Novelist and human rights campaigner Unity Dow was appointed a High Court judge in 1998, the first woman to hold the post.
Scholarships for postgraduate study are awarded by Botswana to citizens of other Commonwealth countries under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan.
Botswana was the largest producer of gem-quality diamonds in the world in 2012, a position it has held since it displaced Australia in 1999.
The Republic of Botswana is a large, roughly circular, landlocked plateau in the centre of Southern Africa, bordered by South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Gaborone (capital, pop. 244,900 in 2014), Francistown (104,600 in 2014), Molepolole (66,466 in 2011), Maun (60,263 in 2011), Mogoditshane (58,079 in 2011), Selebi-Phikwe (52,200 in 2014), Serowe (50,820 in 2011), Kanye (47,007 in 2011), Mochudi (44,815 in 2011), Mahalapye (43,298 in 2011), Palapye (37,256 in 2011), Tlokweng (36,323 in 2011), Lobatse (30,700 in 2014), Ramotswa (28,952 in 2011), Thamaga (21,471 in 2011) and Bobonong (19,389 in 2011). Most of Botswana’s main settlements are in the south-east of the country.
There are 25,800km of roads, 33% paved. The north-south highway links South Africa with Zambia. The TransKalahari highway, completed in 1998, links Botswana to Walvis Bay on the Namibian coast, shortening the route between Johannesburg and the Namibian capital, Windhoek, and opening up the hitherto inaccessible western regions of the country.
The 888-km railway line runs north-south along the eastern side of the country from Plumtree in Zimbabwe to the border with South Africa. Exports from Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Southern Africa use this line to reach the South African ports of Durban and Richards Bay. Local railway lines service Botswana’s mining industries.
Air services operate to several regional destinations plus regular domestic flights between Gaborone and Francistown, Maun, Selebi-Phikwe, Ghanzi, Pont Drift and Kasane.
Botswana is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Non-Aligned Movement, Southern African Customs Union, Southern African Development Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization.
Botswana hosts the headquarters of the Southern African Development Community in Gaborone.
The average elevation of the country is 1,000m. To the south-east are hills, the highest being 1,491m Otse Mountain near Lobatse. In the north-west are the Tsodilo Hills, famous for rock-paintings. Also in the north-west, the Okavango river flows into an enormous inland delta, home of a great variety of wildlife. To the north-east is the salt desert of the Makgadikgadi Pans. However, about 85% of the country consists of the tableland of the Kalahari desert, a vast sandveld.
Botswana lies across the Tropic of Capricorn. The climate ranges from semi-arid through subtropical to temperate. Eastern Botswana is temperate, with enough rainfall to support arable farming, but rainfall decreases and temperature range increases westwards and southwards. Summer (October to April) is the rainy season and is very hot. Rainfall varies from 650mm per annum in the east to 230mm in the south-west. May to October is usually dry. In winter the nights can be cold and sometimes frosty, especially in the desert. Mean maximum temperature at Gaborone is 32.5°C. From August, annual seasonal winds cross the Kalahari from the west, raising dust and sandstorms.
The most significant environmental issues are overgrazing, desertification and limited resources of fresh water.
Mostly dry savannah with grasslands and thornbush to semi-desert and some true desert. Acacia, bloodwood and Rhodesian teak trees in the forest in the north-west. Forest covers 20 per cent of the land area, having declined at 0.9 per cent p.a. 1990–2010.
Wildlife is protected in the three national parks and five game reserves, extending to 105,000 sq km or 18.5 per cent of the total land area. The Okavango Delta supports a world-famous variety of water-birds and attracts thousands of animals in the dry season. The Chobe National Park, also in the north, has more than 50,000 elephants. The Gemsbok National Park abuts South Africa’s Kalahari Gemsbok NP, which together make one of the world’s biggest wilderness regions. The country has recorded 164 species of mammals, seven of which are threatened with extinction (2014).