Botswana business and GoB counterparts tend to be more reserved and formal than in the U.S. business world. Some are distrustful of outsiders. Formality and respect for protocol are valued in Botswana and facilitate good relationships. Respect for elders is important in Botswana culture. The use of first names generally takes longer, and it is a good idea to wait until your contact from Botswana initiates the practice. It is best to re-confirm business meetings 24 hours in advance directly with the person you are to meet. Even carefully arranged meetings may sometimes start late, be cancelled without notice, or be delegated to another person. Business meetings may be interrupted by telephone conversations. Although odd for a U.S. businessperson, these occurrences are not indications of a lack of respect or interest in your business proposal. Business decisions take months or even years in Botswana. In addition, government and businesses often do not take business proposals seriously if they are not provided by an individual or company physically located in Botswana.
As of June 2022, the CDC travel advisory is at Level 3 and recommends “Make sure you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines before traveling to these destinations. If you are not up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, avoid travel to these destinations.”
Visitors coming into Botswana are required to present a vaccination certificate or present a negative COVID test that is not more than 72 hours old if not vaccinated. Visitors should check the Department of State website (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/) for updates when planning to travel.
South Africa which is the commonly used transit to Botswana has lifted the mandatory use of masks in indoor public spaces, removed restrictions on public gatherings, and eased rules for travelers at ports of entry.
A valid U.S. passport is required for entry into Botswana. No visa is required for U.S. citizens staying in Botswana up to 90 days. The GoB maintains some entry restrictions for periods up to a month related to travelers arriving from Ebola affected countries, although these restrictions are not always published.
A work permit is required to work in Botswana, and the previously frustrating process has since improved during President Masisi’s tenure. A company can request a three to five-year exemption for the following top executives of their companies, with support from the Botswana Investment and Trade Center (BITC):
1. Chief Executive Officer
2. Production Manager
3. Technical Manager
4. Operations Manager
5. Sales and Marketing Manager
6. Financial Manager
Approved International Financial Services Centre companies are also permitted to use this process for the following:
1. Chief Executive Officer
2. Head of Treasury
3. Head of Accounting Department
4. Head of Risk Management
U.S. companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should be advised that the issuance of a visa to the United States is not guaranteed and eligibility for a visa under U.S. law is determined by the Consular Officer. Visa applicants should go to the U.S. Embassy Gaborone Consular Section website: https://bw.usembassy.gov/visas/
The Botswana Pula (BWP) is the commonly accepted currency. However, there are a few outlets like gas stations and supermarkets (i.e., Spar, Choppies) that accept the South African Rand and some hotels accept U.S. dollars. Credit and debit cards are accepted in all the major stores, hotels, gas stations, and food outlets. ATMs are also spread across the country in major cities, towns, big villages, hotels, and at the airports, and accept Visa, Maestro, and MasterCard. American Express, Discover, and Diners Club cards are not frequently accepted. Some ATMs disburse Rand notes (i.e., FNB ATM at the Sir Seretse Khama Airport). One can easily exchange foreign currency for local currency through the local banks or currency-exchange agencies.
The Botswana Telecommunications Corporation maintains a de facto monopoly on most voice services and maintains the country’s fixed-line services exclusively. Internet prices have gone down since the telecommunications authority, BOCRA, slashed data costs by 55% and increased data bundle sizes by 200 percent. Internet speed is also improving with the introduction of BoFiNet’s connection of fiber to homes and fiber to businesses. BoFiNet has also set up free internet ‘Hot Spots’ in various public places like malls and airports. DSL service is available. Power runs on 230/240v, 50 Hz using type D, G, and M plugs.
Although major roads are generally in good condition, the combination of long stretches of two-lane highways, unlit highways, traffic lights that are often not working, high speed driving, and the occasional presence of large animals on the roads make for dangerous driving conditions overall. Driving at night on rural highways should be avoided. Taxis are available in towns but are infrequent, unmetered, and are often not present at the airport. Gaborone has several 24-hour door-to-door taxi services, but these can be unreliable. Major hotels provide periodic shuttle bus service to the downtown area but arranging transfers between business appointments is often difficult. Renting a car is recommended for busy appointment schedules in Gaborone. Rental agencies will provide a driver for an additional charge, an option some may wish to consider as cars drive on the left in Botswana. Many roads are currently being revamped in the major city of Gaborone causing traffic jams.
English is the official language of government and business in Botswana. Setswana is the predominant national language and the first language of most Batswana.
Inoculations are not required for visitors to Botswana. Malaria prophylaxis is necessary for those traveling north of Mahalapye, especially in the Central Kalahari, Chobe, Tuli Block, Ngamiland, and northern game parks and reserves, and the Bobirwa area in the east. Tap water in the major towns is generally safe to drink, although it is always safer to drink bottled water. Since the advent of COVID-19, previously adequate medical facilities in Gaborone and Francistown have proven to be far less so as both public and private hospitals ran out of capacity to accommodate patients. Medical facilities beyond Gaborone and Francistown are limited, but medical evacuation services are available at most tourism facilities. Health providers often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the country. Some hospitals in Botswana accept British United Provident Association (BUPA) medical aid cards. Although BUPA is originally a UK based company, it operates in over 190 countries including the United States.
Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays
In 2022, businesses in Botswana will close to observe the following local holidays: January 1 (New Year’s Day), January 3 (Public Holida) April 15 (Good Friday), April 18 (Easter Monday), May 1 (Labor Day), May 2 (Public Holiday) May 26 (Ascension Day), July 1 (Sir Seretse Khama Day), July 18 (President’s Day), July 19 (Public Holiday), September 30 (Botswana Day), December 25 (Christmas Day), December 26 (Observed Holiday) and December 27 (Public Holiday).
Local government/business hours are commonly from 07:30-12:45 and 13:45-16:30. GoB offices typically close at 1:30 p.m. on Fridays.
Many businesses and GoB offices close or operate with minimal staffing in December and January, the week of Easter, and mid-July.
Local time is seven (7) hours ahead of Eastern Time from November-April, and six (6) hours ahead from May-October. Botswana does not observe daylight savings.
Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings
All persons arriving in Botswana are expected to declare all recently purchased goods in their possession to a customs official on a baggage declaration form (Form J). Baggage searches may be conducted to check for illicit goods. Visitors should check for updated guidance on the Government of Botswana’s website.
What You Must Declare:
• All recently purchased goods acquired outside Botswana in one’s possession, including items received as gifts, such as wedding or birthday presents.
• Repairs or alterations to any items or vehicle one took abroad and then brought back, even if the repairs/alterations were performed free of charge.
• Items one bought in any duty-free shop including such items bought duty-free on aircraft or ship.
• Items one is bringing home for someone else.
• Items one intends to sell or use in one’s business.
To Avoid Delays with Baggage Declarations:
• Produce all receipts and sales slips for goods purchased outside Botswana.
• If one is unsure of the goods and values, the GoB instructions are to declare and ask for assistance from the customs officer.
Customs duties are not charged on the following goods imported as accompanied or un-accompanied passengers’ baggage:
• Personal effects, sporting and recreational effects, new or used – imported by non-residents of Botswana for their own use; imported by persons making a bona-fide change of residence to Botswana; exported by residents of Botswana for their own use while abroad and subsequently re-imported by such residents. The goods must be identifiable as those exported from Botswana.
• The following articles and consumables (excluding any goods the importation of which is prohibited), declared at the place where the traveler enters Botswana, and not imported on behalf of other persons or by way of trade, may be admitted free of duty and, where applicable, Value-Added Tax (VAT). Wine - 2 liters, Spirits and other alcoholic beverages - 1 liter, Cigarettes - 200, Cigars - 20, Cigarette or pipe tobacco – 250g, Perfume - 50 ml, Eau de Toilette - 250 ml. Other new or used goods of a total value not exceeding (from outside SACU) - 3000 UA*. Other new or used goods of a total value not exceeding (from SACU) - 500 UA*. (*UA is equivalent to One South African Rand.) Additional goods imported from outside SACU, new or used of a total value not exceeding 12,000 UA* per person, excluding the consumable items detailed above, are admissible at a flat rate of 20%, if the owner so elects.
• Duty will be payable at the applicable rates where travelers import goods exceeding the above allowances. Travelers importing goods for business or commercial purposes will not qualify for the above allowances.
• The concession for new and used goods specified above do not apply to such goods imported by residents of Botswana returning after an absence of less than 48 hours.
• With the exception of those relating to tobacco and alcoholic products, the concessions may be claimed by children under the age of 18 years, whether or not their parents or guardians accompany them, provided the goods are for use by the children themselves.
Travel Related Resources
Government of Botswana website
U.S. Embassy Gaborone: https://bw.usembassy.gov/
U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/
Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana
Botswana Tourism Organization
Botswana Investment and Trade Centre