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Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
The people of sub-Saharan Africa have inhabited the area that is now Botswana for more than 60,000 years. It is likely that the first societies stemmed from one tribe, made up of the San and Khoe peoples. About a thousand years ago, large chiefdoms began to form in the areas near the Tswapong Hills. The people making up those settlements became known as the Toutswe, after one of their capitals was excavated on Toutswemogala Hill.
In the early 1800s, a wave of tribal wars broke out and swept across much of southern Africa. Around this period, traders from Europe and other areas had begun to penetrate the area, and chiefs began trading ivory and animal skins for guns and ammunition in order to rebuild and protect their tribes. In 1816, Robert Moffat set up a mission station for the London Missionary Society, over which he presided for 50 years. The legendary Dr. David Livingstone worked out of this station for a few years and eventua
lly married Moffat’s daughter, Mary. The country was eventually named Bechuanaland and was a British protectorate for 80 years. In 1965 self-governance began, and in 1966 the country officially became known as the independent Republic of Botswana.
Diamond mining started up in Botswana in around 1976 and has played a major part in the country’s recent history and economic growth. It accounts for nearly one-third of Botswana’s gross domestic product and 70 percent of its export earnings. Debswana, a company formed by South Africa’s DeBeers company and Botswana’s government, is the largest of the mining operations in Botswana.
The Top 5: Local Advice
1. There are nine districts and five town councils in the Republic of Botswana: the Central, Ghanzi, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southern, Kweneng, Kgalagadi, and Kgatleng districts and the town councils of Francistown, Gaborone, Jwaneng, Lobatse, and Selebi-Pikwe. Botswana is located in the heart of Africa and surrounded by Zambia and Zimbabwe to the northeast, Namibia to the north and west, and South Africa to the south and southeast. All these countries meet at a single point, midstream, in the Zambezi River.
2. The Kalahari Desert dominates much of Botswana’s landscape. It stretches west of the eastern rocky hill ranges and covers 84 percent of the country. The capital of Botswana is Gaborone, a modern, rapidly expanding city. It lies in a valley in the eastern corner of the country about nine miles from the South African border.
3. Botswana’s unit of currency is the pula (abbreviated as P). Most major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Diners Club, are widely accepted. Most hotels and lodges accept foreign currency or traveler’s checks, and ATMs are on hand throughout the country at many shopping malls and large hotels.
4. The official name of the country is the Republic of Botswana. The name “Botswana” is derived from the term Batswana
, which refers to the ethnic group of people who all speak the Setswana language and share the Sotho-Tswana
culture. The word Botswana
is now commonly used to refer to any citizen of the country, regardless of his or her ethnic background. A Motswana
is a single citizen of the country. Tswana
is an adjective that refers specifically to the group of Bantu-speaking citizens that resides in Botswana.
5. The national language of Botswana is Setswana. English is spoken widely in urban areas and is used in most business transactions. You will be able to travel without much knowledge of Setswana, but we recommend learning a few key phrases just in case you find yourself in a bind.