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Botswana, officially the Republic of Botswana (Tswana: Lefatshe la Botswana), is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa. The citizens refer to themselves as “Batswana” (singular: Motswana). Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966. It has held uninterrupted democratic elections since independence, sustaining a multi party democracy.

 A mid-sized country of just over two million people (2012), Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, with a population density of 3 people per sq km. With a growth rate of 1.48 %, and a life expenctancy of 55 years, this is unlikely to change in the near future. Botswana was one of the poorest countries in Africa when it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, with a GDP per capita of about US$70. Botswana has since transformed itself, becoming one of the fastest-growing economies in the world to a GDP (purchasing power parity) per capita of about $14,000, and a high gross national income, possibly the fourth-largest in Africa, giving the country a modest standard of living. The country, being a member of the African Union, also has a strong tradition as a representative democracy and has the second highest Human Development Index of continental Sub-Saharan African countries.

In the 19th century, hostilities broke out between Tswana inhabitants of Botswana and Ndebele tribes who were making incursions into the territory from the north-east. Tensions also escalated with the Dutch Boer settlers from the Transvaal to the east. After appeals by the Batswana leaders Khama III, Bathoen and Sebele for assistance, the British Government put “Bechuanaland” under its protection on 31 March 1885. The northern territory remained under direct administration as the Bechuanaland Protectorate and is modern-day Botswana, while the southern territory became part of the Cape Colony and is now part of the northwest province of South Africa.

When the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910 out of the main British colonies in the region, the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Basutoland (now Lesotho) and Swaziland (the “High Commission Territories”) were not included, but provision was made for their later incorporation. However, their inhabitants began to be consulted by the UK, and although successive South African governments sought to have the territories transferred, the UK kept delaying; consequently, it never occurred. The election of the Nationalist government in 1948, which instituted apartheid, and South Africa’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth in 1961, ended any prospect of incorporation of the territories into South Africa. An expansion of British central authority and the evolution of tribal government resulted in the 1920 establishment of two advisory councils to represent both Africans and Europeans. Proclamations in 1934 regulated tribal rule and powers. A European-African advisory council was formed in 1951, and the 1961 constitution established a consultative legislative council.

In June 1964, the UK accepted proposals for a democratic self-government in Botswana. The seat of government was moved in 1965 from Mafikeng in South Africa, to the newly established Gaborone, which sits near its border. The 1965 constitution led to the first general elections and to independence on 30 September 1966. Seretse Khama, a leader in the independence movement and the legitimate claimant to the Ngwato chiefship, was elected as the first President, going on to be re-elected twice.

The presidency passed to the sitting Vice-President, Quett Masire, who was elected in his own right in 1984 and re-elected in 1989 and 1994. Masire retired from office in 1998, and was succeeded by Festus Mogae, who was elected in his own right in 1999 and re-elected in 2004. The presidency passed in 2008 to Ian Khama (son of the first President), who had been serving as Mogae’s Vice-President since resigning his position in 1998 as Commander of the Botswana Defence Force to take up this civilian role.

A long-running dispute over the northern border with Namibia’s Caprivi Strip was the subject of a ruling by the International Court of Justice in December 1999, which ruled that Kasikili Island belongs to Botswana.

Main Exports:
Diamonds, copper nickel, beef, soda ash, tourism

Major Crops:
Maize, sorghum, millet

 The official monetary unit of Botswana is the Pula. International currencies are accepted at banks and bureau de changes, and at some hotels / activity providers – check prior to travel. Credit cards are generally widely accepted – however ascertain this with the service provider, and your bank, prior to travel. You will be required to produce your passport for credit card transactions, and to change money.
Getting Around Botswana

By Air:
Air Botswana, Botswana’s national and only airline, provides international flights between Gaborone and Johannesburg, Gaborone and Harare, Maun and Johannesburg, Kasane and Johannesburg and Francistown and Johannesburg. Domestic flights run between Gaborone and Francistown, Maun and Kasane, and the airline has recently re-introduced its Maun to Kasane flight (three times per week).

  • Air Botswana has thrice daily flights between Gaborone and Johannesburg.
  • South African Airways has twice daily flights between Johannesburg and Gaborone, during the week.
  • South African Express has five flights daily between Johannesburg and Gaborone, during the week.
  • Air Botswana has daily flights from Johannesburg direct to Maun.
  • Air Namibia flies Windhoek to Maun every day of the week, except Tuesday and Thursday.
  • Kenya Airways flies Nairobi to Gaborone.
  • Air charter services are also available.

Light aircraft transfers have a 15kg luggage restrictions in soft, squashable bags PLUS 5kg of hand luggage. The size of the cargo pod of a Cessna 206, which is generally used on inter-camp transfers is 72cm wide and 29 cm high. Travelers coming for safaris are advised not to bring hard suitcases as they will not fit on light aircrafts.

Most major international airlines from Europe, the United States, Asia and Australia fly to Johannesburg, South Africa, where connecting flights can be booked to Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone, or to Maun, Francistown or Kasane.

For flight details contact:

By Road
Botswana is accessible by tarred road from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia. Vehicles are driven on the left hand side of the road. A valid international driver’s license, along with vehicle registration documents, are required to drive in Botswana, and drivers should always carry them. Most major roads in Botswana are tarred and driving conditions are generally good. The main roads to established areas are regularly graded. Four-wheel drive is required when travelling in the national parks and reserves, as well as in remote areas. Car and four-wheel drive rental services are widely available in major tourist centres, airports and hotels.

By Bus
There are scheduled bus services across borders between Botswana and South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia, as well as good internal bus services linking major and minor towns and villages across the country.

By Rail

There are no passenger train services in Botswana. Cargo services run on a daily basis.

Getting Around In Towns
Taxis are normally a convenient way to get around in towns and are reasonably priced. They are easily identified in designated stations or can be contacted by telephone. Taxis to Gaborone are also available from Sir Seretse Khama International Airport

Border Post Hours

Botswana /Namibia:

  • Mamuno 07h00–00h00
  • Ngoma 07h00–18h00
  • Mohembo 06h00–18h00

Botswana /South Africa:

  • Pont Drift (Tuli) 08h00–16h00
  • Martin’s Drift 06h00–22h00
  • Tlokweng Gate 06h00–00h00
  • Ramotswa (Bridge) 07h00–19h00
  • Ramatlabama 06h00–22h00
  • Pioneer Gate 06h00–00h00
  • McCarthy Rest 08h00–16h00

Botswana / Zimbabwe :

  • Kazungula 06h00–20h00
  • Pandamatenga 08h00–17h00
  • Ramokgwebana 06h00–22h00

Botswana / Zambia:

  • Kazungula (Ferry) 06h00–18h00
 The official language of Botswana is English although Setswana is widely spoken across the country. In Setswana, prefixes are more important than they are in many other languages. These prefixes include “Bo”, which refers to the country, “Ba”, which refers to the people, “Mo”, which is one person, and “Se” which is the language. For example, the main tribe of Botswana is the Tswana people, hence the name Botswana for its country. The people as a whole are Batswana, one person is a Motswana, and the language they speak is Setswana. Other languages spoken in Botswana include Kalanga (sekalanga), Sarwa (sesarwa), Ndebele and in some parts Afrikaans.
 An estimated 70% of the country’s citizens identify themselves as Christians. Anglicans, Methodists, and the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa make up the majority of Christians. There are also congregations of Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Seventh-day Adventists, Baptists, the Dutch Reformed Church, Mennonites, and other Christian sects. There are also Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness congregations in the country. In Gabrone, there is a Lutheran History Centre which is open to the public. According to the 2001 census, the country has around 5,000 Muslims, mainly from South Asia, 3,000 Hindus and 700 Baha’is. Approximately 20% of citizens espouse no religion. Religious services are well attended in both rural and urban areas
Public Holidays
  • 1 January New Year’s Day
  • 2 January Public Holiday
  • Good Friday
  • Easter holidays
  • Easter Monday
  • Ascension Day
  • 1 July Sir Seretse Khama Day
  • 19 July President’s Day
  • 20 July Public Holiday
  • 30 September Independence Day
  • 25 December Christmas
  • 26 December/27 December Boxing Day
  • The first Monday after Christmas is also a Public Holiday.