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You are in:  Nations > Africa > Botswana
Botswana*Botswana flag
Basic facts
The country 
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Capital: Gaborone
Area: 581,730 sq km; 224,607 sq miles
Population: 1,479,039 (2000 Estimate)
Urbanisation: Urban 68 per cent (1998 Estimate); Rural 32 per cent (1998 Estimate)


Exports: Diamonds, copper, nickel, meat

Industry: Mining of diamonds, copper, nickel, coal, salt, soda ash, potash; livestock processing

Agriculture: Subsistence farming and cattle raising predominate; sorghum, maize, millet, pulses, peanuts, beans, black-eyed beans, sunflower seeds; livestock

Currency: 1 pula (P), consisting of 100 thebe

Natural resources: Diamonds, copper, nickel, salt, soda ash, potash, coal, iron ore, silver


The people

Ethnic: Tswana 75 per cent, Kalanga, Basarwa, Kgalagadi 4 per cent, other 21 per cent

Language: English (official), Setswana. Although English is the official language of Government and secondary education, the national language is Setswana which is used in primary schools. Setswana is the most widely spoken language in Botswana, but each minority group has its own. For example, in the North East the predominant language is Tjikalanga, also called Ikalanga. Most of the languages spoken, including Setswana, are related Bantu languages. In Bantu languages, the noun prefix is the key to grammatical connections. For example, mo refers to a person. Thus, a Motswana is a Tswana person. The plural of mo is ba, meaning "many". So Batswana means Tswana people, who are citizens of Botswana, regardless of ethnicity. Non-Bantu languages spoken in Botswana are known collectively as Khosesan, or Sarwa.

Religion: Indigenous beliefs 50 per cent, Christian 50 per cent. Missionaries who came to the area from southern Africa introduced Christianity in the early 1800s. Missionary activity opened the interior of Africa to exploitation by European hunters and slave traders. Many tribal chiefs accepted missions because Christianity was often viewed as a means of acquiring Western technology, education and health care. During his reign from 1835 to 1923, Chief Khama III - who converted to Christianity in 1862 - tried to abolish many of the traditional practices that conflicted with Christian teachings. These practices included polygamy, initiation ceremonies, the traditional right to marry the widow of one's deceased brother and rainmaking ceremonies. Some old traditions, however, have survived in village life.


The history

Independence: 30 September 1966 (from the United Kingdom).

Government: Botswana is a republic. Members of the 40-seat National Assembly (parliament) are directly elected and the majority party's leader takes office as President. A 15-member House of Chiefs, representing the major ethnic groups, advises parliament on legislation pertaining to custom and tradition. The judiciary is independent and has two branches. Cases involving customary law are heard in the kgotla by local Chiefs and headmen and statutory cases are heard in the Magistrate Court or the High Court. There is also an Appeals Court.

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