Botswana: Land and people

Extracted from: Victor Shale 2009 "Chapter 3: Botswana" IN Denis Kadima and Susan Booysen (eds) Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa 1989-2009: 20 Years of Multiparty Democracy, EISA, Johannesburg, 60-61.

The Republic of Botswana is a landlocked country which lies in the southern part of Africa neighbouring Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia and Zambia. Botswana is about 581 730 sq km in size. The climate and vegetation is predominantly semi-arid to arid. The core area of the vast Kalahari semi-desert lies to the southwest (Somolekae 2002). The capital city is Gaborone. Francistown is the second-largest city. The population consists of a number of ethnic groups, namely, Tswana 79 per cent, Kalanga 11 per cent, Basarwa 3 per cent, Kgalagadi 3 per cent, white 3 per cent, other 1 per cent (Wikipedia 2009). Others include Herero, Mbukushu, and 22 smaller groups. The official languages are English and Setswana.

Economically, Botswana enjoys a stable economy envied by most of her neighbours. This chapter will not go into detail on this issue save to indicate that, for instance, the country entered the 2004 elections with a mixed picture of reasonable growth rates and economic disparities. The economy continued to grow at 6 per cent although there was a drop in revenue from diamond sales. The economy also had relatively low inflation levels. However, poverty and unemployment continued to plague a large number of citizens in spite of the middle-income status in the country. Although poverty had declined from 59 per cent in 1986, to 47 per cent in 1994, 36 per cent in 2001 and 30 per cent in 2003, unemployment remained high, increasing from 21 per cent of the labour force in 2001 to 24 per cent in 2003 (Central Statistics Office 2004). Similarly, income inequality among households increased slightly between 1993/94 and 2002/03. The poverty and unemployment situation had been made worse by the HIV/Aids rate, which, considered one of the highest in Southern Africa, affected 24.1 per cent of the population in 2007.

The BDP government has, however, scored a number of successes during its tenure, in spite of its inability to ameliorate poverty levels. It has managed high economic growth rates, welfare services (e.g. support for orphans, the elderly and destitute, heavily subsidised health care and education) beneficial to a majority of the people, government assisted programmes (e.g. credit, food for work - especially during drought), and has maintained high standards of electoral democracy and relatively low levels of corruption. The government has a national policy of awareness programmes and anti-retroviral drugs in public health facilities, as well as support programmes for orphans. It is on this basis that Botswana has received foreign assistance for the fight against HIV/Aids from both public and private donors.

References

CENTRAL STATISTICS OFFICE 2004, Republic of Botswana Household Income and Expenditure Survey, 2003.

SOMOLEKAE, G 2002 "Botswana" IN Lodge, T, Kadima, D & Pottie, D (eds) Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa, Johannesburg, EISA.

WIKIPEDIA 2009 "Demographics of Botswana", [www] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Botswana [opens new window] (accessed 25 Mar 2010).