Botswana Population and Economy

By | September 9, 2021


The population is almost entirely represented by Bantu people, sedentary farmers of Tswana lineage (66.8%). The Bushmen (1.3%), the oldest residents of the region, are represented by small groups of nomadic gatherers and hunters who live in the Kalahari desert; other ethnic groups present are the Shona (14.8%), Hottentots (1.3%) and others (14.1%). The Tswana are divided among themselves into different tribes, the largest of which are the Ngwato, the Kwena, the ngawatse, the tawana, the rolong, the kgatla, the thlaro, the malete. Some tens of thousands of people emigrated to the Republic of South Africa, driven by the need to find a job. The second half of the century XX has seen rapid population growth, which has more than tripled. The country, after independence, has thus increased from 570,000 residents in 1971, to about one million in 1981, to exceed 1,700,000 in a 2006 estimate. The average density is extremely low: 3 residents/km². The settlement is irregular: most of the population is concentrated in a narrow longitudinal belt, made more hospitable by the availability of water resources and the presence of important communication axes, including the railway line that connects the Republic of South Africa to Zimbabwe. An urban network has also been developing in this area, made up of pre-existing centers and new agglomerations around the capital. In the early 2000s, the growth rate decreased, while the demographic structure is made up of almost 40% of young people under 15, while only 5% are over 60 years old. In addition, life expectancy has dropped further: estimates are different, but usually it does not reach 50 years. This is due to the spread of the HIV virus (AIDS affects about one fifth of the population). More than half of the population lives in urban areas; many agricultural centers, mining villages or market settlements, located along the communication routes or along the Limpopo, have thus been transformed into small and medium-sized towns; but only five of these centers exceed 40,000 residents. The capital, Gaborone, is located in the Limpopo Valley and is the country’s main administrative and commercial center. The second largest city is Francistown, favored by its position close to the border with Zimbabwe, is very active for commercial exchanges. Selebi-Phikwe, to the S of Francistown, is the most important copper production center, and is served by the railway, while Orapa is known for its important diamond field.


At the time of independence, Botswana had an annual per capita income of ca. $ 80 (which became about 1000 in 1987), appeared to be poorly supplied with mineral resources, had very few roads and was crossed by only one railway, in the hands of Zimbabwe; the very heavy deficit of the state budget was partially filled only by the remittances of the emigrants in South Africa whose currency, the rand, was also the currency of Botswana, which also lacked a state bank. The economy was based on breeding, which however lacked any suitable industrial equipment, while the very limited arable land gave a stunted subsistence agriculture: sorghum, corn, millet. Starting from the 1970s, the discovery of very rich mineral deposits, especially diamonds (over 7 million carats in 1982), therefore of nickel, copper, coal, etc., allowed a clearly positive evolution of the national economy: in the period from 1971 to 1991 Botswana was among the countries with the strongest growth rate in the world. In the early years of the 2000s, the state managed its main resource: the riches of the subsoil, thanks to the constant and prolonged democratization of internal political relations. In 2010, thanks to the country’s economic capacity to attract investment and the solidity of its service sector, Botswana’s GDP was US $ 11,630 million and per capita GDP had risen to US $ 6,407. Visit for Africa economy.

However, it should be emphasized that the distribution of domestic wealth is still profoundly uneven, with considerable differences between the wages of workers in the mining sector and those of farmers and ranchers. § Agriculture contributes only 1.9% to the formation of GDP (2010); it is practiced only in the eastern region of the country and is still subject to the erratic trend of the rain regime. The government distributes food to a large part of the population. Sorghum, corn and millet are grown, to which cotton is added as an industrial crop. § The production of timber is discreet and pastoralism is still widespread (the latter partly modernized thanks to mining proceeds). § Manufacturing activities are lacking except some textile, butchery and metallurgical plants. § In the 1970s, the enhancement of various mineral deposits, as mentioned above, profoundly changed the country’s economic situation. The exploitation of the copper and nickel mines was joined by that of the coal, cobalt, sodium, etc. mines. In more recent years, oil fields have also been discovered. However, diamonds are the country’s main source of wealth: Botswana is the third largest producer in the world (2006) and its Orapa deposits are the second in the world. § The strong influence that South Africa has had on the country for years is still felt in food imports. As far as exports (almost entirely of minerals) are concerned, they are directed to EU countries. The trade balance is strongly positive, thanks above all to the constant increase in mining. § The road network is undergoing modernization: in 2005 the country was crossed by 25,798 km of roads, of which almost 8,410 were asphalted. The Trans-Africa Highway opened in 1998 has reduced Botswana’s dependence on South African ports. Cape Town (South Africa) with Harare (Zimbabwe) connects the country’s major mining districts. The main airports are located in Gaborone, Francistown, Maun, Selebi-Phikwe. § Tourism-related activities are experiencing a certain expansion: in 2004 over one and a half million tourists visited the country.

Botswana Economy