There are a considerable amount of people who have asked me about Botswana, and I’m getting the impression that it’s not a country many people know. I’ve compiled some info about the country so you guys can get a sense of where I’ll be. Most of the information is coming from The World Factbook, Wikipedia, and information from the Peace Corps and other PC volunteers.
Where is Botswana?
Botswana is located in southern Africa. It is directly above South Africa, and also neighbors Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Zambia (though the border with Zambia is extremely small).
What is Botswana like?
Botswana is mainly desert. About 70% of the country is covered by the Kalahari desert, making it very dry and dusty in certain areas.
In the northeast, there is the Makgadikgadi salt pan, part of the Kalahari Basin. The salt pan is also home to some adorable little meerkats, and was featured on an episode of Top Gear.
The northern part of the country is home to the Okavango Delta, one of the world’s largest inland deltas. The Okavango is home to the Big Five–lion, elephant, leopard, black rhino, and cape buffalo–making Botswana one of twelve countries where all of them can be found.
Botswana is HOT, also. They have a short rainy season and a longer dry season. Their winter is from late May-August. At night, temperatures can drop to around 40F, though during the day they can reach 70-80F. During the summertime, daytime temperatures may range from 105-115F.
How big is the country/population?
Botswana is 231,804 square miles, which makes it a little bit smaller than the state of Texas.
Only around 2 million people live in Botswana. It is one of the most sparsely populated places in the world. The largest city is the capital, Gaborone, which has a population of 200,000. The next largest city is Francistown, with a population of 100,000.
The third largest city is Molepolole with around 67,000 people. This is the city where we will be doing our Pre-Service Training, so I will be living there the first three months of my service.
What do people speak in Botswana?
The official language of Botswana is English, so luckily there will be people who speak the “same” (accents and local dialects aside) language as me. Although it is the country’s official language, there still are plenty of people who don’t speak English or aren’t fluent in it.
Setswana is the main language spoken by people colloquially, and it’s what we’ll learn at Pre-Service Training. Setswana is used in the workplace, and many meetings take place in Setswana, so it’s important for us to know.
What is their political/economic situation?
Botswana gained independence from the British in 1966, and afterwards set up a representative democracy with a history of democratic elections and the lowest perceived corruption rating in Africa over the last four years.
Botswana’s economy comes mainly from diamonds. Of their exports, 62% are diamonds. Botswana is one of the few countries that have successfully been able to be part of the diamond industry without civil war or political unrest.
What is the Peace Corps doing in Botswana?
The Peace Corps came to Botswana after they gained independence in 1966. In 1997, PC left the country due to the rapidly increasing infrastructure and incredible economic transition.
Unfortunately, Botswana was one of the countries hit with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, along with many other sub-Saharan countries. The government of Botswana asked the Peace Corps to return as part of their plan to combat HIV/AIDS, so PC came back in 2003.
Some fun facts!
*Botswana is completely landlocked
*It has consistently been named one of the top African travel destinations
*The Okavango is the largest inland delta in the world
*Their currency is the “Pula,” which means rain in Setswana
*The border between Botswana and Zambia is the shortest border in the world
*For any rap fans out there, there is a city in Botswana named “Kanye”