Botswana's vast natural wealth and spectacular wildlife draw tourists from around the world. Recently celebrating fifty years of independence, Botswana's political stability and sound stewardship of natural resources has helped create a pathway for robust economic growth.
A south-central, land-locked, African nation sharing borders with Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, Botswana has an area of around 582,000 square kilometers and is known for having some of the best wildlife areas on the African continent. About 38% of Botswana’s total area is devoted to national parks, reserves and wildlife management areas. Botswana’s sparse population makes it easy to protect wildlife and conserve landscapes. A majority of the 2 million Batswana (people of Botswana) live near the nation’s capital, Gaborone, as almost 70% of the rest of the countryside is covered by the inhospitable Kalahari Desert.
Botswana sits about 950 meters above sea level and more than 600 kilometers from the ocean. The country is noted for its flatness and aridity which is characteristic of the Kalahari Desert. Within the Kalahari Desert is the wondrous wetland of the Okavango Delta, which sustains a huge variety of fauna and flora and is known as the world’s largest inland delta. In the rainy season the area comes to life and attracts high numbers of plains species and large predators such as lions and cheetahs. The nearby Chobe and Linyanti parks are renowned for their concentrations of elephants. Botswana is also famous for its Makgadikgadi salt pan. With these distinct landmarks and the prolific wildlife, Botswana attracts a significant amount of tourists each year.
Wildlife in Botswana is of the highest importance to the tourism sector in the country, contributing to 3% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). The Okavango Delta is said to be the largest draw for tourists to the country, and the link between tourism and wildlife is so evident that there is an integrated Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT) in the government. One of the main roles of MEWT is to protect wildlife, a cherished heritage of Botswana. The greatest threat to Botswana’s cherished wildlife is illegal hunting, both within and without the nation’s borders. Botswana has been instrumental in the fight against wildlife trafficking across the African continent. Botswana participates in many conventions, meetings and treaties to combat the illegal wildlife trade. The second African Elephant Summit was held in March 2015 to stop the illegal slaughter of elephants, followed by the Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade in Kisane, Botswana. The country is also signatory to the SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement (1999). Botswana was instrumental in the creation of the Wildlife Enforcement Network for Southern Africa (WENSA) and holds the Secretariat within its government.
The diamond mining industry has been a main driver behind Botswana’s economic growth. Botswana was one of Africa’s poorest countries until diamonds were discovered in the late 1960s. Since then, the diamond mining industry has accounted for around one third of Botswana’s gross domestic product (GDP) and contributed to its move from a low income to upper-middle income country. Agriculture accounts for a small percentage of Botswana’s GDP, around 2% and services account for around 62%. Despite Botswana’s success in reaching middle income status, many people still face issues of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Botswana and the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa
There are numerous opportunities for the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa to support Botswana in its efforts to conserve the country’s resources and strive towards sustainable development. Emphasis was placed on the need to institutionalize and further the work in natural capital accounting started by the World Bank led partnership Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES). There is also a demonstrated need to educate stakeholders on how to achieve sustainable development in Botswana. Together, with the support of the Gaborone Declaration Secretariat, Botswana can work towards the outcomes of the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa.
National Strategies and Poverty Eradication
Sustainable use of natural resources has been a key component for much of Botswana’s economic planning for development, which includes a series of 10 National Development Plans. Botswana has passed many national policies, such as the Wildlife Conservation Policy (1986), the National Policy on Natural Resources Conservation and Development (1990), the Wildlife Conservation and National Parks Act (1992), and the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (2005) which embed natural resources conservation and sustainable development into Botswana’s national strategies and priorities. Botswana has also been successful in implementing the UNDP and UNEP’s Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI) which supports Botswana in mainstreaming environmentally sustainable natural resource management in the nation’s poverty reduction strategies by implementing linked poverty-environment projects.
Natural Capital Accounting
Botswana has an extensive history in natural capital accounting extending back to the 1990s when it incorporated aspects of sustainability into its system of national accounts. Through this initiative, monetary accounts were developed for minerals and physical accounts were developed for minerals, water and livestock. Since 2011 Botswana has participated in the WAVES partnership and has continued the implantation of natural capital accounting with focus on water accounts, land and ecosystem accounts and mineral and energy accounts. Through the WAVES partnership, and using a methodology approved by the U.N. Statistics Division, Botswana has adopted macroeconomic indicators of sustainable development, which develops methods to measure natural capital changes.
Private Sector Partnerships
Botswana holds myriad opportunities for private-public partnerships to work towards the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa’s outcomes. Between 2003-2009 the UNDP-GEF Medium-Size Project’s (MSP) Strategic Partnerships to Improve the Financial and Operational Sustainability of Protected Areas focused on the sustainability of Botswana’s Protected Areas through partnerships between public, private, non-profit and community stakeholders. These partnerships lay the groundwork for further collaboration across sectors to protect Botswana’s natural resources and further its sustainable development.
Image credits, top to bottom: © Jon McCormack; © Jon McCormack; © Dave Clift
Botswana Quick Facts
Wildlife contributes approximately 3% to Botswana's GDP.
Botswana joined the Wealth Accounting and the
Valuation of Ecosystem Services
(WAVES) partnership in 2011 to help determine the value of Botswana's natural resources with accounts such as water, energy and minerals.
The diamond industry accounts for approximately one third of Botswana's GDP.
Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa Focal Point for Botswana
Ms. Tsalano Kedikilwe
Progress Reports on GDSA Implementation