, Zimbabwe in the north-east and South Africa in the east and south. The climate ranges from semi-arid to sub-tropical. The Kalahari Desert dominates southern and western Botswana, the extreme south-west experiences near desert conditions, while eastern Botswana, though prone to drought, has adequate rainfall to support arable farming.

Natural resources include diamonds, copper/nickel, cobalt, soda ash, potash, coal, iron ore and silver. Environmental challenges include overgrazing, desertification and limited fresh water supplies.

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Trade and Investment with the UK

In 2009, UK exports to Botswana for goods and services amounted to £59 million, while UK imports from Botswana were valued at £241 million.


Sound economic policies and diamond revenue have made Botswana a middle income country, having been one of the poorest countries in the world at the end of the 1960s. But this does not mean that the country is without critical developmental challenges. Chief among these is the incidence of HIV/AIDS, often estimated to be over 30% of the population (although this figure is disputed).

Because of Botswana's middle income status, the Department for International Development withdrew from a traditional bilateral assistance relationship in 2004/05 and instead contributes to Botswana's development through work with multilateral agencies and through a programme of regional initiatives, including on HIV/AIDS and trade.

Department for International Development work in Botswana (

UNDP in Botswana (

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The Constitution provides for the appointment of the President by Parliament from its members, rather than election by popular vote. This is a subject of current controversy, especially as there are four MPs' seats in the gift of the majority parliamentary party. There is also Ntlo ya Dikgosi (House of Chiefs, a largely advisory 35-member body with eight ex-officio members consisting of the chiefs of the principal tribes and four co-opted and 23 non-permanent members, elected by the regions and serving five year terms).

First President Seretse Khama died in 1980 and was replaced by Ketumile Masire, who stepped down in favour of Festus Mogae in 1998. Mogae in turn stepped down in March 2008 and Seretse Khama's son, Lt Gen (Retd) Seretse Khama Ian Khama became President. BDP governments have been notably technocratic - both Masire and Mogae were Ministers of Finance, and the latter was a professional economist - which has contributed to sound fiscal policies.

National elections were last held on 16 October 2009. The BDP continued its unbroken record of continuous government since independence in 1966 by winning 45 of the 57 available seats. In the wake of the elections, a small breakaway party (the Botswana Movement for Democracy) was formed by disaffected BDP members in May 2010 and, as at March 2011, has six seats in Parliament, including the Leader of the Opposition. At the election, the Botswana National Front (BNF) won six seats and the Botswana Congress Party won four seats, whilst the Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM) and an independent candidate took one each. The independent MP has now joined the BMD and is one of the six BMD MPs, with the other five having defected from the BDP, which now holds 40 seats. Opposition politics in Botswana have been crippled by factionalism. There is an increasing realisation that the monolithic BDP can only be effectively challenged by some sort of electoral pact, although attempts following the 2004 election to form an opposition alliance failed. Some arrangements are now in place in Parliament, where the BMD provides the Leader of the Opposition and the BCP the Chief Whip.

Urbanisation has meant that an increasing proportion of the electorate is detached from the conservative mores of rural society, upon which BDP draws many of its values. The opposition parties' urban support base means they tend to advocate more radical policies, especially in government spending. Both the opposition parties and elements of the independent press have been highly critical of the current President and what they describe as his authoritarianism, including the introduction of a Media Law and a high tax levy on alcoholic drinks.

Website of the Government of Botswana (

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Botswana has a generally good human rights record, consistent with its reputation for democratic and constitutional governance. A number of concerns have however been raised concerning the position of some non-dominant indigenous minorities (most notably the San communities), maintenance and implementation of the death penalty, and the illegality of homosexuality.

Some 50,000 to 60,000 San are estimated to live in Botswana. Discrimination against the San is illegal although they continue to experience economic and political marginalisation. Several of the San communities who had been living in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) were forcibly resettled by the government in 2002. In 2006 a high-profile legal battle over the relocation of San communities from the CKGR resulted in a ruling that the applicants were entitled to return to the CKGR without entry permits, and receive permits to hunt in designated wildlife management areas not located in the CKGR. The Government was not obliged to provide services to those San living in the Reserve. The Government has said it will honour the ruling but has construed it narrowly as applying only to the 189 actual applicants along with their spouses and minor children. The Government's position is that the relocation of the San out of the CKGR was necessary to provide access to health, education and other government services. The Government is also keen to preserve the wildlife of the Reserve. Others argue that the individual human rights of the San communities should be protected and that they should be able to choose the pace of their own development and what elements of their traditional way of life to preserve.

In June 2010, a Botswana court ruled against a case put forward by eleven San community members seeking access to water in the CKGR. However in January 2011, Botswana’s Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the San community members, and instructed the Government to allow CKGR residents to access existing boreholes inside the Reserve or sink their own. The Government of Botswana has said that it will respect, and facilitate the implementation, of the Court’s decision.
Shortly after his inauguration in April 2008, President Khama called a meeting between San representatives and the Government to seek a constructive dialogue on the way forward. The Government has confirmed that consultations with San representatives over a final management plan for the CKGR are continuing. Most recently, the Minister for Environment, Wildlife and Tourism visited San communities in the CKGR from 7-8 March 2011.

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Last Updated: March 2011

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