Botswana has the highest per capita income in Africa due to prudent and sensible government policies. The country has held democratic elections every five years since independence from Great Britain in 1966. It has a free press and free economy with one of the lowest tax rates in Africa.
According to the International Monetary Fund economic growth averaged over 9% per annum in the period between 1966 - 1999. While present growth has slowed to an estimated 2.9% in 2008, the World Bank cites Botswana as one of the world's great development success stories.
The source of the country's wealth has been predominantly gem diamonds. Diamond mining contributes 34.2% of GDP and 50% of the nation's tax revenues (compared to just 1% of GDP in 1966) and employs approximately 13,000 people.
Botswana is the world's largest producer of diamonds in terms of quality and grade, and the diamonds are mined from several large deposits on the edge of the Kalahari desert. While diamonds are the main source of income, the country also has significant reserves of coal, copper, nickel, cobalt, gold and soda ash. These natural resources are being developed as the government strives to reduce the country's reliance on finite diamond reserves.
Central to this policy of economic diversification is the development of tourism. Conservation policies are designed to maximise the potential socio economic returns from wilderness based tourism while ensuring the sustainable use of these wildlife resources. The preservation of the wild and untouched nature of the country is vital in order to ensure the long term success of the country as a safari destination.
Over 40% of the country is set aside for the purpose of wildlife conservation. The traditional wildlife areas of the country lie to the north of the country anchored by the Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve. The majority of the country's population is found in the east and south east of the country along the edge of the Kalahari sands. The south and west of the country is predominantly arid desert habitat, as it lies in the centre of the Kalahari basin, which itself extends from the northern Cape in South Africa into the Congo and from Zimbabwe west to the Namibian coast. These areas are a mixture of mixed cattle and wildlife ranches and vast protected areas, including the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the trans-frontier Gemsbok National Park.