Botswana’s 3 biggest exported goods are unset diamonds, insulated wire or cable, and gold. Collectively, those top exported products represent 91.2% of the total value for Botswanan exports during 2020. That percentage indicates a highly concentrated portfolio of international trade commodities.
Botswana’s Major Trading Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that 98% of products exported from Botswana were bought by importers in: United Arab Emirates (21.5% of the global total), Belgium (21.4%), India (21%), South Africa (13.4%), Singapore (6.1%), Israel (4.9%), Hong Kong (4.4%), Namibia (1.6%), United States (1.4%), Zambia (0.9%), Switzerland (0.8%) and Zimbabwe (also 0.8%).
From a continental perspective, 58.8% of Botswana’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 22.8% were sold to importers in Europe. Botswana shipped another 16.9% worth of goods to fellow African nations.
Tinier percentages went to North America (1.5%), Oceania Australia and New Zealand only (0.02%) and Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.01%).
Given Botswana’s population of 2.346 million people, its total $4.26 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $1,800 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 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Botswana.
- Gems, precious metals: US$3.8 billion (89.3% of total exports)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $98.8 million (2.3%)
- Machinery including computers: $44.2 million (1%)
- Live animals: $40.1 million (0.9%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $40 million (0.9%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $26.4 million (0.6%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $24.5 million (0.6%)
- Vehicles: $23.8 million (0.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $23 million (0.5%)
- Meat: $19.5 million (0.5%)
Botswana’s top 10 exports accounted for 97.3% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Ores, slag and ash was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 8,702% from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for improving export sales were live animals via a 484% gain.
Botswana’s shipments of salt, sulphur, stone and cement posted the third-fastest increase in value up by 26.3%.
The leading decliner among Botswana’s top 10 export categories was the meat category thanks to its -68.1% 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 88.2% of the country’s total. In second place was insulated wire or cable (1.9%) trailed by unwrought gold (1.1%), live bovine cattle (0.9%), carbonates and percarbonates (0.9%), copper ores or concentrates (0.6%), salts and pure sodium chloride (0.6%), coal (0.4%) and frozen beef (0.3%).
The following types of Botswanan 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$1.8 billion (Down by -38.5% since 2019)
- Live animals: $34.8 million (Up by 1,889%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $25.9 million (Up by 22.1%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $25.5 million (Reversing a -$249,000 deficit)
- Meat: $8.5 million (Down by -82.8%)
- Gums, resins, other vegetable saps: $2.7 million (Down by -56.5%)
- Woodpulp: $640,000 (Down by -24.8%)
- Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $79,000 (Down by -80.6%)
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.
Overall Botswana generated an estimated -$2.2 billion trade deficit for 2020, up by 70.2% from -$1.3 billion in red ink one year earlier.
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$831.8 million (Up by 3% since 2019)
- Vehicles: -$523.3 million (Down by -1.9%)
- Machinery including computers: -$346.1 million (Down by -14%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$237.6 million (Down by -11.6%)
- Cereals: -$142.3 million (Up by 31.2%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$114.8 million (Down by -23.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$113.4 million (Down by -5%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: -$109.1 million (Down by -27.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$97.2 million (Down by -16.8%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$83.6 million (Up by 18.5%)
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 10.7% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($39.6 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 10.7% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 11.9% for 2019. 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 23.3% for 2020, up from an average 18.2% one year earlier according to Trading Economics.
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 Diamond Imports by Country
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on August 25, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 25, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on August 25, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on August 25, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 25, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on August 25, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Botswana. Accessed on August 25, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on August 25, 2021