Formerly known as Bechuanaland, Botswana is an African success story. After being a neglected British protectorate, the country achieved its independence under democratic rule in 1996 and soon discovered three of the world’s largest diamond-bearing formations. Being a politically and ideologically enlightened nonracial country along with high health, educational and economic standards which, with the exception of South Africa, are unequalled elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of Botswana remains a country for the intrepid, not to mention relatively wealthy, traveller. Being mostly a roadless wilderness of vast spaces – savanna, desert, wetlands, salt pans and myriad traditional villages – to visit this country requires time, effort and above all else enough cash to enjoy it to its fullest.
Since independence, Botswana has experienced one of the world’s fastest growing economic rates, aided by stable politics and vast natural resources. Natural resources, specifically diamonds are where Botswana gains it’s natural wealth from. Copper and nickel (Selebi-Phikwe), gold (Francistown); limited amounts of coal (Palapye); and soda ash and salt (Sua Pan). Because the country is mostly arid, farming is the only significant agricultural enterprise. The subsistence farmers depend mostly on cattle, sheep and goats, and grow maize, sorghum, beans, peanuts, cottonseed and other dry-land crops.
Tourism highlights include the Okavango Delta, which is where you’ll want to spend at least one week, that is to say if you wish to only be visiting for one week. The best entry points into this region are from Maun or the Okavango Panhandle (the northwestern side), you could enjoy a mokoro (dugout canoe) trip through the Okavango’s wetlands, and after that go on a wildlife-viewing trip through Moremi Wildlife Reserve. You could also hire a 4WD or use a reputable safari company and see the best of the country: do a mokoro trip in the Okavango Delta; visit Moremi and Chobe; camp and hike in the Tsodilo Hills; cruise on the ‘Okavango Panhandle’ and travel to the furthest reaches of the Kalahari. To do all of this you do need time, so it is best to deal with a safari company to assist you in planning your travels through Botswana.
|Botswana Quick Facts|
|Location:Southern Africa, north of South AfricaArea:600,370 sq kmBorder countries:Namibia 1,360 km, South Africa 1,840 km, Zimbabwe 813 kmPopulation:1.6 millionPeople:Tswana (or Setswana) 79%, Kalanga 11%, Basarwa 3%, other, including Kgalagadi and white 7%Language:English, SetswanaReligion:indigenous beliefs, over 50%, Christian 30%Independence:30 September 1966 (from UK)Head of State:President Festus MogaeCapital:Gaborone Currency:pula (BWP) – Exchange Rate(link popup window)Export Commodities:diamonds, copper, nickel, soda ash, meat, textilesAgriculture – products:livestock, sorghum, maize, millet, beans, sunflowers, groundnutsGDP growth:7.6% (2003 est.)GDP per capita:$8,800 (2003 est.)|