Botswana Safari Photos
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Botswana is one of the world's leading safari destinations. Lacking the crowds of Kenya and Tanzania, Botswana offers excellent opportunities for up-close encounters with wildlife.
Recommended travel guides on Botswana
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Conservation news for Botswana
Background on Botswana
Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name upon independence in 1966. Four decades of uninterrupted civilian leadership, progressive social policies, and significant capital investment have created one of the most dynamic economies in Africa. Mineral extraction, principally diamond mining, dominates economic activity, though tourism is a growing sector due to the country's conservation practices and extensive nature preserves. Botswana has the world's highest known rate of HIV/AIDS infection, but also one of Africa's most progressive and comprehensive programs for dealing with the disease.
[CIA World Factbook]
Botswana is a land-locked country located in Southern Africa and bordering on Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola. Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name upon independence in 1966. The economy, one of the most robust on the continent, is dominated by diamond mining. The bulk of the Kalahari desert falls within Botswana's borders and Botswana is home to most of the world's San (bushman) population.
- Gaborone -- The capital and Botswana's largest city.
- Maun -- Gateway to the Okavango Delta
- Okavango Delta -- A unique geological formation where a delta is formed by a river (the Okavango) flowing into the Kalahari desert instead of the ocean.
- Chobe National Park -- A great place to see wildlife, and a good point from which to move on to Victoria Falls.
- Kgalagadi Transfontier Park
Botswana's main airport is Sir Seretse Khama in Gaborone. Most flights arriving in Botswana are from Johannesburg in South Africa.
There are several entry points by road to Botswana: In the south at Gaborone, providing access from Johannesburg; in the west providing access from Namibia;the north providing access from Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe; and at Francistown in the east, providing access from Harare. All road access is good and the primary roads within Botswana are paved and well maintained.
There is regular bus service from Johannesburg to Gaborone, which takes six hours. There is also service from Windhoek, Namibia via the Caprivi Strip which will drop you in Chobe National Park, in northern Botswana. There is also bus service from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. See Intercape Mainliner (https://www.intercape.co.za/) for information on service from Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Through a combination of coaches, combies and trains, you can get anywhere in Botswana without any trouble. The roads are paved and well maintained, so travel by car is also not a problem.
The language of business in Botswana is English and everyone speaks it. The primary indigenous tongue is Setswana, and is the mother tongue of the overwhelming majority of the population. It is not difficult to learn basic greetings and such, and using these in conversation will make people very happy.
Botswana's currency is the Pula; 100 Thebe = 1 Pula. In Setswana, pula means "rain" and thebe means "shield." Rough conversions are 5:1 (USD) 6:1 (EUR), 10:1 (GBP) and 1:1.3 (South African Rand).
The University of Botswana (https://www.ub.bw/) is located in Gaborone.
People in Botswana are very friendly and the crime rate is low. There isn't much to worry about on this front.
Botswana's HIV infection rate, estimated at 40%, is the highest in the world. Do not have unprotected sex.
The northern part of Botswana, including Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta is in a malarial zone. Take approprate precautions when travelling in these areas. There are different strains of malaria and different habits of the mosquitos that carry it, so consult a doctor before leaving.
The drinking water is safe, unless otherwise indicated.
The Batswana, a term also used to denote all citizens of Botswana, refers to the country's major ethnic group (the "Tswana" in South Africa), which came into the area from South Africa during the Zulu wars of the early 1800s. Prior to European contact, the Batswana lived as herders and farmers under tribal rule.
In the 19th century, hostilities broke out between the Batswana and Boer settlers from the Transvaal. After appeals by the Batswana for assistance, the British Government on March 31, 1885 made "Bechuanaland" under a protectorate. The northern territory remained under direct administration and is today's Botswana, while the southern territory became part of the Cape Colony and is now part of the northwest province of South Africa; the majority of Setswana-speaking people today live in South Africa.
Despite South African pressure, inhabitants of the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Basutoland (now Lesotho), and Swaziland in 1909 asked for and received British assurances that they would not be included in the proposed Union of South Africa. An expansion of British central authority and the evolution of tribal government resulted in the 1920 establishment of two advisory councils representing Africans and Europeans. Proclamations in 1934 regularized tribal rule and powers. A European-African advisory council was formed in 1951, and the 1961 constitution established a consultative legislative council.
In June 1964, Britain accepted proposals for democratic self-government in Botswana. The seat of government was moved from Mafikeng, in South Africa, to newly established Gaborone in 1965. The 1965 constitution led to the first general elections and to independence in September 1966. Seretse Khama, a leader in the independence movement and the legitimate claimant to traditional rule of the Bamangwato, was elected as the first president, re-elected twice, and died in office in 1980. The presidency passed to the sitting vice president, Ketumile Masire, who was elected in his own right in 1984 and re-elected in 1989 and 1994. Masire retired from office in 1998. The presidency passed to the sitting vice president, Festus Mogae, who was elected in his own right in 1999. Mogae won a second term in elections held October 30, 2004.
Botswana is dominated by the Kalahari Desert, which covers up to 70% of the land surface of the country.
Since independence, Botswana has had the fastest growth in per capita income in the world. Economic growth averaged over 9% per year from 1966-1999. The government has maintained a sound fiscal policy, despite consecutive budget deficits in 2002 and 2003, and a negligible level of foreign debt. It earned the highest sovereign credit rating in Africa and has stockpiled foreign exchange reserves (over $5.1 billion in 2003/2004) amounting to almost two and one half years of current imports. Botswana's impressive economic record has been built on the foundation of wisely using revenue generated from diamond mining to fuel economic development through prudent fiscal policies and a cautious foreign policy. Debswana, the only diamond mining company operating in Botswana, is 50 percent owned by the government and generates about half of all government revenues.
However, economic development spending was cut by 10 percent in 2002-2003 as a result of recurring budget deficits and rising expenditure on healthcare services. Botswana has been hit very hard by the AIDS epidemic. Approximately one in three Botswanans have HIV, giving Botswana the second highest HIV infection rate in the world after Swaziland . The government recognizes that HIV/AIDS will affect the economy and is providing leadership and programs to combat the epidemic, including free anti-retroviral treatment and a nation-wide Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission program.
Some of Botswana's budget deficits can be traced to relatively high military expenditures (of roughly 4% of GDP in 2004, according to the CIA World Factbook), which some critics contend is unneccessary given the low likelihood of international conflict (though the Botswana government also makes use of these troops for multilateral operations and assistance efforts).
Private sector development and foreign investment
Botswana seeks to further diversify its economy away from minerals, which account for a third of GDP, down from nearly half of GDP in the early 1990's. Foreign investment and management are welcomed in Botswana. Botswana abolished foreign exchange controls in 1999, has a low corporate tax rate (15%), no prohibitions on foreign ownership of companies, and a moderate inflation rate (7.6% November 2004). The Government of Botswana is currently considering additional policies to enhance competitiveness, including a new Foreign Direct Investment Strategy, Competition Policy, Privatization Master Plan, and National Export Development Strategy.
With its proven record of good economic governance, Botswana was ranked as Africa's least corrupt country by Transparency International in 2004, ahead of many European and Asian countries. The World Economic Forum rates Botswana as one of the two most economically competitive nations in Africa. In 2004 Botswana was once again assigned "A" grade credit ratings by Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's. This ranks Botswana as by far the best credit risk in Africa and puts it on par or above many countries in central Europe, East Asia, and Latin America.
U.S. investment in Botswana remains at relatively low levels, but continues to grow. Major U.S. corporations, such as H.J. Heinz and AON Corporation, are present through direct investments, while others, such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Remax, are present via franchise. The sovereign credit ratings by Moody's and Standard & Poor's clearly indicate that, despite continued challenges such as small market size, landlocked location, and cumbersome bureaucratic processes, Botswana remains one of the best investment opportunities in the developing world. Botswana has a 90-member American Business Council that accepts membership from American-affiliated companies.
Because of history and geography, Botswana has long had deep ties to the economy of South Africa. The Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), comprised of Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, and South Africa, dates from 1910, and is the world’s oldest customs union. Under this arrangement, South Africa has collected levies from customs, sales, and excise duties for all five members, sharing out proceeds based on each country's portion of imports. The exact formula for sharing revenues and the decision-making authority over duties — held exclusively by the Government of South Africa — became increasingly controversial, and the members renegotiated the arrangement in 2001. The new structure has now been formally ratified and a SACU Secretariat has been established in Windhoek, Namibia. Following South Africa's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Botswana also is a member, many of the SACU duties are declining, making American products more competitive in Botswana. Currently the SACU countries and the US are negotiating a free trade agreement. Botswana is currently also negotiating a free trade agreement with Mercosur and an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union as part of SADC.
Botswana's currency — the Pula — is fully convertible and is valued against a basket of currencies heavily weighted toward the South African Rand. Profits and direct investment can be repatriated without restriction from Botswana. The Botswana Government eliminated all exchange controls in 1999. The Central Bank devalued the Pula by 7.5% in February 2004 in a bid to maintain export competitiveness against the real appreciation of the Pula. A further 12% devalution was done in May 2005 & the policy of a "crawling peg" was adopted.
Gaborone is host to the headquarters of the 14 nation Southern African Development Community (SADC). A successor to the Southern Africa Development Coordination Conference (SADCC-launched in 1980), which focused its efforts on freeing regional economic development from dependence on apartheid South Africa. SADC embraced the newly democratic South Africa as a member in 1994 and has a broad mandate to encourage growth, development, and economic integration in Southern Africa. SADC's Trade Protocol, which was launched on September 1, 2000, calls for the elimination of all tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade by 2008 among the 11 signatory countries. If successful, it will give Botswana companies free access to the far larger regional market. SADC's failure to distance itself from the Mugabe government in Zimbabwe has diminished the number of opportunities for cooperation between the US and SADC.
Transportation and Communications
A sparsely populated, semi-arid country about the size of Texas, Botswana has nonetheless managed to incorporate much of its interior into the national economy. An "inner circle" highway connecting all major towns and district capitals is completely paved, and the all-weather Trans-Kalahari Highway connects the country (and, through it, South Africa's commercially dominant Gauteng Province) to Walvis Bay in Namibia. A fiber-optic telecommunications network has been completed in Botswana connecting all major population centers. In November, 2003 representatives of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa signed an MOU to simplify documentation to move cargoes to and from the Port of Walvis Bay in Namibia.
In addition to the government-owned newspaper and national radio network, there is an active, independent press (seven weekly newspapers). Two privately owned radio stations began operations in 1999. In 2000, the government-owned Botswana Television (BTV) was launched, which is Botswana's first national television station. GBC is a commercially owned television station that broadcast programs to the Gaborone area only. Foreign publications are sold without restriction in Botswana, and there are 18 commercial Internet service providers. Two cellular phone providers cover most of the country.
The president is commander in chief of the Botswana Defense Force (BDF). A defense council is appointed by the president. The BDF was formed in 1977 and has approximately 12,000 members.
The BDF is a capable and well-disciplined military force. Following positive political changes in South Africa and the region, the BDF's missions have increasingly focused on anti-poaching activities, disaster-preparedness, and foreign peacekeeping. The United States has been the largest single contributor to the development of the BDF, and a large segment of its officer corps has received U.S. training. It is considered an apolitical and professional institution.
Botswana puts a premium on economic and political integration in Southern Africa. It seeks to make SADC a working vehicle for economic development, and promotes efforts to make the region self-policing in terms of preventative diplomacy, conflict resolution, and good governance. It has welcomed post-apartheid South Africa as a partner in these efforts. Botswana joins the African consensus on most major international matters and is a member of international organizations such as the United Nations and the African Union (AU).
Articles involving tourism in Botswana: