Sparsely populated, Botswana protects some of Africa’s largest areas of wilderness. Safari-based tourism – tightly-controlled and often upmarket – is an important source of income.
Botswana is the world’s largest producer of diamonds and the trade has transformed it into a middle-income nation.
The country has had its share of problems: It once had the world’s highest rate of HIV-Aids infection. UN figures for 2014 suggest that for adults aged 15 to 49 the prevalence rate is 25%.
The country has one of Africa’s most-advanced treatment programmes, however, and medicine for the virus is readily available.
President: Seretse Khama Ian Khama
Seretse Khama Ian Khama – the son of Sir Seretse Khama, Botswana’s first post-independence leader – took over as president in April 2008.
He was the chosen successor of Festus Mogae, who stepped down at the end of his second term, after a decade at the helm.
Mr Ian Khama secured a five-year term in October 2009 after his governing Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) party swept to victory in a parliamentary election, and in August 2014 polls he gained a second term when his party gained the most seats.
Critics describe him as authoritarian while supporters say he is decisive and efficient. His no-nonsense approach has made him popular abroad as he has broken ranks with regional leaders’ timid approach to join international criticism of democratic abuses by Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe.
Born in the UK while his father was in exile, Mr Ian Khama is a graduate of Sandhurst officer training college in Britain and was the commander of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) before becoming vice president in 1998.
His ruling Botswana Democratic Party has governed since independence in 1966.
Botswana has a long tradition of lively and unimpeded public debate, although opposition leaders have claimed that the government limits their ability to broadcast freely on the radio.
There is a “free and vigorous” press in cities and towns, says US-based NGO Freedom House.
State-run TV arrived with the launch of Botswana Television (BTV) in 2000. Satellite pay TV is available.
Some key dates in Botswana’s history:
1867 – European gold prospectors arrive, mining begins. In 1885, British proclaim a protectorate called Bechuanaland.
1950 – Chief of the Ngwato, Seretse Khama, is deposed and exiled by the British.
1960 – Britain approves new constitution for Bechuanaland. Executive Council, Legislative Council and African Council are established. The following year, Seretse Khama is appointed to Executive Council and later founds the Bechuanaland Democratic Party (BDP), which is eventually renamed the Botswana Democratic Party. He becomes prime minister in 1965.
1966 – Bechuanaland is granted independence and becomes Republic of Botswana with Seretse Khama as president.
1967– Diamonds discovered at Orapa.
1999-2008 – Presidency of Festus Mogae – praised for diversifying Botswana’s economy to reduce its dependence on diamonds.
2004 – HIV infection rate falls to 37.5%; Botswana no longer has the world’s highest rate of infection.
2008 – Seretse Khama Ian Khama takes over as president.
2010 – Human rights group Survival International calls for a boycott of Botswanan diamonds, accusing the government of trying to force Basarwa bushmen away from their ancestral lands.
2014 – Gay rights group wins legal recognition.
source: BBC News