The earliest inhabitants were the San, or Bushmen, who still wonder the Kalahari Desert today. If you’ve seen the movie The Gods Must be Crazy you’re familiar with these people, or at least Hollywood’s version of them.
In the late 1800’s Botswana (say Boatswana) was under siege from the Zulus, the Boers from South Africa and Cecil Rhodes from Rhodesia, today’s Zimbabwe. The Batsana (the people of Botswana) asked to become a British Protectorate. The British agreed and the relationship held from 1885 until 1966. Since they were receiving no returns on their investments here, the Brits decided to quit subsidizing the country and granted independence. There is some irony that a large source of diamonds was discovered here in 1968.
Today Botswana is a relatively rich country by Africa standards. This independent and now wealthy country chose to keep their diamond resources for the people rather than selling it to the diamond industry that dominates South Africa. Instead they leased rights to mining, keeping 60% of the profits for the people of Botswana and granting 40% to the diamond producers. The result is a 50 year old country with significant infrastructure – public schools, health care, roads, etc. and one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It is one of the few African countries to guarantee freedom of speech, press and religion in its constitution.
Diamonds are the backbone of today’s economy with tourism a close second. The Batswana know their diamonds are a limited resource and they are wisely growing tourism as a sustainable foundation for their economy into the future.