The Republic of Botswana is a multi-party democracy. It became independent on 30 September 1966. It has an executive President as Head of State. The National Assembly elects the President for a term of five years.
Botswana is roughly the size of France or Texas. Its surface area is 581,730 sq km. It is entirely landlocked, bordered by its neighbours South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The total population estimated for 2006 is 1.85 million growing at a rate of 3.5% per annum.
GMT plus 2 hours
Summer-December to March. High temperatures average 30C to 35C with lows around 18C and rain particularly in December and February. Winter-June to August. Daytime temperatures around 23C with night-time lows averaging 5C.
Visitors from the European Union as well as most Commonwealth countries and the USA do not require visas.
Botswana uses the pula (BWP) as its national currency. The pula is divided into 100 thebe. The pula is freely traded and there are no currency restrictions. It is one of Africa’s strongest currencies. Notes are P100, P50, P20 and P10. Coins are P5,P2,P1 and thebe 50t, 25t, 10t, and 5t
The official language of Botswana is English, although about 90 per cent of Batswana speak Setswana, a Bantu tongue also spoken by some four million people over the border in South Africa. There are also Setswana speakers in Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Setswana is similar to Sotho (the national language of Lesotho that is spoken in parts of South Africa) as well as to Kgalagadi (spoken by about 40,000 people in Botswana) and Lozi (used mainly in south-west Zambia).
Botswana has some 20 other minor regional languages and many dialects.
ARTS AND CULTURE
The Botswana National Cultural Council is the guardian, overseer and promoter of the nation’s rich culture heritage. The most significant of the cultural institutions is the National Museum and Art Gallery, which displays local crafts and plays a key role in encouraging and promoting the work of Batswana artists. ￼￼￼￼￼6 ￼￼￼￼￼Botswana-15-Sec1.indd 6 21/09/2015 10:39 ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼There are other outlets, too, for local artists. For example, the first exhibition in the United States of Batswana art and crafts took place in early 2015, while Botswana’s first commercial art gallery, Sophie Lalonde Art, opened in Gaborone in 2013. The National Museum also hosts the national basket show. Crafts, particularly basketry, along with woven hangings and printed textiles, are largely home- produced in rural areas for the urban and tourist markets. A good place to buy is Botswanacraft, which has a wide range of attractive locally made items. Botswana’s Maitisong Theatre, owned by Maru-a-Pula School, is the nation’s first and only venue of its kind. It hosts the Maitisong Festival, featuring music, dance and drama.
It’s a fact: Botswana is Africa’s least corrupt country. Surveys show that Botswana’s business environment is on a par with parts of northern Europe and the United States and is ranked a creditable 31st out of 175 nations worldwide. Botswana is also number three in mainland Africa when it comes to ease of doing business. At the same time, Botswana scores highly when other contributing factors such as political stability and safety and security are taken into account.
BOTSWANA BY NIGHT
Botswana’s quiet capital, Gaborone, has a generally classy and well ordered nightlife. Its many restaurants, bars and nightclubs are run in a controlled and regulated atmosphere.
High taxes on alcohol, strictly enforced drink-driving regulations and curfews on bars and nightclubs (these close at 2 am) mean that Gaborone is a vibrant but safe city in which to have fun.
In terms of eating out, there is a wide choice of cuisine: Portuguese, South African, Italian, Indian, seafood, vegetarian, various African restaurants, Brazilian, Chinese, Lebanese, Thai, Ethiopian, Japanese plus a host of interna- tionally known eateries.
This is a nation famed for its home- reared beef. And those eager to sample Botswana’s own cuisine should try seswaa, a meat dish cooked in a traditional three-legged pot, or serobe, another meat dish that uses the intestines of a cow, sheep or goat. As elsewhere in Africa, these dishes are accompanied by pap (cooked maize flour). At the same time, there are different ways of eating dough – dumplings, flat cakes and fat cakes – and these often accompany meat dishes. Bogobe is a porridge that is also eaten with meat.
For the more adventurous, mopane worms, which can be cooked in various ways, are a delicacy.
For many, Gaborone is a place to come and shop. Its giant malls continue to proliferate and it can feel more like Texas than Africa. Take your pick from River Walk Mall, African Mall, Game City and the older South Ring Mall.
For those coming to Gaborone to attend conferences or to visit exhibitions, Gaborone is more than usually blessed in terms of impressive venues and exhibition space, which is why it’s a popular choice for meetings of regional and international organisations and why MICE business is so important to the city.
The sector is dominated by the Botswana Conference & Exhibition Centre, covering 50 hectares. Its conference centre features the Ditshupo Chamber, with 10,000 seats, and the Boipuso Chamber accommodating 2,000 people in cinema style.
Beyond Gaborone’s city limits, there is a world waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. It’s only a short drive, for example, to Gaborone Dam, the city’s own water sports centre and the perfect place to enjoy a picnic while watching the sunset. There is a fine golf course at Phakalane.
A range of other attractions can be found just outside Gaborone. They include the Mokolodi Nature Reserve; the equally good Gaborone Game Reserve; the popular Lion Park Resort with its water park complex; and a climb up Kgale Hill.
WHERE TO STAY
Gaborone, Maun, Kasane and Francistown are all blessed with a range of excellent hotel accommodation.