The Republic of Botswana is located in the centre of the Southern African region and is landlocked by Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The capital city is Gaberone, other major cities are Francistown, Lobatse and Selebi-Phikwe.
Most of Botswana lies on a plateau, the Kalahari desert covering most of the South and South West of the region. The Okavango Basin is a large marsh area that covers a large proportion of Botswana.
The official language of Botswana is English, however most people speak Setswana, the language of the Tswana (plural Batswana). The local currency is the Pula, broken down into 100 thebe. (US$/P – latest rate)
Botswana at independence was one of the least developed countries in Africa, however thanks to a flourishing diamond industry, it has grown into one of the wealthiest. Mineral resources are abundant, and include diamonds, copper, nickel, coal, potash, soda ash, cobalt, manganese, asbestos and salt.
The mining sector has come to dominate the economy and it’s contribution to the GDP is over 50%. The production of diamonds began in 1971 at the Orapa mine. Two other mines, Jwaneng, in the South, and Letlhakane, near Orapa, have since been opened. Botswana also relies heavily on copper-nickel mining and livestock production. This renders the country vulnerable to external factors such as continuing quotas on diamond sales imposed by the Central Selling Organisation, depressed world copper-nickel prices and a diverse climate, with many droughts. The Anglo American corporation of South Africa (AAC) with an American company have developed a copper-nickel-cobalt mine at Selebi-Phikwe and a smelter that produces copper-nickel matte, which is then taken overseas to be processed further. De Beers and the AAC together started exploiting the deposits of Soda Ash in the Makgadikgadi Pan, however production has ended. A subsidiary of AAC, Palapye operates the only producing coal mine.
The area around Ghanzi, in the far West, is regarded as among the best cattle ranching in the world. Drought however is a constant threat in most parts of Botswana and limited crop cultivation takes place.
Botswana rates as among the top countries in Africa in terms of total infrastructure, with a 640km railway line running through the eastern part of the country, mainly linking South Africa and Botswana. Railway lines have been extended to the copper-nickel mine at Selebi-Phikwe. The roads have been greatly improved and extended. There are main routes between Windhoek in Namibia, Johannesburg in South Africa, and the ports of Maputo in Mozambique and Walvis Bay in Namibia. There is an international airport in Gaberone and the national airline Air Botswana flies to several cities in Africa.
Botswana offers a number of investment incentives to the foreign investor. These include export processing zones and some of the lowest tax rates in Africa. All business activities qualify for such incentives especially productive enterprises in the manufacturing, mining and agro-industrial sectors. As it’s powerful southern neighbour South Africa endures political violence and high crime rates, Botswana is seen as an attractive alternative for investment by South African enterprises.
Ernst & Young have issued an investment guide to Botswana which contains a summary of these incentives.
The banking sector in Botswana is geared to arrange finance for new businesses.
There are a number of commercial banks offering sophisticated services, as well as development finance institutions which offer specialised services to specific economic sectors. The Botswana Development Corporation Ltd (BDC) is the government’s main agency for commercial and industrial development, having investments through subsidiary and associated companies in all sectors of the economy except large-scale mining. Its main function is to identify investment opportunities in Botswana for local and foreign investors and to provide investment advice, loan financing and overdraft guarantees, share capital and provision of business premises to investors.
Botswana is a signatory to a special trade agreement with Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe that allows duty free entry of certain goods between countries. It also has bi-lateral agreements with China allowing preferential or limited duty free trade. Botswana is a member of the following oganisations: African Development Bank, African-Caribbean-pacific Group, Commonwealth, World Trade Organisation, International Monetary Fund, Southern African Development Community and the United Nations and associate bodies and the Southern African Customs Union.
The international time zone for Botswana is GMT+2 and the international dialing code is +267. There is an international airport in Gaberone. Visa’s are not required from citizens of all commonwealth countries (with exception : Ghana, India, Mauritius, Nigeria, Sri Lanka) Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Samoa, San Merino, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay and the USA. Visa’s are valid for three months.
The state of health, the current immunisation status, location and the local disease situation lead to risk of contraction of hepatitis A, malaria, bilhazia. Medical insurance should be arranged in advance as well as vaccines.