The economy of Botswana was formerly dependent on the export of live cattle and meat. Since the late 1960s the discovery and exploitation of mineral resources, notably diamonds, have assumed primary importance in export earnings. Income is also derived from the export of labor to South Africa. The estimated budget in 1997 included revenues of $2.2 billion and expenditures of $1.7 billion.
Botswana is the world’s largest supplier of gem-quality diamonds, with two-thirds of production meeting gem standards. Diamonds account for four-fifths of Botswana’s annual export revenue. Some 20 million carats of gem-quality diamonds were extracted in 2000. Prospectors discovered diamonds in northern Botswana in the late 1960s, and the first mine opened at Orapa in 1971, followed by a smaller mine at Letlhakane. What developed into the world’s richest mine opened in Jwaneng in 1982. Important deposits of copper and nickel are in the Selebi-Pikwe area. Much of the nickel and copper produced annually is exported, as is soda ash and small quantities of gold. Of the 943,472 metric tons of coal extracted in 1999, almost all was used inside the country.
A slaughterhouse, opened at Lobatse in 1954, helped to modernize Botswana’s livestock industry. In 2001 the number of cattle was 2.4 million; goats, 2.3 million; and sheep, 370,000.
The currency of Botswana is the pula (5.10 pulas equal U.S.$1; 2000 average). In 2000 Botswana's annual imports cost $2.3 billion; exports earned $2.3 billion in the same year. The country is in a customs union that includes Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland; South Africa is Botswana’s leading trade partner.
Botswana has about 10,217 km (about 6,349 mi) of roads and 888 km (552 mi) of railroads. Air Botswana links major domestic communities and has regularly scheduled flights to foreign cities. The only daily newspaper, the Botswana Daily News, is published by the government and had a circulation of 40,000 in 1996. Radio Botswana, which is also government-controlled, broadcasts in English and Setswana from Gaborone. A commercial radio network was founded in 1992.