Currently viewing country profile for Botswana
Botswana, one of Africa's most stable countries, is the continent's longest continuous multi-party democracy. It is relatively free of corruption and has a good human rights record.
It is also the world's largest producer of diamonds and the trade has transformed it into a middle-income nation.
Botswana protects some of Africa's largest areas of wilderness. It is sparsely populated, because it is so dry. The Kalahari desert, home to a dwindling band of Bushman hunter-gatherers, makes up much of the territory and most areas are too arid to sustain any agriculture other than cattle.
The advocacy group Survival International says Bushmen have been forced from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve since the discovery of diamonds there in the 1980s. And although they won a legal battle to go back in 2006, Survival says the government has been hindering their return.
''Unless they can return to their ancestral lands, their unique societies and way of life will be destroyed, and many of them will die,'' says Survival, which has urged a boycott of Botswanan diamonds.
In the late 1800s Britain formed the protectorate of Bechuanaland, preventing territorial encroachment of Boers from the Transvaal or German expansion from South West Africa. In 1966 Bechuanaland became independent as Botswana.
Botswana was a haven for refugees and anti-apartheid activists from South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, but had to tread carefully because of its economic dependence on the white-ruled neighbour, and because of South Africa's military might.
More recently, the country has seen an influx of illegal immigrants seeking respite from the economic crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe.
Botswana, which once had the world's highest rate of HIV-Aids infection, has one of Africa's most-advanced treatment programmes. Anti-retroviral drugs are readily available.
However, the UN says more than one in three adults in Botswana are infected with HIV or have developed Aids. The disease has orphaned many thousands of children and has dramatically cut life expectancy.
Botswana is trying to reduce its economic dependence on diamonds.
The government has moved to boost local business and employment by encouraging more value to be added to diamonds locally.
It launched its own diamond trading company - Diamond Trading Company of Botswana - in a joint venture with diamond giant De Beers.
"What we are embarking on is nothing less than one of the largest transfers of skills and commercial activity to Africa ever seen," said De Beers chairman Nicky Oppenheimer. "The diamond industry's centre of gravity is shifting and tonight we see it shifting here."
Safari-based tourism - tightly-controlled and often upmarket - is an important source of income.
- Full name: The Republic of Botswana
- Population: 1.9 million (UN, 2010)
- Capital: Gaborone
- Area: 581,730 sq km (224,607 sq miles)
- Major languages: English (official), Setswana
- Major religions: Christianity, indigenous beliefs
- Life expectancy: 56 years (men), 55 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 Pula = 100 thebe
- Main exports: Diamonds, copper, nickel, beef
- GNI per capita: US $6,240 (World Bank, 2009)
- Internet domain: .bw
- International dialling code: +267
President: Seretse Khama Ian Khama
Seretse Khama Ian Khama - the son of Sir Seretse Khama, Botswana's first post-independent leader - took over as president in April 2008.
He was the chosen successor of Festus Mogae, who stepped down at the end of his second term, after a decade at the helm.
He secured a new five-year term in October 2009 after his governing Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) party swept to victory in a parliamentary election.
To select a president, the winning party needs to win 29 of the 57 parliamentary seats. And in the 2009 polls the BDP - in power since independence in 1966 - won 45 of the 57 constituencies. The main opposition party, the Botswana National Front, won 6 constituencies and its splinter party the Botswana Congress Party captured 4.
Ian Khama, graduate of Sandhurst officer training college in Britain, was commander of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) before becoming vice president in 1998.
He became chairman of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in 2003.
Critics describe him as authoritarian while supporters say he is decisive and efficient.
His no-nonsense approach has made him popular abroad as he has broken ranks with regional leaders' timid approach to join international criticism of democratic abuses by Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.
A call for the president to be elected directly by the people was rejected by parliament in 2008. Some critics have warned that the country was becoming a dynasty and that democracy was under threat.
Botswana has a long tradition of lively and unimpeded public debate, although opposition leaders have claimed that the government limits their ability to broadcast freely on the radio.
The constitution provides for freedom of expression and the government generally respects this right.
State-run television arrived relatively late with the launch of Botswana Television (BTV) in 2000. Officials stressed BTV would not be a government mouthpiece. Satellite pay TV is available.
Radio is an important medium. Press circulation is mostly limited to urban areas.
There were around 120,000 internet users by September 2009 (Internetworldstats.com).
- Daily News - government-owned
- Botswana Guardian - weekly
- Botswana Gazette - weekly
- Mmegi/The Reporter - private daily
- Sunday Standard - weekly
- The Midweek Sun - weekly
- The Voice - weekly
- Botswana TV - state-run
- Gaborone Television - owned by GBC (Gaborone Broadcasting Company) - private, commercial
A chronology of key events
1867 - European gold prospectors arrive, mining begins.
1885 - British proclaim a protectorate called Bechuanaland.
1890 - British protectorate is extended to Chobe river.
1950 - Chief of the Ngwato, Seretse Khama, is deposed and exiled by the British.
1952 - Rioters protest at Seretse Khama's exile.
1959 - Copper mines are established.
1960 - Bechuanaland People's Party (BPP) is established.
1960 December - Britain approves new constitution for Bechuanaland. Executive Council, Legislative Council and African Council are established.
1961 - Seretse Khama appointed to Executive Council.
1962 - Seretse Khama founds Bechuanaland Democratic Party (BDP), later to become Botswana Democratic Party.
1965 - Gaborone becomes administrative centre.
1965 - BDP wins legislative elections, first to be held under universal adult suffrage. Seretse Khama becomes prime minister.
1966 September - Bechuanaland is granted independence and becomes Republic of Botswana with Seretse Khama as president.
1967 - Diamonds discovered at Orapa.
1969 August - BDP wins general election. Khama is re-elected for another term.
1977 January - UN Security Council resolution demands Rhodesian hostilities on Botswana border cease.
1977 March - Botswana Defence Force is established.
1979 October - General elections: BDP wins majority, Khama is re-elected as president.
1980 - Botswana is founder member of Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), grouping which aims to reduce region's economic reliance on South Africa.
1980 - President Seretse Khama dies. Quett Masire, former vice-president, is made president after National Assembly vote.
1984 September - General elections: BDP wins majority, Quett Masire is re-elected as president.
1985 June - Buildings in Gaborone are raided and 12 people are killed by South African forces seeking alleged ANC members. Action is condemned by UN Security Council.
1989 October - General elections; BDP wins majority. National Assembly re-elects Masire as president.
1991 - 12,000 public sector workers sacked after strike action calling for increased wages.
1994 October - Legislative elections: BDP secures 53% of vote. Masire re-elected by National Assembly.
1995 - Government begins relocating thousands of bushmen to settlements outside Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
1997 - Constitutional amendments approved. Presidency is limited to two five-year terms. Voting age lowered from 21 to 18.
1998 March/April - Masire resigns as president and retires. Festus Mogae, formerly vice president, becomes president under new constitutional arrangements.
1998 June - Botswana Congress Party established after split in BNF and is declared official opposition after most BNF deputies switch allegiance.
1999 September - Six-day state of emergency declared to resolve voter registration problem.
1999 October - General elections: BDP wins majority, Festus Mogae is confirmed as president.
1999 December - International Court of Justice grants control of Sedudu-Kasikili - a river island disputed by Botswana and Namibia - to Botswana.
2000 February/March - Devastating floods: More than 60,000 are made homeless.
Battle against Aids
2000 August - President Mogae says Aids drugs will be made available free of charge from 2001.
2001 March - National diamond corporation, Debswana, says it will subsidise drugs for workers with Aids.
2002 March - Kalahari bushmen take the government to court to challenge a forced eviction from their land; the case is dismissed on a technicality.
2003 September - Botswana begins erecting a fence along its border with Zimbabwe to stem an influx of Zimbabwean illegal immigrants.
2004 March - HIV infection rate falls to 37.5%; Botswana no longer has the world's highest rate of infection.
2004 August - Workers at Botswana's largest diamond-mining company strike over pay, after a court rules that such action is illegal. Some 1,000 workers are sacked.
2004 October - President Mogae secures a second term in a landslide election victory.
2006 December - A group of Bushmen wins a four-year legal battle to hold on to their ancestral lands.
2008 March - Botswana launches its own diamond trading company - the Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB).
2008 April - Seretse Khama Ian Khama takes over as president.
2008 October - Botswana's former President Festus Mogae wins a $5m prize set up to encourage good governance in Africa.
2009 April - Botswana says it will halve diamond production because of falling demands for gems.
2009 October - Ruling BDP party wins elections, and another 5-year term for President Khama.
2009 November - Botswana stages a substantial economic recovery after stepping up diamond production again, a bank reports.
2010 November - Human rights group Survival International calls for a boycott of Botswanan diamonds, accusing the government of trying to force Basarwa bushmen away from their ancestral lands.
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