Botswana : Society


Population density (per sq. km): 


Life expectancy: 
48 years
Primary enrolment: 
84% (2009)

2,021,000 (2013); 57 per cent of people live in urban areas; growth 1.6 per cent p.a. 1990–2013, with rapid growth in urban areas; birth rate 24 per 1,000 people (46 in 1970); life expectancy 48 years, down from a peak of 63 years in the early 1990s, as a result of AIDS (52 in 1970).

Around 80 per cent of the people are of Setswana-speaking origin and most of the rest of Kalanga-speaking origin. Bushmen (i.e. San or Basarwa), Herero, Mbukushu, Yei and Mazezuru, whites and others constitute the balance.


Setswana is the national language; English is an official language.


Most people are Christians (81 per cent in 2011 census) or hold traditional beliefs. Traditional religions incorporate some Christian practices.


Public spending on health was three per cent of GDP in 2011. There are some 30 hospitals and more than 500 clinics and health centres. Malaria is endemic in northern Botswana. Some 97 per cent of the population uses an improved drinking water source and 64 per cent have access to adequate sanitation facilities (2012). Infant mortality was 36 per 1,000 live births in 2013 (118 in 1960). In 2013, 22 per cent of people aged 15–49 were HIV positive. Full AIDS control and prevention programmes are in place.


Public spending on education was eight per cent of GDP in 2009. There are ten years of compulsory education starting at the age of six. Primary school comprises seven years and secondary five. Some 93 per cent of pupils complete primary school (2008). The school year starts in January. The Brigades movement was founded in 1963 in Serowe by Patrick van Rensburg to provide vocational training in skilled trades for early school-leavers.

There are about 30 vocational and technical training centres, four teacher-training colleges, two colleges of education and one university, the University of Botswana. A second public university, the Botswana International University of Science and Technology, is under construction at Palapye. It opened in August 2012, initially admitting a few hundred students, and based at the Oodi College of Applied Arts and Technology, until the Palapye campus is ready. The Institute of Development Management was established in 1974 as a regional institution with campuses in Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. Other tertiary institutions include Botswana College of Agriculture, Botswana Institute of Administration and Commerce, and Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning. Literacy among people aged 15–24 is 95 per cent (2010).

In 1997 Botswana hosted the 13th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Gaborone – Commonwealth Education Ministers meet every three years to discuss issues of mutual concern and interest.


The government-owned Daily News is published in English and Setswana, and Mmegi is an independent daily. There are several privately owned weeklies including The Botswana Gazette (Wednesday, since 1985), Botswana Guardian (weekend), The Midweek Sun and The Sunday Standard.

Botswana’s media has a long tradition of lively public debate. Press circulation is limited to urban areas and radio is the main source of information for most people. Radio Botswana is the public service, broadcasting in Setswana and English. Public service TV, Botswana Television, was launched in 2000. There are a number of privately owned radio and TV stations.

Some nine per cent of households have TV sets (2006). There are 63 personal computers per 1,000 people (2008).


Country code 267; internet domain ‘.bw’. There are very few public phone boxes. Mobile phone coverage is generally confined to the most populous areas. Gaborone and Maun have a number of internet cafés. There are post offices in all towns and the larger villages.

For every 1,000 people there are 86 landlines, 1,606 mobile phone subscriptions and 150 internet users (2013).

Public holidays: 

New Year (two days), Labour Day (early May), Sir Seretse Khama Day (1 July), President’s Day (Monday and Tuesday in July), Botswana Day (30 September), Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Religious festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Good Friday, Easter Monday and Ascension Day.