What you never knew about Botswana

Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name at independence in 1966.

More than four decades of uninterrupted civilian leadership, progressive social policies, and significant capital investment have created one of the most stable economies in Africa.

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party has won every election since independence; President Ian Khama was re-elected for a second term in 2014.

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Mineral extraction, principally diamond mining, dominates economic activity, though tourism is a growing sector due to the country’s conservation practices and extensive nature preserves. Botswana has one of the world’s highest known rates of HIV/AIDS infection, but also one of Africa’s most progressive and comprehensive programs for dealing with the disease.

Botswana has maintained one of the world’s highest economic growth rates since independence in 1966.

Diamond mining has fueled much of the expansion and currently accounts for one-quarter of GDP, approximately 85% of export earnings, and about one-third of the government’s revenues.

Tourism is the secondary earner of foreign exchange and many Batswana engage in subsistence farming and cattle raising.

Through fiscal discipline and sound management, Botswana transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country with a per capita GDP of $17,700 in 2015. Two major investment services rank Botswana as the best credit risk in Africa.

Botswana’s economy is highly correlated with global economic trends because of its heavy reliance on a single luxury export.

According to official government statistics, unemployment is 19.5%, but unofficial estimates run much higher.

De Beers, a major international diamond company, signed a 10-year deal with Botswana in 2012 and moved its rough stone sorting and trading division from London to Gaborone in 2013. The move was geared to support the development of Botswana’s nascent downstream diamond industry.

Following the 2008 global recession Botswana’s economy recovered in 2010. However, the Government of Botswana estimates the economy grew by only 1% in 2015.

This was primarily due to the downturn in the global diamond market; water and power shortages also played a role.

In October 2015 President Ian Khama announced a stimulus plan to boost the economy through projects in agricultural production, construction, manufacturing, and tourism development. In 2016, Botswana entered its fourth year of drought, detrimental to Botswana’s small, but vital agriculture sector.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS is second highest in the world and threatens the country’s impressive economic gains.

Facts & Figures:

Imports – commodities: foodstuffs, machinery, electrical goods, transport equipment, textiles, fuel and petroleum products, wood and paper products, metal and metal products

Exchange rates: pulas (BWP) per US dollar

Trivia:

Former Name: Bechuanaland

Etymology: the name Botswana means “Land of the Tswana” – referring to the country’s major ethnic group

Source: CIA Fact Book

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