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Botswana: Country and Foreign Investment

Population, Language and Culture

This page was last updated on 11 Apr 2019.

TThe region was inhabited for millennia by the Khoisan (Bushmen). Hunter-gatherers for most of this time, some became shepherds and cattle herders in the last centuries BC. Around the 1st or 2nd century AD, Bantu peoples arrived, bringing agriculture and iron smelting. The first culture from the Sotho-Tswane group started taking shape around the 11th century. In the 13th and 14th centuries, powerful Tswana dynasties arose in what is now South Africa’s North West and Northern provinces.

By around 1700, powerful chiefdoms were forming, and around 1750, the Ngwaketse founded a military state. By the early 19th century, several states were vying for trade, particularly in ivory and ostrich feathers to Cape Colony in the south.

In the infamous European ‘scramble for Africa’, the Germans in South-West Africa planned to join with the Boers in the Transvaal and Orange Free State, threatening the Tswana states. They therefore allied with the British, who proclaimed the protectorate of Bechuanaland in 1885. However, the British were more interested in exploiting the mineral wealth of South Africa and building a railway to Rhodesia than developing Bechuanaland, which was mostly ignored.

In the 1950s, after Ngwato chieftain Seretse Khama was exiled by the British – tellingly, this was because his marrying a white woman had displeased apartheid South Africa – agitation for independence began in earnest. Initially resisting, the British accepted the inevitable in 1964. In 1966, the country gained its independence in 1966, with Seretse Khama as its first president.

From 1969 Botswana was one of the Frontline States, that helped to see an end to white rule and segregation in southern Africa. The country’s mineral wealth brought prosperity and improved infrastructure, and, in the main, Botswana has continued to be a southern African success story.

The population is estimated at a little over 2.3 million, and is made up of Tswana (or Setswana) 79%, Kalanga 11%, Basarwa (San) 3%, and other (including Kgalagadi and white) 7%.

The official languages are English and Tswana. Though Tswana is spoken as a first language by more than 75% of the population, English is used in business and formal situations.

More than 75% of the population are Christian, nearly all of the Protestant. About 6% of the people practise Badimo, an indigenous belief that is culturally influential.



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