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Botswana:  Country Profile

Population:  1,561,973 (Ethnologue)
Religion:  Christian (50%, 18% active Christian), Indigenous (50%)
Some sources report percentage of Christian in the 60s

The Republic of Botswana is landlocked in south-central Africa, north of South Africa, with an area of about 232,000 sq. miles (600,000 sq. km) comparable to Texas, Kenya or France.  A vast tableland, the average elevation is 3,300 ft (1000 meters).  The Kalahari Desert spreads over southwest; the Okavango River Basin (swamplands) and Makgadikgadi Salt Pan in the north; and rolling plains in the east.  Approximately 80% of the country is covered by Kgalagadi sands.  The climate is semi-arid subtropical with frequent droughts and low food production.  Primary occupations are stock raising (cattle and goats) and mining.

By 1800, the indigenous San (Bushmen) had retreated into the Kalahari region when the Tswana invaded from farther north and established their settlements in the more fertile east.  There are now about 27 major people groups living in the country.  Inter-tribal wars were followed by conflicts with the Boers (settlers of Dutch descent).  In 1885 the Tswana received British assistance in the establishment of the Bechuanaland Protectorate.  In 1965 a parliamentary government consisting of the National Assembly and the advisory House of Chiefs evolved.  Complete independence as a republic came in 1966.  Botswana has developed into Africa 's oldest and most prosperous democracy.  Out of economic necessity, it has taken a nonaligned stance in foreign affairs.

About 60% of the population are of some Tswana lineage, descended from the great Sotho-Tswana migrations of the mid-17th century.  They crowded in on the San, who retreated into the desert areas.  Later arrivals like the Hlubi, Ngwane, Phuting and Tlokwa came marauding and fighting.  The Ndebele under Mzilikazi, wreaked havoc under pressure continually from raiding Zulu regiments.  Large areas were depopulated, towns were set on fire and the Kwena virtually decimated.  Eventually, the Ndebele decided to move towards what is now Zimbabwe.  One group of Ndebele remaining came to speak a Sotho language, called Ndebele after their ethnic name, though the more well-known main group of the Ndebele still speak a Nguni language related to Zulu.

There are many very small people groups in Botswana, many of them San tribes numbering in the hundreds and wandering in isolated wastelands.

Christian faith is well established in the south of the country, where the Tswana are now becoming secularized.  sources report Christian adherents form 50% opf the population to figures in the 60s.  Reports of active Christians are more in the range of 18% for the country.  Christian sources in the coutnry indicate the actual reach of the gospel is limited to the citires and smaller population centres.  Some like the Kalanga, are showing themselves responsive now as Christian ministry is now being conducted in their midst.


Population: (Ethnologue, 2005) 1,561,973
Area:  231,804 sq. mi. (600,372 sq. km.)
Age Distribution (%):  0-14:  39.6; 15-64:  48.3; 65+:3.1
Population Density:  5 per sq. mi.
Urban (1991):  25%

Ethnic groups:  Tswana, Kalanga, 11 Khoisan ("Bushman")clans, others
Languages:  English (official), Tswana (Setswana)

Indigenous beliefs:  50%
Christian:  50% nominal, 18% active
Evangelization Status:  Evangelized

Neighbors:  Namibia on North and West, South Africa on South, Zimbabwe on North East
Capital:  Gaborone
Cities:  Gaborone (1991) 138,000
Topography:  The Kalahari Desert, supporting nomadic San (Bushmen) and wildlife, spreads over the Southwest.  Farming areas and swamplands in the north.  Rolling plains supporting livestock in the east.


Type:  Parliamentary republic
Head of state:  President Festus Mogae; in office:  April 1, 1998; Previous President was Quett Masire; in office:  13 July 1980.
Local divisions:  10 district councils and 4 town councils
Defense:  4.4% of GDP (1991)

Industries:  Livestock processing, mining
Chief crops:  Corn, sorghum, beans.  Cattle raising and mining (diamonds, copper, nickel) have contributed to the country’s economic growth. The economy is loosely tied to South Africa.
Minerals:  Copper, coal, nickel, diamonds
Other resources:  Big Game
Arable land:  2%

Electricity production (1991):  630 mln. kWh.

Labor force:  70% agriculture

Monetary unit:  Pula 1.00 = US$3.40)
Gross domestic product (1990):  $3.1 billion
Imports (1991):  $2.2 billion
Partners:  South Africa 88%
Exports (1991):  $2.7 billion
Partners:  Europe 67%, US 17%, South Africa 7%
National budget (1992):  $1.7 billion expenditures
International reserves less gold (March 1992):  $3.7 billion
Consumer prices (change in 1993):  16.2%


Railroads (1991):  Length:  443 mi.

Motor vehicles in use (1991):  26,000 passenger cars, 47,000 commuter vehicles

Radios:  1 per 1.2 persons
Telephones:  1 per 26 persons
Daily newspapers circulation (1989):  22 per 1,000 population

Life Expectancy at birth (1992):  male:  59; female:  65
Births (1,000 population 1992):  36
Deaths (per 1,000 population 1992):  9
Natural increase:  2.7%
Hospital beds (1990):  5,022
Physicians:  1 per 7,185 persons
Infant mortality (per 1,000 live births 1992):  43

EDUCATION (1990):  Literacy:   23%

    UN (GATT, IMF, WHO), OAU, Commonwealth of Nations

Davis, N E A History of Southern Africa.  London, UK:  Longman Group Ltd., 1980.

Marquard, Leo.  The Story of South Africa.  London, UK:  Faber and Faber Limited, 1973.

Morton, Fred, Andrew Murray and Jeff Ramsay.  Historical Dictionary of Botswana.  London and Metuchen, New Jersey:   The Scarecrow Press, 1989.

"Botswana," The World Almanac (Infopedia, CD-ROM).  Funk and Wagnalls, 1994.

Thompson, Leonard.  African Societies in Southern Africa.  London, UK:  Heinemann Educational Book Ltd., 1978.

Zich, Arthur.  "Botswana:  the Adopted Land," National Geographic.  Vol 178, No. 6, December 1990.

Lanting, Frans.  "A Gathering of Waters and Wildlife," National Geographic.  Vol 178, No. 6, December 1990.

Related Profiles
The Tswana People Cluster
The Gwikwe People
The !Kung Cluster
The Mbarakwengo

Tim James and Orville Boyd Jenkins
First written August 1996
First posted May 2001
Last updated 22 May 2006

Copyright © 2001, 2006 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Please give credit and link back.  Other rights reserved.


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