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Situated in southern Africa, the Republic of Botswana lies between South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. The landlocked, politically stable country is run in a democratic manner, and its economy is growing steadily. It boasts some of Africa’s last great wildernesses, including the famous Okavango Swamps and the Kalahari Desert. The republic is the biggest exporter of gemstone diamonds in the world. Botswana also exports large quantities of beef to the European Economic Community

The erstwhile British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana got its new name after gaining independence within the Commonwealth on September 30, 1966. It is named after its largest ethnic group, the Tswana.

Botswana has nine districts, and its capital is Gaborone. Francistown, Gweta, Kasane, Kazangula, Maun, Ghanzi, Nata, Serowe and Shakawe are the other main towns in Botswana.

Botswana follows a flourishing multiparty constitutional democratic system of governance. Its small white minority and other minorities participate freely in the political process. In the 2004 polls, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won 44 of 57 contested National Assembly seats, the Botswana National Front (BNF) won 12, and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) won one. Held every five years, the next general election is slated for October 2009.

The country’s geography is dominated by the Kalahari Desert, which covers up to 70% of the land surface of the country. The Okavango Delta, the world’s largest inland delta, lies in the northwestern part of the country.

Since independence, Botswana has had the distinction of recording the fastest growth in per capita income in the world. Economic growth averaged over 9% per year from 1966 to 1999. In spite of successive budget deficits in 2002 and 2003, the government has managed to maintain a strong fiscal policy and only a small level of foreign debt. Botswana’s currency is the Pula, which is fully convertible.

The economic success of the country has been built on the foundation of wisely using revenue generated from diamond mining to fuel economic development through prudent fiscal policies and a cautious foreign policy. Debswana, the only diamond mining company operating in Botswana, is 50% owned by the government and generates about 50% of all government revenues.

The AIDS epidemic, however, has become a major cause for worry in Botswana. Approximately one in three Botswanans has HIV, giving Botswana the second-highest HIV infection rate in the world. The government recognizes that HIV/AIDS will affect the economy, and is providing leadership and programs to tackle the menace.