Since its independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, Botswana has been governed by the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which was founded by Sir Seretse Khama, the first President of the country. The country’s judicial sector is independent and efficient, the freedom of the media is guaranteed. The HIV/AIDS epidemic poses a national problem, with around 22% of the total population being infected according to official figures by UNAIDS from 2015. However, over the last years the infection rate has been declining, in particular amongst the younger population.
50th anniversary of independence
Botswana celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence. One part of the countrywide celebrations took place in the Botswana National Stadium in Gaborone.
The bilateral relations between Botswana and Austria are trouble-free and have recently been gaining momentum. Since 1967, Botswana has been covered by the Austrian Embassy in Pretoria, which is supported by an Honorary Consulate in Gaborone. A total of about 18 Austrians live in Botswana. Botswana is represented in Austria by its Honorary Consulate in Vienna. Ambassador Öppinger-Walchshofer presented her credentials to President Seretse Khama Ian Khama on 12 September 2013. In 2015, Austria and Botswana agreed to intensify their bilateral cooperation in the areas of tourism and the training of young diplomats. The latter was be conducted by the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna. In April 2016, a presidential task team from Botswana paid a visit to Austria, particularly in order to study the Austrian system of social partnership, which could be a source of impetus for Botswana.
The Austrian exports amounted to EUR 1.26 million in 2016 and consisted mainly of lorries, machinery, measuring instruments, medical devices, whereas imports stood at EUR 0.16 million consisting predominantly of inorganic chemicals, meat and measuring instruments. In order to promote bilateral investment between Austria and Botswana, Austria proposed the conclusions of a bilateral investment protection agreement in February 2015.
SOS Children's Villages operates three Children's Villages (Gaborone, Serowe and Francistown), two youth centers and two kindergartens in Botswana. In 2016 Botswana has become a new partner of the Austrian Development Cooperation and is now participating in the Soltrain (Southern African Solar Thermal Training and Demonstration Initiative) Project, a regional initiative on capacity building and demonstration of solar thermal systems in the SADC region. The project is financed jointly by the Austrian Development Agency and the Opec Fund for International Development.
Botswana is a member of UNESCO since 1980. The most important cultural institution is the National Museum in Gaborone, which includes the National Gallery. Austrian sculptor Christiane Stolhofer, who lives and works in Maun, presented her wooden artwork in Botswana and South Africa on several occasions. Ms. Stolhofer also led wooden art workshops for local artists (see above). The artist uses hardwoods from southern Africa for her works, as well as silver and bronze. In 2016 her artwork could be admired at the Duba Plains Camp of the sustainable tourism company Great Plains Conservation in Botswana.