The landlocked nation of Botswana has developed into one of the most politically and economically advanced countries in Africa. Roughly the size of France, but only home to a population of roughly 2,000,000 people, this sparsely populated country with its capital Gaborone works hard for its wealth. Here are some interesting facts about Botswana.
Facts about Botswana
1. The world’s shortest border is shared between Botswana and Zambia.
The world’s shortest border which is shared between Botswana and Zambia is only about 150 m (492 ft) long. Due to its location in the midst of the Zambezi River, the exact length is disputed. Botswana was also once believed to be located on the only quadripoint in the world (a place where 4 country borders meet). Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe more likely share 2 tripoints instead, however. Apart from these, Botswana borders South Africa to the south.
2. 70% of Botswana is covered by the Kalahari desert.
Botswana is a fairly flat country and its landscape is mostly dominated by the Kalahari desert which covers about 70% of the country. The word Kalahari stems from the Tswana word Kgala, meaning “the great thirst”.
3. Botswana may be the birthplace of the homo sapiens.
Archaeologists have found evidence (such as stool samples) that the lands of Botswana were inhabited as early as 400,000 years ago. A report published in 2019 also suggests that Botswana is indeed the cradle of humanity with evidence of homo sapiens in the area dating back as far as 200,000 years. However, many other scientists believe that homo sapiens emerged 100,000 years prior to that.
4. Botswana was once a British protectorate.
When European colonizers came to Africa, the land that is Botswana today was coveted by the British and the Germans. It was finally annexed by Great Britain during the Berlin Conference between 1884 and 1885 and furthermore known as the Bechuanaland Protectorate. Botswana only gained independence from the United Kingdom on 30 September 1966.
5. About 40% of land in Botswana is protected.
In Botswana, about 40% of all land is protected as national parks. In total, there are 4 national parks in Botswana (Chobe, Gemsbok, Makgadikgadi Pans, and Nxai Pan) as well as several wildlife reserves, covering a total area of roughly 232,000 km² (89,575 sq mi).
6. Botswana is the oldest democracy in Africa.
Botswana has held fair elections since its independence in 1966, making it the oldest true democracy in Africa. The country’s citizens have been able to enjoy political stability ever since. In fact, it has the best democracy ranking in all of Africa even today and a very low level of corruption.
7. The largest inland delta can be found in Botswana.
The Okavango Delta in Botswana is the largest inland delta in the world. Located in northern Botswana, it covers an area of 20,235 km² (7812 sq mi). While most deltas open into a sea, the water ending in the Okavango Delta simply evaporates. The delta is home to a large variety of species, including all “big five” making it a popular safari destination.
8. Botswana is home to one of the largest salt flats in the world.
The Makgadikgadi Pan in Botswana is one of the biggest salt pans in the world. Although many have heard of Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, Makgadikgadi actually covers a larger area by far. While Salar de Uyuni covers an area of 10,619 km² (4,100 sq mi), Makgadikgadi covers an area of 30 000 km² (11,583 sq mi). However, Makgadikgadi is not one continuous salt pan, but rather several pans divided by a sandy desert.
9. Taylor Swift’s music video to “Wildest Dreams” was shot in Botswana.
In 2014, Taylor Swift released her single “Wildest Dreams”. But did you know that its music video was actually short in Botswana? The alien landscape in the video was shot at the Makgadikgadi salt pan.
10. The currency of Botswana is the Pula (BWP).
Adopted in 1976, the Pula is used as a currency in Botswana today. It replaced the South African rand at par. In the local language Setswana, “pula” means “rain” highlighting the importance of water to the country. The sub-unit of the pula is the thebe, which literally means “shield”.
11. The largest diamond mine in the world is located in Botswana.
Jwaneng diamond mine is the largest diamond mine in the world measured by value. Located in south-central Botswana, the mine produces approximately 11 million carats (2,200 kg / 4,850 lbs) of diamonds per year. The high quantity combined with the high quality of the gems makes it the richest diamond mine in the world.
Diamonds and gemstones are essential to the country’s relative wealth and economic growth. In fact, 3 out of the 5th biggest diamonds in the world were found in Botswana.
12. The official language of Botswana is English.
English is the official language in Botswana, although the Bantu language Setswana is spoken by 77% of the people in the country. Other commonly spoken languages are Sekalanga and Shekgalagadi.
13. A language spoken in Botswana is the language with the most sounds in the world.
The language !Xóõ (also known as Ta’a or southern Khoisan) is a language spoken by a small community of people in Botswana and Namibia. It is best known for its large number of sounds, and in particular, its clicking sounds.
14. There are 3 major ethnic groups in Botswana.
In Botswana, 79% of people belong to the Tswana ethnic group, 11% are Kalanga, and 3% are Basarwa (also known as Sun People).
15. Christianity is the main religion in Botswana.
About 77% of people in Botswana identify as Christian, most of them belonging to the Anglican Church, Methodist Church, and the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa. Approximately 20% of the population of Botswana do not belong to any religious community.
16. Botswana has one of the world’s highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection.
A rather sad fact about Botswana is its AIDS prevalence rate. In Botswana, about 22% of the adult population live with AIDS – the third-highest rate in the world. However, Botswana has the highest rate of HIV patients receiving antiretroviral treatment, paving the way to a brighter future.
17. Botswana is home to 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Apart from the Okavango Delta, the second UNESCO World Heritage Site in Botswana is Tsodilo. Located in the Kalahari desert, Tsodilo is the biggest collection of rock art in the world. It consists of over 4,500 paintings spread over an area of only 10 km² (3.9 sq mi).
18. Botswana has only won one medal at the Olympics.
Botswana has been competing at the Olympics since 1980. At the 2012 Olympics, Nijel Amos won the first and only medal for Botswana in athletics.
19. The national animal of Botswana is the zebra.
The zebra is the national animal of Botswana, a docile animal beloved by the citizens of Botswana. Its black and white stripes are also reminiscent of the country’s national flag.
20. Botswana has one of Africa’s most unique flags.
The national flag of Botswana consists of a light blue field cut horizontally in the center by a black stripe with a thin white frame. It is rather unique as most African flags utilize the colors of the Pan-Africanist movement (black, green, black, and sometimes yellow). The blue represents water (more specifically rain). The black and white bands represent the two races of Botswana as well as alluding to the national animal, the zebra.
21. The national tree of Botswana is the Morula.
Sclerocarya birrea, more commonly known as morula, is the national tree of Botswana. Its fruit is part of the traditional diet, fermented to produce morula beer, and pressed for its oil.
22. The Kgori is the national bird of Botswana.
The kgori, more commonly known as Kori bustard, is the largest flying bird native to Africa and the national bird of Botswana. The kgori has long been an important motif in the music, dance, and art of the San people.
23. The national flower of Botswana is Sengaparile.
More commonly known as Devil’s Claw, Sengaparile is the national flower of Botswana. It owes its name to the peculiar appearance of its fruit. It has traditionally been used as a natural pain medication.
24. Botswana actually has a national grass.
While most countries may list a national flower or tree, Botswana also has a national grass. The national grass of Botswana is Motsikiri, also known as weeping lovegrass. It has traditionally been used in the making of brooms and baskets.
25. The national dish of Botswana is seswaa.
The national dish of Botswana, seswaa, is traditionally served at weddings, funerals, and other formal occasions. It consists primarily of meat on the bone, water, and salt.
26. Botswana enforces the death penalty.
Corporal punishment in Botswana is reserved for major crimes such as murder. The country averages one carried out death sentence per year.