Foreign policy and defense
Botswana is a strong advocate of economic and
political integration in southern Africa. At the same
time, the government is not afraid to pursue an
independent line, and the country's criticism of human
rights violations is causing some friction in the
region. Relations with South Africa are generally good,
while relations with the affected Zimbabwe are more
Botswana was one of the founders of the regional
cooperation body in 1980 called SADC (Southern African
Development Community) since 1992 and has a secretariat
in Gaborone. Today, the 15 member states have set their
sights on a common market. Botswana is also one of the
five members of the SACU Customs Union, comprising 5 of
the 15 countries. Plans are in place for an expanded
free trade area, which also includes East Africa.
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Botswana for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
The SADC has also decided that member states should
be able to send peacekeeping forces to deal with armed
conflicts in the region. SADC has been criticized for
being toothless, not least in dealing with the crisis in
Zimbabwe. However, Botswana is one of the more critical
voices (see below). The country has also been critical
of the African Union (AU), including for passivity in
connection with the riots in North Africa in 2011 and
the same year's decision not to obey the International
Criminal Court's (ICC) arrest warrant for suspected war
criminals. Botswana has in turn been criticized for lack
of solidarity with other African countries.
South Africa and Zimbabwe
Since independence in 1966, Botswana has had strong
economic ties to South Africa. Previously, political
relations were chilly because of the racial segregation
policy in the neighboring country, but since the
apartheid system was abolished in 1994, consensus is
better. Both countries have taken a similar stance on
regional issues. Both have advocated silent diplomacy
rather than stated demands and sanctions to deal with
the crisis in Zimbabwe, which has been a concern in the
region since the turn of the millennium.
Ian Khama, who took over the presidential post in
Botswana in 2008, has sharpened the tone somewhat
against the government of Zimbabwe. The same year, the
Zimbabwean regime accused Botswana of training and
supporting government-hostile Zimbabwean rebels.
Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai also
received temporary official protection in Botswana.
Khama went against both the AU and the SADC when they
criticized the Zimbabwe elections in 2013 as
undemocratic. Khama said that Botswana will no longer
participate in SADC's observer efforts in elections.
Van Gyre and violence in Zimbabwe have created large
streams of refugees. The large influx of Zimbabweans
since the early 2000s has caused a serious crisis in the
otherwise tranquil Botswana. The mood in the country
against the Zimbabweans is sometimes very fierce: they
are accused of crime, for taking jobs from bots Swans
and for bringing diseases. Botswana sends back many
thousands of Zimbabweans each year, but the refugee
stream continues. New legislation was adopted in 2010 to
try to stop the flow through stricter documentation
requirements and increased inspections of workplaces.
Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans reside illegally in
Disputes with Namibia
Botswana began building an electric fence along the
border with Zimbabwe in 2003, officially to close out
wildlife and livestock with foot-and-mouth disease. Many
felt that the fence would rather stop illegal
The crisis in Zimbabwe is also seen in Botswana as a
threat to the tourism industry, which has been closely
linked to tourism in neighboring countries.
With Namibia, Botswana has disputed an island in the
river Chobe (Linyanti), which forms the border between
the narrow Namibian Zambezi Strip and northern Botswana.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague
decided in 1999 the dispute in Botswana's favor, and in
2003 the countries agreed on the border crossing along
the river. At the end of the 1990s, some 3,000 people
fled from unrest in connection with a separatist
uprising in Caprivi, which the Zambezi Strip was then
called. Most of them returned after UN mediation, but a
few hundred remained. A possible source of conflict
between the countries is also plans in Namibia to divert
water from the Okavango River, which flows through the
Zambezi Strip on its way to Botswana.
Following a UN report on murder, slave labor and mass
violence in North Korea, Botswana broke its diplomatic
relations with the country in February 2014.
Botswana has no military duty. Defense spending has
been relatively high for a country with no apparent
threat, but it has been explained, among other things,
that the military capacity began to be built up only in
the 1970s. Since 2007, women have also been recruited to
the defense. Botswana has contributed peacekeeping
forces in Congo-Kinshasa, Somalia and Darfur in Sudan.
FACTS - DEFENSE
8,500 men (2017)
The air Force
500 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
3.1 percent (2017)
Military spending's share of the state budget
9.2 percent (2017)