REPUBLIC OF BOTSWANA
Area: 582,000 sq. km. (224,710 sq. mi.), about the size of Texas.
Cities: Capital-Gaborone (pronounced ha-bo-ro-neh), pop. 174,583 (1996). Othertowns -- Francistown (84,075), Selebi-Phikwe (44,581), Molepolole (42,169), Kanye(34,202), Serowe (31,782), Mahalapye (30,294), Lobatse (29,172), Maun (28,969), Mochudi(28,224).
Terrain: Desert and savanna.
Climate: Mostly subtropical.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Motswana (sing.), Batswana (pl.).
Population (1996 est.): 1.49 million.
Annual growth rate (1996): 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 (1993)--68.9%.
Health (1991): Life expectancy--60 years. Infant mortality rate--43/1,000.
Work force (1995): 234,500.
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: 5 town councils and 9 district councils.
Major political parties: Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)--31 seats, BotswanaNational Front (BNF)--13 seats, Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), Botswana Freedom Party(BFP).
Suffrage: Universal at 21.
Flag: Blue field with horizontal, white-edged black band in the center.
GDP: $4.5 billion.
Annual growth rate: 3.1%.
Per capita GDP: $3,000.
Natural resources: Diamonds, copper, nickel, coal, soda ash, salt, gold, potash.
Agriculture (4% of GDP): Products--ivestock, sorghum, white maize, millet, cowpeas,beans.
Industry: Types--mining (33% of GDP): diamonds, copper, nickel, coal; manufacturing(assembly), textiles, construction, tourism, beef processing.
Trade (1995): Exports--$2.2 billion: diamonds, vehicles, nickel, copper, meatproducts, textiles, hides and skins. Partners--Switzerland, South Africa, Zimbabwe, EU.Imports--$1.5 billion: machinery, transport equipment, manufactured goods, food,chemicals, minerals, fuels. Major suppliers--South Africa, Zimbabwe, EU, U.S.
Annual avg. economic aid: $20 million.
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
The Batswana, a term inclusively used to denote all citizens of Botswana, also refersto the country's major ethnic group (the "Tswana" in South Africa), which cameinto the area from South Africa during the Zulu wars of the early 1880s. Prior to Europeancontact, the Batswana lived as herders and farmers under tribal rule.
In the late 19th century, hostilities broke out between the Batswana and Boer settlersfrom the Transvaal. After appeals by the Batswana for assistance, the British Governmentin 1885 put "Bechuanaland" under its protection. The northern territory remainedunder direct administration and is today's Botswana, while the southern territory becamepart of the Cape Colony and is now part of the northwest province of South Africa; themajority of Setswana-speaking people today live in South Africa.
Despite South African pressure, inhabitants of the Bechuanaland Protectorate,Basutoland (now Lesotho), and Swaziland in 1909 asked for and received British assurancesthat they would not be included in the proposed Union of South Africa. An expansion ofBritish central authority and the evolution of tribal government resulted in the 1920establishment of two advisory councils representing Africans and Europeans. Proclamationsin 1934 regularized tribal rule and powers. A European-African advisory council was formedin 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 establishedGaborone in 1965. The 1965 constitution led to the first general elections and toindependence in September 1966. Seretse Khama, a leader in the independence movement andthe legitimate claimant to traditional rule of the Batswana, was elected as the firstpresident, re-elected twice, and died in office in 1980. The presidency passed to thesitting vice president, Ketumile Masire, who was elected in his own right in 1984 andre-elected in 1989 and 1994.
Botswana has a flourishing multiparty, constitutional democracy. Each of the electionssince independence has been freely and fairly contested and has been held on schedule. Thecountry's small white minority and other minorities participate freely in the politicalprocess. There are two main rival parties and a number of smaller parties. In 1994, theBotswana Democratic Party (BDP) won 27 of 40 contested National Assembly seats and theBotswana National Front (BNF) won 13. The opposition out-polled the ruling BDP in mosturban areas. The openness of the country's political system has been a significant factorin Botswana's stability and economic growth. General elections are held at least everyfive years. The next national election is in 1999.
The president has executive power and is chosen by the national election followingcountry-wide elections. The cabinet is presidentially selected from the National Assembly;it consists of a vice president and a flexible number of ministers, currently 11. TheNational Assembly has 40 elected and four appointed members; it is expanded following eachcensus (every 10 years).
The advisory House of Chiefs represents the eight principal sub-groups of the Batswanatribe, and four other members are elected by the sub-chiefs of four of the districts. Adraft of any National Assembly bill of tribal concern must be referred to the House ofChiefs. Chiefs and other leaders preside over customary, traditional courts, though allpersons have a 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 theKgotla, or village council, in which the powers of traditional leaders were limited bycustom and law. Botswana's High Court has general civil and criminal jurisdiction. Judgesare presidentially appointed and may be removed only for cause and after a hearing. Theconstitution has a code of fundamental human rights enforced by the courts, and Botswanahas 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 centralgovernment and assisted by elected and nominated district councilors and districtdevelopment committees. There has been ongoing debate about the political, social, andeconomic marginalization of the Basarwa (Bushmen). The government's policies for remotearea dwellers continue to spark controversy and to be revised in response to domestic anddonor concerns.
Although there is a government-owned newspaper and the government operates the onlynational radio network, there is an active, independent press (mostly weekly newspapers).Foreign publications are sold without restriction in Botswana.
Principal Government Officials
President--Sir Ketumile Masire
Vice President--Festus G. Mogae
Ambassador to the United States--Archibald Mogwe
Ambassador to the United Nations--L. J. M. J. Legwaila
Botswana maintains an embassy at 3400 International Drive NW., Suite 7-M, Washington,DC 20008 (tel. 202-244-4990; fax 202-244-4164). Its mission to the United Nations is at103 E. 37th
Street, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-889-2277; fax 212-725- 5061).
Since independence, Botswana has had an impressive economic growth rate, averaging over10% per year from 1976 through 1991. Growth in formal sector employment has averaged about10% per annum over Botswana's first 30 years of independence. Recently, the government hasmaintained budget surpluses and substantial foreign exchange reserves totaling about $4.6billion in 1996.
Botswana's impressive economic record has been built on a foundation of diamond mining,with prudent fiscal policies, international financial and technical assistance, andcareful foreign policy ensuring success.
Two large mining companies, Debswana (formed by the government and South Africa'sDebeers in equal partnership) and Bamangwato Concessions, Ltd. (BCL-also withsubstantialgovernment equity participation) operate in the country.
Since the early 1980s, the country has become the world's largest producer of qualitydiamonds. Three large diamond mines have opened since independence. Debeers prospectorsdiscovered diamonds in northern Botswana in the early 1970s. The first mine beganproduction at Orapa in 1972, followed by the smaller mine at Lethakane. What has becomethe single-richest diamond mine in the world opened in Jwaneng in 1982. Botswana produceda total of 16.8 million carats of diamonds from the three Debswana mines in 1995.
BCL, which operates a copper-nickel mine at Selebi-Phikwe, has had a troubled financialhistory but remains an important employer. Similarly, a soda ash operation at Sua Pan,opened in 1991 and supported by substantial government investment, has been a continualmoney loser.
More than one-half of the population lives in rural areas and is largely dependent onsubsistence crop and livestock farming. Agriculture meets only a small portion of foodneeds and contributes just 4% to GDP--primarily through beef exports-but it remains asocial and cultural touchstone. Cattle raising in particular dominated Botswana's socialand economic life before independence. The national herd was approximately 2.5 million inthe mid-1990s, though the government-ordered slaughter of the entire herd in Botswana'snorthwest Ngamiland District in 1995 has reduced the number by at least 200,000. Theslaughter was ordered to prevent the spread of "cattle lung disease" to otherparts of the country.
Private Sector Development and Foreign Investment
Botswana seeks to diversify its economy away from minerals, the earnings from whichhave leveled off. In 1994-95, non-traditional sectors of the economy grew at over 5%,partially offsetting a slight decline in the minerals sector. Foreign investment andmanagement have been welcomed in Botswana as keys to diversification, and lightmanufacturing, tourism, and financial services have all generated opportunities forprofit.
U.S. investment in Botswana is growing. In the early 1990s, two American companies,Owens Corning and Lazare Kaplan, made major investments in production facilities inBotswana. A brick-making plant in Lobatse started in 1992 with participation by InterkilnCorporation of Houston. An American Business Council (ABC) with over 30 member companieswas inaugurated in 1995.
Because of history and geography, Botswana has long had deep ties to the economy ofSouth Africa. The Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), comprised of Botswana, Namibia,Lesotho, Swaziland, and South Africa, dates from 1910. Under this arrangement, SouthAfrica 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 forsharing revenues and the decision-making authority over duties (held, until at least 1996,exclusively by the Government of South Africa) have become increasingly controversial, andthe members began renegotiating the arrangement in 1995. While the Customs Union hasbenefited Botswana through duty-free access to the much larger South African market, SACUhas also made prohibitive the import of non-South African capital and consumer goods.Following South Africa's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO-Botswana is also amember), 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 ofcurrencies heavily weighted toward the South African rand. Profits and direct investmentcan be repatriated with virtually no restriction from Botswana.
Gaborone is host to the 12-nation Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). Asuccessor to the Southern Africa Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), whichfocused its efforts on freeing regional economic development from dependence on apartheidin South Africa, SADC incorporates South Africa and has a broad mandate to encouragegrowth, development, and integration in Southern Africa. The Regional Center for SouthernAfrica (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 nonethelessmanaged to incorporate much of its interior into the national economy. An "innercircle" highway connecting all major towns and district capitals is almost completelypaved, and the all-weather Trans-Kalahari Highway will connect the country (and through itSouth Africa's commercially dominant Guateng Province) to Walvis Bay in Namibia uponcompletion before the turn of the century. A fiber-optic telecommunications network hasbeen completed in Botswana connecting all major population centers.
The United States considers Botswana a force for stability in Africa, and it has been amajor partner in development from the country's independence. U.S. Peace Corps will closeout its presence in December 1997, bringing to an end 30 years of well-regarded assistancein education, business, health, agriculture, and the environment. Similarly, the USAIDended a longstanding partnership with Botswana in 1996, after successful programsemphasizing education, training, entrepreneurship, environmental management, andreproductive health. Botswana will continue to benefit along with its neighbors in theregion from USAID's initiative for Southern Africa. The United States operates a majorVoice of America (VOA) relay station in Botswana serving most of the African continent. In1995, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) initiated a tuberculosis monitoring program inBotswana.
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Gillian Milovanovic
USAID Regional Center Director--Valerie Dickson-Horton
Public Affairs Officer--Steve Lauterbach
Peace Corps Director--Francis Hammond
Office of Defense Cooperation--Ltc. James Smaugh
The U.S. Embassy is on Embassy Drive off Khama Crescent-PO Box 90, Gaborone (tel.267-353-982; fax 267-356-947). USIS is at the Embassy. USAID is located at the formerBarclay's
Training Center, off the Molepolole Road on Lebatlane Road. Peace Corps is located onthe Old Lobatse Road.
For more information, visit the State Department's home page.
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