Africa Snapshot: Botswana

Located north of South Africa, Botswana is the site of this year’s Southern Accord, an exercise that fosters security cooperation while conducting a combined joint humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, peacekeeping operations, and aeromedical evacuation exercise.

Population: According to the CIA World Factbook, the estimated population for July 2012 was about 2 million people.

Languages: While the official language of Botswana is English, only about 2% of the population speaks it.  The majority (78.2%) of the population speaks Setswana, while a small percentage of the population speaks Kalanga, Sekgalagadi, or other languages.

Religion: 71% of the population practices Christianity; 6% practices Badimo.  The rest of the population’s religion is unspecified.

History: The name “Batswana” is a term used to denote all citizens of Botswana. “Batswana” also refers to the name of the major ethnic group, the Tswana, which came to the area from South Africa during the Zulu wars of the early 1800s.  Until the arrival of Europeans, the Batswana were farmers and herders under tribal rule.  The Batswana asked for British assistance in the 19th century, when hostilities broke out between the Batswana and Boer settlers from the Transvaal.  In 1885, Britain put “Bechaunaland” under its protection. The northern territory is what is today Botswana, while the southern territory is now a part of South Africa. Britain honored Botswana’s request to be self-governed in June 1964, and the first general elections were held in September of 1965.  The first president of Botswana was Seretse Khama, a leader in the movement toward independence.  He ruled until his death in 1980. The current president, former Vice President Ian Khama, was elected as president during the general election held on October 16, 2009.

Economy: Botswana has had one of the fastest growth rates in per capita income since its independence in 1964, but it has significantly slowed due to the global economic downturn. Botswana’s economic record is a result of wise use of revenues from diamond mining.  Mining, tourism, and agriculture are the primary economic industries of Botswana, but the high rate of HIV/AIDS among the people has hurt the economy.  The government has been providing leadership to combat this deadly disease, including free anti-retroviral treatment and a nationwide Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission program.

Relationship with the United States: The U.S. and Botswana have a very strong relationship, with America recognizing Botswana as an advocate and model of stability in Africa.  During Exercise Southern Accord, more than 1,200 military personnel from the Republic of Botswana and the United States came to train together on humanitarian assistance/disaster relief and peacekeeping operations, to practice aeromedical evacuations, and to enhance military capabilities and interoperability. The U.S. has also worked in collaboration with Botswana to combat HIV/AIDS. Of adults ages 15 to 49 in Botswana, about 25% are infected with HIV, as of 2009. Botswana is one of the 15 focus countries for PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Sources: State Department; PEPFARCIA World Factbook

1 Response to “Africa Snapshot: Botswana”


  1. 1 Marsea August 12, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Do more people speak English in Gaborone?


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