Botswana’s Top 10 Exports

Botswana flag

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A landlocked nation in southern Africa, Botswana shipped US$6.6 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a -17% decrease since 2014 but an 11.4% uptick from 2017 to 2018.

The latest available country-specific data shows that 96.1% of products exported from Botswana were bought by importers in: Belgium (20.8% of the global total), India (20%), United Arab Emirates (14.5%), South Africa (9.2%), Singapore (8%), Israel (7.8%), Hong Kong (5.7%), United States (3.3%), Namibia (2.7%), Switzerland (2.5%), United Kingdom (0.8%) and Canada (0.7%).

From a continental perspective, 57.2% of Botswana exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 25% were sold to European importers. Botswana shipped another 13.7% worth of goods to Africa. Smaller percentages went to North American (4%), Oceania (0.02%) mostly Australia, then Latin America (0.001%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.

Given Botswana’s population of 2.25 million people, its total $6.6 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $2,900 for every resident in the southern African country.

In macroeconomic terms, Botswana’s total exported goods represent 10.7% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($41.9 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 10.7% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 12.5% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Botswana’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Botswana also provided $1.05 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 2.5% of GDP in PPP.

Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Botswana’s unemployment rate was projected to be 18.75% at June 2018 up from 18.6% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.

Botswana’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Batswana global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Botswana.

  1. Gems, precious metals: US$6 billion (90.6% of total exports)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: $140 million (2.1%)
  3. Meat: $94.9 million (1.4%)
  4. Machinery including computers: $48.5 million (0.7%)
  5. Inorganic chemicals: $46.2 million (0.7%)
  6. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $41.4 million (0.6%)
  7. Vehicles: $38.9 million (0.6%)
  8. Plastics, plastic articles: $24.1 million (0.4%)
  9. Aircraft, spacecraft: $19.5 million (0.3%)
  10. Books, newspapers, pictures: $17.7 million (0.3%)

Botswana’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated, accounting for 97.8% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Books, newspapers, pictures: was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 2,033% since 2017.

In second place for improving export sales was salt, sulphur, stone and cement thanks to a 108.4% increase.

Botswana’s shipments of vehicles posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 48.2%.

The leading decliner among Botswana’s top 10 export categories was aircraft and spacecraft which fell -32.1% year over year.

At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, unset diamonds represent Botswana’s most valuable exported product at 89.9% of the country’s total. In second place was insulated wire or cable (1.8%) trailed by frozen beef (0.8%), carbonates and percarbonates (0.7%), unwrought gold (0.7%), fresh or chilled beef (0.7%), table or denatured salts plus pure sodium chloride (0.6%) then aircraft and spacecraft (0.3%).


Overall Botswana generated a $404 million trade surplus for 2018, down -34.2% from a $613.9 million surplus one year earlier.

The following types of Batswana product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Gems, precious metals: US$4.2 billion (Up by 4.5% since 2017)
  2. Meat: $82.1 million (Up by 9.7%)
  3. Inorganic chemicals: $34 million (Down by -2%)
  4. Ores, slag, ash: $6.7 million (Up by 97.9%)
  5. Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $2.9 million (Up by 165.4%)
  6. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $2.1 million (Down by -41.3%)
  7. Special woven/tufted fabric, embroidery: $1.7 million (Up by 247.4%)
  8. Books, newspapers, pictures: $1.3 million (Reversing a -$13.5 million deficit)

Botswana has highly positive net exports in the international trade of diamonds and, to a lesser extent, gold. In turn, these cashflows indicate Botswana’s strong competitive advantages under the gems and precious metals category.


Below are exports from Botswana that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Botswana’s goods trail Batswana imports.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: -US$820.5 million (Up by 6.6% since 2017)
  2. Machinery including computers: -$428.0 million (Up by 24.3%)
  3. Vehicles: -$398.1 million (Up by 29.1%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$201.6 million (Up by 15.0%)
  5. Articles of iron or steel: -$113.8 million (Up by 18.5%)
  6. Pharmaceuticals: -$100.9 million (Down by -37.8%)
  7. Cereals: -$99.2 million (Up by 12.4%)
  8. Plastics, plastic articles: -$95.7 million (Up by 25.2%)
  9. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: -$86.9 million (Down by -11.6%)
  10. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$79.9 million (Up by 24.5%)

Botswana has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category–mainly refined petroleum oils.


Batswana Export Companies

No Batswana corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000.

Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Botswana. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Botswana Meat Commission (food)
  • Botswana Railways (industrial transportation)
  • Botswana Telecommunications Corp. (telecommunications)
  • Debswana (diamonds, coal)
  • MASCOM (mobile phones)


Botswana’s capital city is Gaborone, nicknamed “Gabs” and named after Chief Gaborone of the native Tlôkwa tribe.

See also Diamond Exports by Country, Belgium’s Top Trading Partners and Capital Facts for Gaborone, Botswana

Research Sources:
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 27, 2018

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 21, 2019

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on June 27, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 21, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 27, 2018

Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 21, 2019

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Botswana. Accessed on June 27, 2018

Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 21, 2019