A landlocked nation in southern Africa, Botswana shipped an estimated US$5.2 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a -16.5% decrease since 2015 and a -14.4% dip from 2018 to 2019.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 97.1% of products exported from Botswana were bought by importers in: India (21.6% of its global total), Belgium (19.6%), United Arab Emirates (18.2%), South Africa (9.6%), Israel (7.1%), Hong Kong (5.8%), Singapore (5.5%), Switzerland (3.4%), Namibia (3%), United States (1.5%), Vietnam (1.1%) and Zimbabwe (0.7%).
From a continental perspective, 59.8% of Botswana’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 24.1% were sold to importers in Europe. Botswana shipped another 14.2% worth of goods to fellow trade partners in Africa. Smaller percentages went to North America (1.9%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.01%) then Oceania Australia and New Zealand only (0.005%).
Given Botswana’s population of 2.38 million people, its total $5.2 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $2,200 for every resident in the southern African country.
Botswana’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Batswana global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export cateitsgory represents in terms of overall exports from Botswana.
- Gems, precious metals: US$4.8 billion (91.4% of total exports)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $104.1 million (2%)
- Meat: $61.2 million (1.2%)
- Machinery including computers: $39.5 million (0.8%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $33.6 million (0.6%)
- Vehicles: $31 million (0.6%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $19.4 million (0.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $18.3 million (0.3%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $15.3 million (0.3%)
- Iron, steel: $11.3 million (0.2%)
Botswana’s top 10 exports are highly concentrated, accounting for 97.8% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Two top product categories expanded in exports-generated revenue from 2019 to 2019, namely mineral fuels including oil (up 35.7%) and iron and steel (up 29.2%).
The leading decliner among Botswana’s top 10 export categories was salt, sulphur, stone and cement thanks to a -50.9% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, unmounted diamonds represent Botswana’s most valuable exported product at 90.6% of the country’s total. In second place was insulated wire or cable (1.7%) trailed by gold (0.8%), carbonates and percarbonates (0.6%), frozen beef (0.6%), fresh or chilled beef (also 0.6%), table or denatured salts plus pure sodium chloride (0.4%), coal (0.3%) then plastic tubes, pipes and fittings (0.2%).
Overall Botswana generated an estimated -$1.3 billion trade deficit for 2019,reversing a $201.1 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.
- Gems, precious metals: US$2.9 billion (Down by -24.8% since 2018)
- Meat: $49.7 million (Down by -39.5%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $21.2 million (Down by -31.6%)
- Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $6.2 million (Up by 109.1%)
- Live animals: $1.7 million (Reversing a -$5.2 million deficit)
- Woodpulp: $851,000 (Reversing a -$614,000 deficit)
- Special woven/tufted fabric, embroidery: $444,000 (Down by -72.9%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $407,000 (Down by -78.2%)
- Vegetable plaiting materials: -$5,000 (Reversing a -$2,000 deficit)
- Cork, articles of cork: -$61,000 (Reversing an -$82,000 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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$808 million (Up by 7.4% since 2018)
- Vehicles: -$533.7 million (Up by 32.3%)
- Machinery including computers: -$402.6 million (Down by -6.5%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$268.8 million (Up by 31.4%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$150.9 million (Up by 41.8%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: -$149.7 million (Up by 38.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$119.4 million (Up by 22.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$116.8 million (Up by 31.3%)
- Cereals: -$108.5 million (Up by 19.8%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: -$80.9 million (Up by 30.7%)
Botswana has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category–mainly for 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)
In macroeconomic terms, Botswana’s total exported goods represent 11.9% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($44.1 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 11.9% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 10.7% for 2018. Those percentages suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Botswana’s total economic performance albeit based on a relatively short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Botswana’s average unemployment rate was 18.2% for 2019 up from 17.9% one year earlier, according to the International Monetary Fund.
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 10 Exports and Capital Facts for Gaborone, Botswana
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on July 17, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 17, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 17, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 17, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 17, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 17, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Botswana. Accessed on July 17, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 17, 2020