22 fascinating facts about Botswana

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Home to a gargantuan desert, an unparalleled array of wildlife and ancient rock art, these are the most interesting facts about Botswana.

A hippopotamus in Botswana
Interesting facts about Botswana include its diverse wildlife (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Botswana
Capital city: Gaborone
Population: 2,317,233
Area: 581,730 sq km
Major languages: Setswana, English
Time zone: UTC+2 / Central Africa Time
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

Interesting facts about Botswana

1. The earliest inhabitants of Botswana were thought to be the San or Basarwa (Bushmen). They have lived in the area for an estimated 30,000 years.
(Source: The Commonwealth)

2. Although a recent study suggests that the ancestral home of modern humans may have been in Botswana. According to DNA samples, scientists believe that Homo sapiens lived 200,000 years ago in an oasis south of the Zambezi River in modern-day Botswana.
(Source: The Guardian)

The Okavango Delta accounts for several interesting facts about Botswana
The Okavango Delta accounts for several interesting facts about Botswana (Shutterstock)

3. Botswana is the world’s second-largest producer of diamonds after Russia and Africa’s largest.
(Source: British Geological Survey)

4. In 2015 the world’s second-largest diamond discovered in Botswana. The 1,111-carat stone was found in Karowe mine. It was the biggest diamond to be discovered in Botswana and the largest to be found in more than a century.
(Source: BBC News)

5. Botswana is the longest continuous multi-party democracy in Africa.
(Source: Washington Post)

6. Until 2004, Botswana had the world’s highest rate of HIV-Aids infection. Today, it has one of Africa’s most-advanced treatment programmes and medicine for the virus is readily available.
(Source: BBC News)

7. From 1885 Botswana was a British protectorate known as Bechuanaland. In 1966 it gained full independence from the UK.
(Source: Britannica)

8. Sir Seretse Khama was Botswana’s first president serving from 1966 to 1980. In 1950 he was forced into exile by Britain after marrying an English woman, Ruth Williams. When he returned he negotiated the terms of Botswana’s independence.
(Source: The Telegraph)

9. The enormous Kalahari Desert stretches over a huge part of Botswana. It covers at least half of the country’s land area and potentially up to 70%.
(Source: African Wildlife Foundation, Britannica)

10. As such, Botswana is an extremely arid country and has often suffered from droughts. Its currency is called ‘pula’ which means ‘rain’ in the Setswana.
(Source: Independent)

11. It was once thought that Botswana was part of the only four-nation quadripoint (the point where four territories meet) on the planet. However, GPS has now confirmed the countries of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe do not all meet at one point. Instead, the area features a unique ‘double tripoint’ where two tripoints are separated by around 150m: Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia in one site and Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana at another.
(Source: NASA)

Elephants in the Okavango Delta
Elephants in Botswana (Shutterstock)

12. Botswana has the world’s largest population of elephants, numbering over 130,000. The Okavango Delta plays a core role in the species survival.
(Source: UNESCO)

13. Botswana has the largest salt pans in the world. The Makgadikgadi Pans cover an area of over 30 000 km2. They make up part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Makgadikgadi Pans Landscape.
(Source: UNESCO)

14. Botswana is landlocked by Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. A landlocked country is completely surrounded by land with no access to the sea. There are currently 45 such countries and five partially recognised states.
(Source: CIA World FactbookThe Economist)

15. Botswana is a sparsely populated country. It is smaller than France in size, but where 67 million people live in France, there are only 2.3 million in Botswana. There are 4 people per square km of land in Botswana and 122 in France.
(Source: CIA World Fact Book, World Bank)

16. The Botswana flag is one of the few African flags that does not use the colours of the Pan-Africanism movement of red, black and green.
(Source: Britannica)

The Botswana flag
The flag of Botswana (Shutterstock)

17. Bechuanaland had no distinctive national symbols of its own prior to independence. Instead, the flag’s black stripe and white bordering stripes represent a belief in racial cooperation and equality. The light blue background is associated with the sky and water.
(Source: Britannica)

18. Around a third of Botswana’s landmass is officially protected either by national parks and game reserves or ‘wildlife management areas’.
(Source: Lonely Planet)

19. Botswana is home to a wide variety of wildlife. It is possible to observe the famous big five game animals in Botswana: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo.
(Source: Bradt Guides)

20. There is also a huge variety of other animals including between 160 and 500 distinct mammal species, at least 593 bird species, 150 unlike reptiles, more than 8,000 insect and spider species, and more than 3,100 types of plants and trees.
(Source: Lonely Planet)

21. The body of a man known as ‘El Negro’ rests in Botswana. Having died in 1830 (probably in modern-day South Africa), the man’s body was dug up, stuffed and then heinously displayed in European museums. In 2000, following a campaign, the man’s remains were reburied in Botswana.
(Source: The Guardian)

22. There are over 4,500 rock paintings preserved in an area of Botswana known as the ‘Louvre of the Desert’. The ancient paintings in the Tsodilo Hills are thought to be over 100,000 years old.
(Source: UNESCO)

Every effort has been made to verify these facts about Botswana. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.