Migrants, Multiculture

Gaborone: a rough diamond

Gaborone, one of the youngest and most modern cities in Africa, is the capital city of Botswana.  It is also one of the smallest cities, with a population of just 200,000 inhabitants (a total of 10% of the country’s entire population).


Julio Hernández


This city, situated on the south of the continent and roughly 1000 metres above sea level, began its construction in 1965. Within 3 years, the city had essentially taken to its feet and was home to the main government buildings, the Parliament, the commercial district, a hospital, schools, various police stations and a post office.

At this time there were only a few thousand living quarters, the majority of which belonged to people from low-income backgrounds who worked at factories in the new urban area. These days, the city’s inhabitants are scattered amongst the remote suburbs, and many people live up to 100km the city, 50% of the country’s population in fact.

This rapid growth is largely due to the development of the mining industry, and in particular to the large sites which have transformed this young African country into the main producer of high quality gemstones in the world.

Since the Orapa diamond mine began production in 1971, Gaborone has slowly transformed itself and from the beginning of the 1990s, their diamonds have been a crucial aspect of the national economy.

These precious rocks provide an annual income greater than 3 billion dollars for Botswana. The mining industry as a whole (also including copper, gold and nickel) provides 50% of the national state income.

Thanks to its mineral exports, this country has gone from being one of the poorest countries in the world at the time of its independence in 1966, to possessing a gross national income per capita of almost 8000 dollars annually. The Notwane river is one of the major tributaries of the Limpopo river, which originates at the edge of the Kalahari desert and stretches 1750km until its estuary in the Indian ocean, by the harbour port, Xia-Xia, in Mozambique.

Situated just 12km south of the urban perimeter is the ‘Mokolodi Nature Reserve’ which is home to a wide variety of species such as zebras, giraffes, wild boars, ostriches, rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses.

There is another nature reserve situated towards the East where visitors can see African antelopes and Wildebeestes as well as a large variety of birds. There is also the St. Claire Lion Park which shows its visitors a wide variety of these creatures.

Gaborone is also home to the University of Botswana, and many other institutions of higher education, as well as a big hospital and modern polyclinics scattered all over the city. Education and public health are two of the sectors which have been prioritised in the government’s budget. One of the biggest problems affecting this South African country is the HIV epidemic. This has already taken thousands of lives and has spread to around one third of the total population.

In recent years, thanks to the government’s investment in health, the country has been able to improve some of the statistics with regards to this illness, such as the number of children infected by their mothers.

Gaborone is only 15km from the South African border, and both Pretoria and Johannesburg are only a few hours distance along the motorway which connects them.

Gaborone was the target of armed raids in the mid 1980s, carried out by the security forces of the Apartheid regime, who in June 1985 murdered 13 exiled members of the African National Congress (ANC

The closest South African ports for exporting minerals however, are more than a thousand kilometres away, and in the case of the port in Cabo, more than 7000 kilometres away.

Gaborone is often referred to as ‘Gabs’ by the city’s inhabitants.  In spite of all these problems, it will continue being a city in the process of growth and development for many years to come.

(Rebecca Thompson – Email: beckyt677@gmail.com) – Photos: Pixabay

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