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Country analysis > Botswana Last update: 2020-11-27  

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Shadow report to the United Nations committee on the elimination of racial discrimination

Ditshwanelo – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights

3 – 6 March 2006

SARPN acknowledges Ditshwanelo as a source of this document:
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Background Information – Botswana

Botswana is a landlocked country situated in Southern Africa. It shares its borders with Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. More than half of the country lies within the tropical zone north of the Tropic of Capricorn and it has a land area of approximately 581, 730 square kilometres. The population of Botswana is estimated at 1,700,000.1 The majority of the population lives along the eastern corridor in some of the largest traditional towns in Southern Africa. The rest of the country is sparsely populated. Botswana has experienced a high degree of urbanization and the urban population accounts for about 25% of the total population. The population contains significant diversity in language and culture, approximately 60% of the people are of Tswana heritage, 3-4% of the population comprises the Basarwa or San peoples, other groups include the Herero, Kalanga, Mbukushu and Yei peoples.2

Botswana gained independence from Britain in 1966, after being a British protectorate from 1885. It has been hailed as a shining example of democracy in Africa and enjoys socioeconomic stability. Since independence, Botswana has experienced one of the world’s fastest growing economic rates – between 11and 13% annually. Despite the praise it has received, 43.6% of the population lives below the poverty datum line.3 Unemployment figures officially stand at 23.8%, but unofficial estimates place it closer to 40%.4 HIV/ AIDS has also seriously affected the population with an infection rate of 38.5% in the adult population (ages 15 – 49 years)5, diminishing the average life expectancy in Botswana from 65 in 1988 to a prediction of 34 in 2009.6 The richest 10% of the population possess more than half of the country’s capital, while the poorest 10% account for less than 1% of the nation’s income and consumption.7 Clearly, there is a need for more people to be actively engaged in development.

The national language of Botswana is Setswana and is spoken by over 96% of the population. English is the official and business language of the country and about 40% of the population can read and speak English.

Botswana has a republican form of Government headed by a President. The legislature is composed of 57 elected members, and four additional members of parliament are nominated by the President. Parliament acts in consultation with the House of Chiefs, which is comprised of 15 tribal chiefs who play an advisory role to the Parliament.

  1. Government of Botswana, “Consolidated Report on the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,” 2002.
  2. Africa- The South, 1st Edition (Lonely Planet Publications, Hawthorne, 1997) p. 114.
  3. Fakuda-Parr, S., 2003, UNDP Human Development Report 2003, Oxford University Press, New York.
  4. CIA World Factbook: Botswana, found at [accessed 28 September 2005].
  5. UNAIDS see: (28 July 2005).
  6. UNDP, Human Development Report 2005: The World at a Crossroads.
  7. UNDP, see statistics on Botswana for 2004 at:

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