To mark our 50th Anniversary as an independent republic here is a list of 50 things past and present you might not know about Botswana.
1) Whereas from 1966 to 1996 Botswana enjoyed the world’s highest economic growth rate, previously under British overrule real income had declined.
2) From 1966-2006 Botswana enjoyed one of the world’s highest rates of human development in terms of such indicators as expanded provision of education, training and health services.
3) Botswana has surpassed its 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target for achieving universal access to basic education and classroom gender equality.
4) Botswana is also on target to achieve its health related MDGS of reducing child and maternal mortality and combating HIV/AIDS and malaria.
5) During the 1920’s Bangwaketse pioneered the creation of a universal health service, two decades before the British NHS.
6) In the 1950s, through the efforts of Dr. Alfred Merriweather, Botswana residents became the first people in the world to be totally inoculated with penicillin.
7) 2002, Botswana successfully launched Africa’s first national anti-retroviral (ARV) Programme.
8) Local Batswana, in communication with early European visitors, are credited with establishing the link between the Tsetse fly and African Animal Trypanosomosis.
9) Botswana’s eastern border with South Africa has not changed since the mid-19th century, originally being the eastern boundaries of the Bakwena, Bangwaketse and Bangwato kingdoms.
10) The border also marks where the so-called “Great Trek” came to a halt after Batswana led by Kgosi Sechele in 1852-53 became the first black Africans to defeat the Transvaal Boers by using firearms.
11) Bakwena regiments adopted modern conical bullets before the militaries of America, Britain and Russia among others.
12) In the mid-19th century Botswana was a major exporter of ivory, ostrich feathers and other wildlife products.
13) With 25% of the country occupied by Game Parks and Reserves and another 20% in wildlife management areas, Botswana is a global leader in wildlife protection and combating the illegal wildlife trade.
14) The 2012 Gaborone Declaration forged a multinational commitment in favour of natural capital accounting.
15) Botswana’s hospitality and tourism industry employs over 35,000 citizens.
16) The Okavango Delta is the 1000th UNESCO World Heritage Site
17) So much ivory once came out of the Okavango that it was believed to be the location of a mythical “elephants graveyard”.
18) Today Botswana is the home of the world’s largest elephant population, estimated to number between 150-200,000.
19) Rudyard Kipling’s popular children’s story about how the elephant got its trunk is set in “Khama’s Country”.
20) Bechuanaland is a setting for two Jules Verne novels: “Meridiana” (1872) and “The Vanished Diamond (Star of the South)” (1884).
21) Over the last three decades, Botswana has been the world’s leading producer of gem diamonds by value.
22) DeBeers diamonds from around the world are aggregated and sold in Gaborone.
23) Botswana has loaned money (with interest) to the World Bank.
24) Botswana has one of the highest per capita incomes of any landlocked country outside of Europe.
25) Botswana ranks above most European countries in its percentage of females serving in senior positions in the public and private sectors, while also being among the countries where females are in the majority in professional and technical employment.
26) In 1933 Botswana became the only landlocked country ever invaded by the British navy when Admiral Evans led sailors and marines to Serowe to depose Kgosi Tshekedi Khama.
27) The South African Communist Party responded to Evan’s expedition by calling for an independent “Republic of Botsoana”.
28) A 1934 film production based on Evan’s expedition, titled “Black Land”,
29) The earliest known filmmaker in Botswana was Rudolf Pöch, an Austrian who from 1907-09 filmed local Khoe (Basarwa).
30) The Oscar winning film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was inspired by the controversy surrounding the marriage of Seretse and Ruth Khama.
It starred the Khama’s sometime London guest, Sidney Poitier.
31) Poitier also starred in the 1975 anti-apartheid action thriller “The Wilby Conspiracy”, which climaxes in Botswana with local villagers stopping Apartheid agents from arresting the leader of the “Black Congress”.
32) The exiled wing of the ANC, along with the MK, was launched in Lobatse in November 1962.
33) This week Gaborone is hosting the Africa premier of “A United Kingdom” a major film studio depiction of the persecution of Seretse and Ruth Khama, directed by Amma Asante and starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. The screenplay is by Guy Hibbert, based on the book “Colour Bar” by Susan Williams.
34) As “British protected persons” before 1966 Batswana such as Seretse Khama could be detained or banished indefinitely without legal recourse.
35) Botswana’s first ambassador to the United Nations, Z.K. Matthews, is known as the father of the Freedom Charter.
36) “Fatshe la Rona” composer K.T. Motsete was the first local Motswana to be awarded an overseas tertiary education scholarship; he studied theology and music in London in the 1920s.
37) K.T. Motsete helped found of the Nyasaland (Malawi) African Congress (1944), as well as the Serowe based Progressive Party (1931), the Bamangwato National Congress (1952), the Bechuanaland Protectorate Federal Party (1958), and the Bechuanaland People’s Party (1960).
38) The first Setswana printing press began publishing in 1830.
39) The first Setswana newspaper, “Molekoli ua Becuana”, appeared in 1856, followed by “Mokaeri oa Becwana le Muleri oa Makuku”, in 1857.
40) Also in 1857, Setswana became the first Bantu language to have a full Bible translation. The earliest known Setswana history book “Dinwao leha e le dipolelo kga Dico tsa Secwana” was published in 1902.
41) The first public radio service in Botswana began broadcasting in 1936; it started a Setswana news service during the Second World War.
42) In World War II just over 10,000 Batswana enlisted in the African Pioneer Corps, while at least 3,500 Batswana fought in World War I.
43) From 1914 to 1930 the Caprivi Strip was administered as part of the Bechuanaland Protectorate.
44) Bangwato gunners helped save the US 5th Army in the 1943 Battle of Salarno.
45) Camels came to Botswana in March 1908 when a German camel corps of some 600 men invaded the Kgalagadi District in pursuit of the Nama leader Simon Cooper.
46) Senang Ditsela (born before 1820, died 1945) was the oldest known human being of the 20th century. In the 1930s he was interviewed by the BBC, SABC, and NBC (USA) among others.
47) Hawaii is opposite Botswana on the globe. In 1966 the then Governor of Hawaii represented the USA at Botswana’s independence.
48) Dikgosi Bathoen I, Khama III and Sebele I visited Britain in September–November 1895, over a decade after the 1885 British proclamation of their Protectorate.
49) Charles Warren, the British General who in 1885 formally informed Batswana of the British Protectorate, went on to become London’s Police Chief, where he is remembered for failing to apprehend “Jack the Ripper’.
50) Before 1966 the 30th of September was celebrated as “Protectorate Day”.