Botswana: Climate risk country profile

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This profile was written by MacKenzie Dove (Senior Climate Change Consultant, WBG). Additional support was provided by Yunziyi Lang (Climate Change Analyst, WBG).


The Republic of Botswana is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, located between 20.0°–29.4° E and 17.8°–26.8° S. The country has a total land area of 600,370 square kilometers (km2) and shares borders with Zambia and Zimbabwe to the northeast, Namibia to the north and west and South Africa to the south and southwest. Botswana has a distinct geography, which is dominated by the Kalahari Desert (a sand-filled basin averaging 1,100 meters (m) above sea level), the Okavango swamps covering over 18,000 km2, and the Zambezi River. Botswana’s climate is arid to semi-arid with warm winters and hot summers and highly erratic rainfall, most of which occurs from October to April. Figure 1 shows the topography for Botswana.

Botswana has had a relatively stable political environment with a multi-party democratic tradition and general elections are held every five years; however, the ruling party, Botswana Democratic Party, (BDP) has been in power since 1966. Botswana has a population of 2.3 million people (2018) with an annual population growth rate of 2.2% and the population is expected to reach 2.8 million by 2030 and 3.4 million in 2050. Around 77% and 84% of Botswana’s population is expected to reside in urban areas by 2030 and 2050, respectively. The country has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $18.6 billion (2018), experiencing an annual growth rate of 4.5% in 2018. Since gaining independence, the country has been one of the world’s fastest growing economies, averaging 5% per annum over the past decade (Table 1). However, Botswana’s unemployment is also among the highest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region at 17.6% (2016), and is above both world and sub-Saharan Africa average rates. It maintains a heavy reliance on international commodities and growth is expected to continue to be driven by mining activities, construction, and the services sector. Significant mineral wealth (diamond), good governance, prudent economic management, and a relatively small population have helped to make Botswana a generally stable and prosperous country since its independence in 1966.

The ND-GAIN Index ranks 181 countries using a score which calculates a country’s vulnerability to climate change and other global challenges as well as their readiness to improve resilience. This Index aims to help businesses and the public sector better identify vulnerability and readiness in order to better prioritize investment for more efficient responses to global challenges. Due to a combination of political, geographic, and social factors, Botswana is recognized as vulnerable to climate change impacts, ranked 94 out of 181 countries in the 2019 ND-GAIN Index. The more vulnerable a country is the lower their score, while the more ready a country is to improve its resilience the higher it will be. Norway has the highest score and is ranked 1st. Figure 2 is a time-series plot of the ND-GAIN Index showing Botswana’s progress.

Botswana is considered highly vulnerable to climate variability and change due to its high dependence on rain-fed agriculture and natural resources, high levels of poverty – particularly in rural areas, and a low adaptive capacity to deal with these expected changes. Primary challenges are centered around water resource availability, changing precipitation patterns and increasing population demands. Climatic and socio-economic environments in semi-arid areas in Botswana make communities vulnerable to food insecurity and unstable livelihoods as well as unsustainable agroecological systems, crop failure and unproductive rangelands.

Botswana submitted its Nationally-Determined Contribution to the UNFCCC in 2016, in support of the country’s efforts to realize its development goals and increase its resilience to climate change, described in the Botswana Climate Change Response Policy. The country published its Third National Communication to the UNFCCC in 2019.

Botswana remains committed to developing a long term, low carbon development strategy and supporting the necessary mitigation and adaptation activities in order to reduce its vulnerability to climate change, and protecting the livelihoods of its population. Key focus is on the sustainability of the environment, water resources, sustainable land management, agriculture, and health sectors.