Description of Botswana
Botswana is located in the southern part of Africa and is completely landlocked. The country was a protectorate of the United Kingdom, but gained its independence in September of 1966. Since gaining its independence it has held democratic elections that are uninterrupted and has a stable representative democracy.
The country is flat geographically, with about 70% of the territory being made up of the Kalahari desert. In the south and southeast it shares a border with South Africa. In the west and the north it is bordered by Namibia and in the northeast it shares a border with Zimbabwe.
Botswana is a mid-sized country that has a population of more than 2 million people. It is one of the more sparsely populated countries in the world. About 10% of the population lives in Gaborone. This is the capital and the largest city in the country. It was once one of the poorer countries in the world as the GDP per capita was around $70 per year during the late part of the 1960s. Since that time, the country has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The country now has a GDP of about $16,400 per year as of the year 2013. The gross national income provides the country with a fairly modest standard of living.
The country is an African Union member. They are also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the United Nations, and the Southern African Development Community. The country is politically stable, but suffers from a high HIV/AIDS epidemic.
During the 19th century, the Ndebele tribes and the Tswana inhabitants were quite hostile toward each other. In addition, there was tension between the Transvaal of the East and the Dutch Boer settlers. Appeals were made by the Batswana leaders for assistance and the government of Britain put the area under its protection in 1885. The northern part of the territory was under the Bechuanaland Protectorate administration and the southern territory was a part of Cape Colony.
The Union of South Africa was formed in the year 1910 from the main colonies of the region. The Bechuanaland protectorate, and Swaziland were not included. There was a provision made so that they could be incorporated at a later date. The inhabitants of these areas consulted the United Kingdom and many South African governments tried to have the territories transferred, but the UK delayed the process and for this reason it never happened.
In June of 1964, the United Kingdom accepted the proposal to create a democratic self-government in Botswana. In 1965 the government seat was moved from Mafikeng to Gaborone. The constitution of the same year led to the first elections and independence occurred on the 30th of September, 1966. The first president was Seretse Khama who was a leader during the movement for independence. He was re-elected twice.
Quett Masire, who was the vice president, went on to become president when he was elected on his own in 1984. He was re-elected in 89 and again in 1994. He retired in 1998 and Festus Mogae took over. He was elected again in 2004 and in 2008 the presidency passed to Ian Khama. Elections take place every 4 years and have run smoothly since the country became an independent nation.
The economy of Botswana is dominated by tourism and diamond mining. It is the most robust economy of the continent. When it comes to tourism, the country operates on a high price for low numbers formula. The main reason for this is for conservation. It is also to help differentiate itself from the tourist countries that it neighbors who mostly operate on a more mass market tourist policy. This does not mean that the country is a high end destination. In some respects the quality and costs are comparable to the neighboring countries of South Africa. There are two great jewels in the crown of Botswana’s tourist industry, which are the Chobe National Park and the Okavango delta. These are fairly exclusive, but you may find some budget options as well.
Independent travelers to the area will find that Botswana offers an interesting contrast to the poverty stricken areas found in its neighbors to the north. In addition, it is free from apartheid that still mars South Africa. The tourist industry has been well established and service levels are quite good and there are very few hassles. The number of tourists to the area are minimal when you steer away from the main parks. This provides a number of great experiences that are off the beaten path.
The country is mostly flat and is dominated by the Kalahari desert. The river basins that are located in the country provide diverse wildlife habitats. While most of the country is desert, there are savannas and grasslands as well. It is in these areas where you will find antelopes, blue wildebeest, and many other birds and mammals.
There are 2 environmental issues that the country is facing. These are desertification and drought. The problems with desertification stem mainly from the times of severe drought in the area. Nearly 75% of the animal and human population of the country depends on the groundwater because of the drought. Groundwater is sought through deep drilling of boreholes and this helps to ease some of the effects of the drought. There is not much surface water in the country and agriculture of the country cannot be sustained using rainfall. The main source for rural income is raising livestock. A little over 70% of the land of the country is used for communal grazing. This is one of the major causes of desertification and the accelerated amount of soil erosion found in the country.
Since raising livestock has shown profitable for the people in the country, the land is currently being exploited. There has been an increase in the populations of animals. From the year 1966 through 1991, the population of livestock went from 1.7 million up to over 5.5 million. The human population has increased from 574,000 in the year 1971 to over 1.5 million in the year 1995. Over half of all the households in the country own cattle and this is the largest source for rural income. Overgrazing and overstocking have led to degradation of the rangeland and desertification of the land as well.
There are projects being implemented by the department of forestry to help save the land. Indigenous vegetation is being introduced into areas such as Kgalagardi South. This will help control the degradation of the land. The United States has loaned the country $7 million dollars, reducing the country’s debt to the United States to $8.3 million. The stipulation of this offer from the United States is that the country will focus on conserving the land. The UN claims that one of the major reasons for the overexploitation of these resources is poverty. The UNDP has started another project in the area in order to increase knowledge about land management systems that would be appropriate for the area.
Citizens of 67 territories and countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Netherlands, Canada, and Australia, do not need a visa to travel to Botswana. For those who reside in the other nations of the world, a visa must be obtained in order to travel to the country.
There are several ways to enter the country. The main airport of the Botswana is located in Gaborone. Most of the flights that arrive in the country come from Johannesburg of South Africa, but there are flights from Nairobi, Harare, and Cape Town available as well. As of the spring of 2009, there are no longer passenger train services available to or from Botswana.
There are several ways to enter the country by car and the access roads to the country are well-maintained and most of them are paved. You may also take a bus from Johannesburg to Gaborone. This ride will take you six hours.
If you are planning to travel the country by car, you are likely going to need to use landmarks for directions as most of the locals do not know addresses or street names. There is not a postal delivery system for addresses, which is why many residents are unfamiliar with them.
Using combies and coaches, you will be able to travel throughout the country without much issue. However, away from the bigger cities, public transportation is a bit spotty.
The official languages of the country are Tswana and English. In places near the Zimbabwe border, Kalanga is spoken. The business language of the country is English and most people speak it. However, in many of the rural areas, the people will not speak English, but rather Tswana.
When you are visiting the country you will want to make sure to book a tour to see the wildlife of the area as this is the main draw for the area. Almost a fifth of the country is composed of wildlife parks. Here you will find wild dogs, antelope, elephants, hippos, crocodiles, cheetahs, and lions. There are also hundreds of species of birds found there. Safaris are available for visitors and there are also many lodges that you can stay in. The lodges range from dorms that are relatively inexpensive to private lodges that cost more than $1000 per night.
One of the most popular and impressive wild life destinations in the country is Okavango Delta. This is a location where the Okavango river widens into the largest delta inland. It flows into the Kalahari desert and the water channels and swamps that are formed her attract many animals from miles away. During the flood seasons of July and August, the delta triples in size.
Chobe National Park is located nearby and offers a large elephant population. It is also home to many lions and zebras. Makgadikgadi Pans National Park offers bleak salt pans, which are attractive to a large number of different types of birds throughout the year. Some of the other game parks that are worth a visit include Gemsbok National Park, Mokolodi Nature Reserve, and Nxai Pan National Park.
Many of the native tribes in the area will dress in traditional garb and perform different rituals for the tourists. For those who truly crave the culture of the area the Xai-Xai and D’Kar have several offerings such as crafts, arts, and the chance to participate in some of the rituals of the tribes. One of the largest collections of rock art in all of Africa is located in Tsodilo Hills.
The people of the country are very friendly and the rate of crime is quite low, so there is not much to worry about while visiting the country. However, there has been a rise in crime in recent years, so make sure that you remain aware of your surroundings at all times. Use common sense to keep you safe from predatory wildlife while in rural areas. Botswana offers one of the safest countries in Africa as there is no natural disasters, civil wars, little corruption, and human rights.
When visiting the country one important note is that the HIV infection rate is quite high at 24.1%.This is the 2nd highest of the world. If dealing with any type of bodily fluid exercise precautions. If you are dressing a cut for another person make sure that you wear gloves.
Chobe National Park, the Okavango Delta, and the northern part of the country are all in a malaria zone so you will want to take appropriate precautions when visiting there. The water found in most urban areas is chlorinated and the population that live there will drink it. However, if you have a sensitive stomach you may want to stick with bottled water. If traveling outside of the urban areas the water is not treated and comes from the borehole and is more of a risk to travelers.
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