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Key findings
  • More than half (56%) of Batswana consider pollution a “somewhat serious” or “very serious” problem in their community. o Two-thirds of Batswana (67%) say that trash disposal is the most important environmental issue in their community. o Almost nine in 10 citizens (87%) say plastic bags are a major source of pollution in Botswana.
  • Three-fourths (76%) of Batswana say ordinary citizens bear primary responsibility for reducing pollution and keeping their communities clean. Far fewer assign this task primarily to the national (13%) or local (3%) government.
  • While 56% of respondents think the government is doing a good job of protecting the environment, a far larger majority (87%) say it should be doing more on this issue.
  • However, if environmental protection conflicts with economic development, a majority (57%) of Batswana say the government should prioritise creating jobs and increasing incomes.
  • By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, Batswana say the benefits of natural resource extraction outweigh its environmental costs.
  • However, most (88%) say the government should regulate the industry more tightly to reduce its damaging impacts on the environment.

Botswana’s abundant wildlife, unique landscapes – from deserts to one of the world’s largest  deltas, the Okavango – and low crime rate have made it one of Africa’s most popular tourist  destinations. Tourism contributed an estimated 8% of gross domestic product in 2021 (World  Travel & Tourism Council, 2022). 

But the country’s economic cornerstone is still diamond mining, which makes up about 85%  of the country’s foreign earnings (International Trade Administration, 2022). Along with  copper, cobalt, silver, and other minerals, diamonds have played a critical role in enabling  Botswana to climb from poor to high-middle-income status as mining revenues funded infrastructure and stabilised the country’s economy (International Monetary Fund, 2022).  

Building wealth, mining has also fuelled urbanisation and development that contribute to  Botswana’s environmental challenges, including the management of scarce water  resources; the collection and disposal of household and hazardous waste; and air pollution,  especially in urban and mining areas (Government of Botswana, 2022; Wiston, 2017; United  Nations Development Programme, 2023). 

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9  questionnaire that explores citizens’ experiences and perceptions of pollution, environmental  governance, and natural resource extraction. 

In Botswana, a majority of citizens consider pollution a serious problem in their community  and cite trash disposal as their most important environmental issue. Most see it as the responsibility of ordinary citizens to reduce pollution, but they also expect much greater effort  by the government to protect the environment – though not at the cost of jobs and incomes. 

While their perceptions of natural resource extraction are more positive than negative,  Batswana overwhelmingly favour tighter government regulation of the industry to reduce its  damaging impacts on the environment.  

Marcelline Amouzou

Marcelline Amouzou is a PhD student in political science at the University of Florida.