The Republic of Botswana is a landlocked and semi-arid country located in the centre of Southern Africa. It is bordered by Zambia and Zimbabwe to the north and South Africa and Namibia to the south. It has a land surface area of 582, 000 sq km. The country is relatively flat, lying at an average of 900m above sea level, with occasional rocky outcrops.
Botswana is a constitutional republic and a stable 47-year old democracy. The mandate to govern is secured through the popular vote in a “first past the post” or simple majority electoral system. There are three branches of government - the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, whose powers and the manner in which each exercises them, are set forth in the constitution.
The country is an active member of the United Nations, Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth. It is also a member (alongside Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland) of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).
Botswana is a signatory to the Millennium Declaration and has embraced the Millennium Development Goals. It has also articulated a long term vision, Vision 2016: Towards Prosperity for All. Vision 2016 and the MDGs outline Botswana’s key development challenges. These may be summed up as follows:
Poverty and Inequality
Eradicating poverty is arguably the defining priority of the current government. The commitment, as per Vision 2016, is to eradicate extreme poverty by 2016. Inequality, though high and certain to slow down the rate of poverty reduction, does not feature prominently in public policy discourse.
Rapid, sustainable and inclusive growth
This is a prerequisite for eradicating poverty. Rapid and inclusive growth is pro-jobs and pro-poor. To achieve these goals, Botswana must address the urgent challenges of water scarcity, energy shortages and access to food of adequate nutrition. Rising food prices are increasing household vulnerability to hunger and poverty.
HIV and AIDS
Botswana has one of the world’s highest HIV/AIDS burdens. HIV/AIDS has had profound human welfare, fiscal and governance impacts. Botswana has mounted a strong response to HIV/AIDS but its capacity to sustain the response is being stretched to the limit.
Environmental degradation and climate change
Though Botswana is prone to drought, a significant proportion of its population depends on agriculture for employment and subsistence. Climate change and environmental degradation are potent risks to the livelihoods of many Batswana in rural areas.
Governance and service delivery
Botswana has significant governance challenges including regulatory reforms to improve the business environment and enhance competiveness, reaching consensus on measures to strengthen democracy, strengthening institutions of governance and service delivery.
Botswana is one of Africa’s veritable economic and human development success stories. It has made the transition from Least Developed Country (LDC) at the time of independence in 1966 to Middle Income (MIC) in three decades.
By 2004 Botswana had surpassed the World Bank’s upper MIC threshold largely due to substantial mineral revenues, especially from diamonds, and competent political and economic governance, reflected most comprehensively in A-grade sovereign credit ratings, the best for an African economy for most of the last decade. Some of the country's successes are highlighted below;
The country’s latest MDG Progress Report published in 2010 shows that substantial improvements on many goals has been made: The percentage of people living below the poverty datum line has steadily declined from 47% in 1993 to 30% in 2002 and estimated to be at 23% in 2009. It has already achieved five of the eight Millennium Development Goals (see MDGs section). Overall, 10 of 14 targets have either been achieved or likely to be achieved by 2015.
Botswana provides a comprehensive regime of social safety nets with high rates of coverage. These provide a comprehensive buffer against hunger. Thus, Botswana has no record of people dying of hunger. The social safety nets include separate programmes for destitute persons, the aged, people with disability, orphans and World War II veterans.