Monetary unit: Botswana Pula
Capital city: Gabarone
Major languages: Setswana 78.2%, Kalanga 7.9%, Sekgalagadi 2.8%, English (official) 2.1%, other 8.6%, unspecified 0.4%
Major religions: Christian 71.6%, Badimo 6%, other 1.4%, unspecified 0.4%, none 20.6%
Ethnic composition: Tswana (or Setswana) 79%, Kalanga 11%, Basarwa 3%, other, including Kgalagadi and white 7%
Age breakdown: 0-14 years: 33.5%; 15-64 years: 62.5%; 65 years and over: 3.9%
Life expectancy: male: 56.93 years ; female: 54.51 years
Education: 8.9% of GDP
Urban/Rural split: urban: 61% of total population; rural population: 39 %
Income per household (USD): -
Broadband internet users (%): -
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica
High value natural resources do not always bring happiness or even wealth to a nation – look at Angola which suffered a 25-year civil war over its diamonds. However, since independence in 1966 Botswana has married careful management of its vast diamond resources to a functioning democracy, a free media, and prudent fiscal policies.
The result has been to lift it from the status of a Least Developed Nation in the 1960s to a Middle Income Nation by the 2000s with a standard of living comparable to that of Mexico and Turkey. It rebounded strongly from the global financial crisis of 2009, posting GDP growth of 7.2% in 2010, 6.4% in 2011, and an expected 4.8% in 2012.
Its PR industry is small but growing. As one agency boss says: “There is a mad scramble to establish agencies in countries like Botswana. Larger networks are partnering with local people to deliver a public relations offering.”
However it is still a largely immature market. As that industry insider continues: “The tendency is to work with media placement agencies or even use ad agency copywriters to develop content which is then placed as paid-for articles. We sometimes find that media owners will only place editorial if there is some sort of investment attached to it.”
Equally, there is a lack of skilled PR professionals, and the absence of a professional body means the development of industry standards remains some way off. Yet, these are teething troubles that all developing markets experience, and in Botswana the combination of a fast-developing economy, a vibrant media scene, and a population that is increasingly digitally connected, makes it likely that in foreseeable future there will be a PR industry that is both larger and more professional.
More and more Batswana are getting online through their mobile phones, but internet penetration remains low. “Local news is still largely propagated through word-of-mouth and print,” says Hisham El-Marazki, the Botswana-based Director of Phoenixpb an international media monitoring agency. “This is because access to the web is limited in many parts of the country. The bandwidth just isn’t there right now, but it'll change dramatically in a few years due to the very recent launch of 3G networks, and the extraordinary expansion and success of the capital Gaberone."
Local brands such as retailer Choppies
and telco Mascom
have been gaining positive editorial coverage in recent months as have regional bank Stanbic Bank and multinational telco Orange.
With Gaberone just a four-hour drive away from Johannesburg, Botswana is increasingly hosting
events and exhibitions by organisers who want to look beyond safe but unoriginal South Africa. In July 2012 Lonrho Hotels opened Lansmore Masa Square, specifically to cater to Gaborone’s fast growing business travel and leisure tourist market.
One agency boss says: “For a small developing country, Botswana is fairly well served for PR professionals. During the mid-1990s many advertising and marketing companies were launched in the country, and more recently these have been followed by PR agencies.”