The republic of Botswana is completely surrounded by other countries, namely Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and the Republic of South Africa, and is located in the south of Africa. Botswana has currently approximately 1.5 million inhabitants. The former British protectorate Bechuanaland adapted the current name after independence in 1966. The capital and largest city of the country is Gaborone..
In 1837, the Afrikaners were the first ones who took the current Botswana into their hands. The former Bechuanaland became part of the British protectorate in 1885, which lasted till 1966. Some years before the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was established and won the first elections. Bechuanaland became independent 30 September 1966, and Seretse Khama became first president. The name Bechuanaland was officially changed into Botswana. The post of Prime Minister is erased and Botswana became a parliament democracy. After the dead of Seretse Khama he is succeeded by Ketumile Masire. Botswana becomes member of the SADCC (South African Development Coordination Conference). In 1998 Ketumile Masire is succeeded by Festus Gontebanye Mogae. He keeps this position untill 2008. From 2008 till present Ian Khama is president of Botswana.
On an average, Botswana is located at an altitude of 1000m and is mostly dry highlands. In the east of Botswana there are more hills. The Kalahari desert stretches out over the south and west of Botswana. In the north of Botswana the river Okavango flows, which end in a huge swamp, named the Okavango Delta.
Botswana’s climate differs per region, and depends on local rainfall. The rainfall varies in the inlands from around 20 cm per year, while in the north this is more than 64 cm rain per year. There is a subtropical climate, but there are also long dry periods. The only and best possibility for visiting National Parks in Botswana is in the dry season (May – October).
The population of Botswana exists mainly out of the Tswana (79%), an ethnical group who speak a Bantoe language. This population is divided in eight important subgroups. There are also small numbers of Kalanga (11%), Basarwa (3%), Kgalagadi and white people. Even though English is the official language, the local Tswana language commonly used. Half of the population is Christian. The other half believes in traditional religions.
The local currency is the pula. Pula means 'rain' in Setswana language. One pula is worth one hundred thebe, which means 'shield'. Kinds of coins available: 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 thebe and 1 and 2 pula. The notes are available in 10, 20, 50 and 100 pula. Up till 1920, the pound Sterling was used in Botswana, which was followed by the South African pound. In 1961 two South African pounds were traded for one South African rand. Finally, in 1976 the pula was introduced with an exchange rate of 1:1.
In the area between Francistown and Gaborone there are hardly no ATM’s. It is possible to pay by credit card or exchange money at the larger accommodations, but they might ask an extra fee for this. Euro’s or US dollars can be exchanged at most of the lodges.
Flora and Fauna
The natural division of vegetation in Botswana depends strongly on the rain fall. The largest part of Botswana exists of savannah areas, only small parts of Botswana exist of forests. The most appearing trees are the Acacia and Mopane trees. The largest forests can be found in the north, at the shores of the Chobe river. Botswana is known for its large diversity in animals, the most African wild species can be found here. Botswana has lately been very protective against poachers in comparison with other African countries. According to the statistics, the country has around 164 kinds of mammals, 157 kinds of reptiles, 80 kinds of fishes, 550 kinds of birds and countless sorts of insects.
The government has reserved thousands of square kilometers as protected area. Some of these protected areas are Chobe National Park in the North, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park at the border of South Africa.
The official language is English, besides that many different local languages are spoken, such as Mbukushu, Naro, Subiya, Tswana, Kalanga (150.000 speakers), Afrikaans (20.000 speakers), Herero (20.000 speakers), and Birwa (15.000 speakers).
For most western countries no visa are requirred. This is the case for inhabitants of the Netherlands, Belgium, UK, USA, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, etc. All visitors do need a passport, which has to be valid for al least 6 months after departure. Valid travel and driving documents are necessary, and visitors should bring in enough money to pay for their stay in Botswana. Visitors can obtain a tourist visa for a period of maximum 90 days per calendar year.
A journey to Botswana requires a DTP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Polio) vaccination and in some areas Hepetitis A is advisable. When coming from a yellow fever area, a yellow fever vaccination is compulsory. The north of Botswana (f.e Okavango and Chobe) is a malaria risk area. You can protect yourself by wearing long clothes and to use malaria profylaxes. Some medications need to be taken a while before you go, and even when you return home. For professional advice please advice your doctor or a travel clinic.
For the biggest part of the population, small-scale agriculture and stock-breeding is the most important source of income. In most cases, only a few people of a large family has a paid job. The rest takes care of the farm. The country’s water shortening, and a continuous lack on enough facilities have delayed agricultural growth. Only a small part of the country is cultivated. Around the time of independence, the only minerals found in Botswana were manganese, gold and asbestos. Since that time large nickel and copper sources has been found, as well as salt. There are also huge coal mines, sources of antimony, sulphur, plutonium and platin. The three diamond mines are the most important for local economy. These mines represent nowadays one of the larges diamond reserves in the world.
The large number of game parks attract many tourists and are therefore also a huge income source. Especially the Okavango Delta is internationally famous, a river that dies out in the Kalahari desert, and therefore created an enormously and unique nature area.
Botswana is a parliamentary republic with multiple parties, that operates under the constitution of 1966. The country is headed by a president, who is as well head of state as leader of government, and serves for a period of 5 years. At this moment, since 1 April 2008, the president is Ian khama, (party: Botswana Democratic Party). The government consists of two Chambers: one House of Chiefs, which consists of 15 seats and where the most important tribe leaders hold position. The second one is the National Assemblée, which consists of 47 seats (40 chosen, 7 named by the president) with an term of office of 5 years. The most important politic parties are the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana People’s Party (BPP) and the Botswana Independence Party (BIP).