Africa: Botswana report

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Africa: Botswana

Current Events

Twice the size of Arizona, Botswana is in south-central Africa, bounded by Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Most of the country is near-desert, with the Kalahari occupying the western part of the country. The eastern part is hilly, with salt lakes in the north.

History of Botswana

Botswana is democratically ruled, boasts a growing economy and stable political environment today. The country's population is mainly Tswana, who speak a Bantu language and are divided into eight major groups. There are also small minorities of Kalanga, Basarwa, Kgalagadi, and other poeples. English is the official language, but Tswana is also widely spoken along with 24 other minor languages. About half the population is Christian and half adheres to traditional practices.

The earliest inhabitants of the region were the San, who were followed by the Tswana. About half the country's ethnicity today is Tswana. The term for the country's people, Batswana, refers to national rather than ethnic origin.

Encroachment by the Zulu in the 1820s and by Boers from Transvaal in the 1870s and 1880s threatened the peace of the region. In 1885, Britain established the area as a protectorate, then known as Bechuanaland. In 1961, Britain granted a constitution to the country. Self-government began in 1965, and on Sept. 30, 1966, the country became independent. Botswana is Africa's oldest democracy.

The new country maintained good relations with its white-ruled neighbors, but gradually changed its policies, harboring rebel groups from South Rhodesia as well as some from South Africa.

Cattle rising and the export of beef and other cattle products are the chief economic activities, though migration to urban areas in search of economic opportunity has been an important recent trend. The country's water shortage and consequent lack of sufficient irrigation facilities have hampered agriculture, and only...