Botswana Essay

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Sub-Saharan Africa is comprised of 48 countries. Forty-two of these countries are mainland countries and six are island countries that spread across four geographical regions: west Africa (21 mainland and two island countries), central Africa (five mainland countries), east Africa (eight mainland and one island countries), and south Africa (10 mainland and three island countries).

Botswana is a landlocked mainland country in the southern part of sub-Saharan Africa, and was formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland. It gained independence from Britain on September 30, 1966. Since independence, the Botswana Democratic Party has dominated the political system of presidential representative democracy; political governance and leaderships have included Seretse Khama (1966–80), Quett Masire (1984–98), and Festus Mogae(1999–present).

The size of Botswana is slightly smaller than Texas in the United States with more than half of the land surface covered by the Kalahari Desert. It borders Angola and Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the northeast, South Africa to the south, and Namibia to the west. The climate is semi-arid, with mild winters and hot summers. The population of Botswana is about 1.8 million, ranking 35th in sub-Saharan Africa, with an annual growth rate of about 1.4 percent. The population by age totals about 61 percent between the ages of 15 and 60 years, 35 percent under 14 years, and 4 percent 65 years and over. The life expectancy of the total population is low, about 50 years. Males live slightly longer than females. Infant mortality rates are slightly higher in males than females. The literacy level of the population is somewhat high, with the literacy level of females higher than males.

Diversity in Botswana is less pronounced. Whereas Nigeria and Kenya have 250 and nine ethnic groups, respectively, there are only five ethnic groups in Botswana. The largest ethnic group is Tswana with 70 percent of the population; Kalanga, 11 percent; Basarwa, 3 percent; Kgalagadi, whites, and others, 7 percent. In recent times, there is no evidence that ethnic diversity has promoted instability and corruption. Botswana is one of the most stable countries in sub-Saharan Africa, enjoying an uninterrupted civilian regime and minimal ethnic violence. The level of corruption in Botswana is insignificant. Transparency International ranks Botswana as the least corrupt country in Africa.

The economy of Botswana revolves mainly around the natural resources, tourism, and agriculture (subsistence farming and cattle raising) sectors. The natural resources sector, particularly diamond mining, dominates the economy. Diamond mining contributes between 70 and 80 percent of export earnings and one-third of GDP. Economic performance in Botswana is remarkable. The GDP grew significantly—at an annual rate of 9 percent—between 1966 and 1999. The economy slowed in 2002 and 2003 due to budget deficits, high military expenditures (4 percent of GDP), and exorbitant healthcare costs resulting from the HIV/AIDS epidemic. However, the GDP per capita income rose from $11,000 in 2006 to $16,450 in 2007.

Though the natural resources policies stimulated growth, sound economic governance was a critical factor that transformed the economy from poor to middle-income. Such economic governance includes responsible fiscal policy devoid of political instability and corruption; investing in education and training; growth and spread of real income throughout the economy; promoting private sector development; and encouraging flow of foreign direct investment through sound microeconomic, macroeconomic, and institutional policy reforms. Botswana ranks as the best credit risk country in Africa.

Nevertheless, the high HIV/AIDS rate and poverty among the rural population remain significant threats to the economy. Botswana has the second-highest HIV/AIDS infection rate in Africa and the world. About 30 percent of the rural population is below the poverty line, a characteristic fact of countries of sub-Saharan Africa.


  1. CIA, “Botswana,” World Factbook, (cited March 2009);
  2. Collier, The Bottom Billion (Oxford University Press, 2007);
  3. Umeadi, A Dark Century for Sub Sahara Africa (AuthorHouse, 2008);
  4. World Bank, Botswana: Financial Policies for Diversified Growth (1989);
  5. World Bank, World Development Indicators (1998);
  6. World Bank Group, Botswana: A Case Study of Economic Policy Prudence and Growth (August 31, 1999).

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