Botswana country profile - Overview
- 6 May 2015
- From the section Africa
Botswana, one of Africa's most stable countries, is the continent's longest continuous multi-party democracy. It is relatively free of corruption and has a good human rights record.
It is also the world's largest producer of diamonds and the trade has transformed it into a middle-income nation.
Botswana protects some of Africa's largest areas of wilderness. It is sparsely populated, because it is so dry. The Kalahari desert, home to a dwindling band of bushman hunter-gatherers, makes up much of the territory and most areas are too arid to sustain any agriculture other than cattle.
International campaign groups say the authorities are forcing the bushmen off their ancestral lands in order to make way for diamond mining - the mainstay of Botswana's economy. The government denies this, saying it is trying to settle the nomads in order to offer them better services.
Botswana is trying to reduce its economic dependence on diamonds, moving to boost local business and employment by encouraging more value to be added to diamonds locally.
Botswana's origins as a state go back to the the late 1800s, when colonial power Britain formed the protectorate of Bechuanaland to halt Boer encroachment from the neighbouring Transvaal or German expansion from South West Africa. In 1966 Bechuanaland became independent as Botswana.
The country was a haven for refugees and anti-apartheid activists from South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, but had to tread carefully because of its economic dependence on the white-ruled neighbour, and because of South Africa's military might.
More recently, the country has seen an influx of illegal immigrants seeking respite from the economic crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe.
Botswana, which once had the world's highest rate of HIV-Aids infection, has one of Africa's most-advanced treatment programmes. Anti-retroviral drugs are readily available.
However, the UN says more than one in three adults in Botswana are infected with HIV or have developed Aids. The disease has orphaned many thousands of children and has dramatically cut life expectancy.
Safari-based tourism - tightly-controlled and often upmarket - is another important source of income.