Districts of Botswana

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ISO 3166-2 Newsletter number I-5, dated 2003-09-05, shows a change in the divisions of Botswana. Chobe and Ngamiland [North-West] have been replaced by just North-West. The source for this change is information received from the Botswana Department of Surveys and Mapping, dated 2001. The simplest conclusion would be that Chobe and Ngamiland merged to form North-West in ~2001. The capital of North-West is Maun.

ISO 3166-2 reflected further changes in an update dated 2014-10-29. It added codes for a district, two cities, and four towns. The U.S. government had already made those changes in its two standards: Geopolitical Entities and Codes (GEC) and Geopolitical Entities, Names, and Codes (GENC). GEC is the successor to the FIPS standard; GENC is the U.S. version of ISO 3166-2. Both of the relevant updates (GEC Update 15 and GENC's second edition) were dated 2014-03-31, scooping the ISO standard by about seven months. The main table below has been updated to match, in the light of this and other evidence. (The latest ISO update also changed hyphens to spaces in some names, e.g., "North-West" to "North West.")

FIPS Publication Change Notice No. 10, affecting FIPS PUB 10-4, was issued on 2006-03-23. It assigns a GEC code to North-West district.

Country overview: 

Short nameBOTSWANA
ISO codeBW
GEC codeBC
LanguagesEnglish (en), Setswana (tn)
Time zone+2


Bechuanaland was a British protectorate at the beginning of the 20th century. It became independent, and took the name Botswana, on 1966-09-30. Its borders have remained almost the same.

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: Botswana
  2. Dutch: Botswana, Republiek Botswana (formal)
  3. English: Republic of Botswana (formal), Bechuanaland (obsolete)
  4. Finnish: Botswana
  5. French: Botswana m
  6. German: Botsuana, Botswana n
  7. Icelandic: Botsvana
  8. Italian: Botswana f
  9. Norwegian: Botswana, Republikken Botswana (formal)
  10. Portuguese: Botswana, Botsuana, República f do Botswana m (formal)
  11. Russian: Республика Ботсвана (formal)
  12. Spanish: Botsuana, República f de Botswana (formal), Bechuania (obsolete)
  13. Swedish: Botswana
  14. Turkish: Botsvana Cumhuriyeti (formal)

Origin of name: 

Land of the Bechuana, or Tswana (ethnic name)

Primary subdivisions: 

Botswana is divided into ten districts, four town councils, and two city councils.

Selibe PhikwetBW.SPSPBC1749,4115019
South EastdBW.SRSEBC0985,0141,780685
Sowa TowntBW.STSTBC183,59815961
  • Typ: c = city, d = district, t = town
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
  • ISO: Codes from ISO 3166-2. For full identification in a global
    context, prefix "BW-" to the code (ex: BW-LO represents Lobatse).
    The GENC standard uses the same codes.
  • GEC: Codes from GEC.
  • Population: 2011-08-09 census.


Note: the 2011 census report says that two localities in Ghanzi were not enumerated. Their estimated population was 228.

Further subdivisions:

See the Sub-districts of Botswana page.

In addition to the districts, there are town councils and townships. These entities seem to change frequently. Some sources place them on the same level with the districts. I have classed them as subordinate to the districts. So do the standards.

Some of the districts are subdivided into census districts. In most countries, census districts are inherently variable. They are redrawn for each new census. For the 1991 census, these four districts had smaller census districts within them (source [3]).

  1. Central: Central Mahalapye, Serowe-Palapye, Central Bobonong, Central Boteti, Central Tutume
  2. Kgalagadi: Kgalagadi-South, Kgalagadi-North
  3. North-West: Ngamiland South, Ngamiland North, Chobe
  4. Southern: Ngwaketse, Barolong

Territorial extent: 

  1. Central includes the town councils or townships of Mahalapye, Orapa, Palapye, Selebi-Phikwe, Serowe, and Sowa.
  2. North-East includes the town council of Francistown.
  3. South-East includes the town councils of Gaborone and Lobatse.
  4. Southern includes the town councils of Barolong and Jwaneng.

The UN LOCODE page  for Botswana lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Change history: 

  1. 1885-09-30: British protectorate established over Bechuanaland. By 1890, its territory was equivalent to present-day Botswana. A map for the period 1885-1899 shows the protectorate divided into tribal reserves, crown lands, and freehold districts. The crown lands are in two sections. One is roughly the same as present-day Ghanzi and Kgalagadi; the other includes parts of North-West and Central. The tribal reserves are BaTawana (now the western part of North-West), BamaNgwato (most of Central), BaKgatla (Kgatleng), BaKwena (Kweneng), BaLete (part of South-East), and BaNgwaketse (Southern). The freehold districts are Tati District (North-East), Gaberones Block, Lobatsi Block (both South-East), BaRolong Farms (a small part of Southern), and one which is unlabeled but matches the Tuli Block (Central) (source [2]). The protectorate remained divided into eight tribal reserves, five farm blocks, and crown lands into the 1930s (source [4]).
  2. ~1955: Name of Mochudi district changed to Kgatleng. (My evidence is that source [5] has a list of districts with their 1946 populations, in which Mochudi corresponds directly to Kgalagadi in source [6].)
  3. The Encyclopædia Britannica World Atlas 1957 edition (source [6]) lists the following divisions of Bechuanaland.
DistrictGECPop-1946Pop-1936Area (mi.²)
KgatlengBC0620,207 3,600
12 districts296,310265,756274,517
  • Pop-1946: 1946-05-07 census. Total includes
    282 residents of Mafeking, South Africa, then
    the administrative center of Bechuanaland.
  • Pop-1936: 1936 census. Source: 1951
    Encyclopædia Britannica World Atlas.
  • GEC: U.S. DoD codes (from a later date).
  1. Gabecones is a misprint for Gaberones. Tuli should be Tuli Block, a strip running along the Limpopo River and now contained in Central district. Note: the GEC codes come from a document dated 1972-09-29, which lists the names of districts as they stood then.
  2. ~1961: Name of Tati district changed to Francistown.
  3. 1965: Capital moved from Mafeking, South Africa, to Gaberones.
  4. 1966-09-30: Bechuanaland Protectorate became independent, and took the name Botswana..
  5. 1969-08-15: Name of national capital, and its district, changed from Gaberones to Gaborone. Names of Lobatsi district and its capital changed to Lobatse. Name of Tuli Block changed to Tuli. Name of capital of Kgalagadi district changed from Tsabong to Tshabong. (Date given is the publication date of the decree.)
  6. ~1980: Tuli district merged with Ngwato (Central). Lobatse district split and merged with Gaborone and Ngwaketse (Southern), with the capital city, Lobatse, going to Gaborone. Parts of Chobe district annexed by Ngamiland and Ngwato districts.
  7. The following table shows the divisions of Botswana, according to various sources, at about this time. Where population figures are not shown, Barolong and Jwaneng are included with Ngwaketse; Okavango is included with Ngamiland; Sowa is included with Central. Some districts may be census districts.
DistrictTp2001-08-171991-08-211981-08-121971-08-31Area (km.²)Capital
Barolongd 18,40015,47110,9732,003
Jwanengt15,17911,1885,567 100Jwaneng
Okavangod49,64236,723  22,730Orapa
Sowat2,8792,228  159Sowa
  • Tp: d = district, t = town council
  • Dates are census dates
  1. 2001: According to Wikipedia (source [9]), Chobe and Ngamiland merged in 2001 to form North-West, and split again in 2006. Note that the Wikipedia article makes those statements in different places. I'm not sure they can be relied on. Confirming the merge, in 2003, ISO 3166-2 replaced the codes for Chobe (formerly CH) and Ngamiland (NG) with a single code for North-West. Likewise, in 2006, GEC replaced the codes for Chobe (BC02) and Ngamiland (BC07) with a single code for North-West. Source [3] also confirms the merge. The result is shown here.
9 districts2,024,9041,680,863581,730224,606
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes. If periods are replaced by
    hyphens, these are the same as the district codes from ISO standard 3166-2.
  • GEC: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4.
  • Pop-2011: 2011-08-09 census.
  • Pop-2001: 2001-08-17 census.
  1. 2006: More recent government sources show Chobe and North-West as separate districts, confirming Wikipedia's information about a split. Those sources also show town and city councils as separate entities on the district level. Changing to that view is tantamount to saying that Selibe Phikwe and Sowa Town split from Central, Francistown split from North-East, Chobe split from North-West, Gaborone and Lobatse split from South-East, and Jwaneng split from Southern.

Other names of subdivisions: 

  1. Central: Ngwato (Setswana)
  2. Ghanzi: Gantsi, Ghantsi (variant)
  3. North-East: Bokone-Botlhaba (Setswana)
  4. North-West: Bokone-Bophirima (Setswana)
  5. Selibe Phikwe: Selebi-Phikwe (variant)
  6. South-East: Borwa-Botlhaba (Setswana)
  7. Southern: Borwa, Ngwakets, Ngwaketse (Setswana)

The first full release of ISO 3166-2 listed alternate names for three of the districts. Newsletter No. I-5 has dropped those alternate names entirely. They were probably dropped because the maintenance agency discovered that the so-called alternate names were not really synonymous with the specified districts. They were subsets or supersets. These are the alternate names that were dropped.

  1. Central: Serowe-Palapye
  2. Ngamiland: North-West
  3. Southern: Ngwaketse


  1. [1] Samatar, Abdi Ismail. An African Miracle: State and Class Leadership and Colonial Legacy in Botswana Development. Heinemann, Portsmouth, NH, 1999.
  2. [2] Maylam, Paul. Rhodes, the Tswana, and the British: Colonialism, Collaboration, and Conflict in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, 1885-1899. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 1980.
  3. [3] Botswana Country Brief , International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) (retrieved 2003-09-07).
  4. [4] Parsons, Neil. Brief History of Botswana  (retrieved 2004-08-18).
  5. [5] Demographic Yearbook , 7th Ed. Statistical Office of the United Nations, New York, 1955 (retrieved 2011-08-20).
  6. [6] Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th Edition, Chicago, 1984.
  7. [7] 2001 census report from Central Statistics Office (http://www.cso.gov.bw/html/census/census_2k.html, dead link, retrieved 2004-08-18).
  8. [8] Alphabetical Index of Districts , 2011 Botswana Population and Housing Census. Central Statistics Office (retrieved 2014-02-01).
  9. [9] Districts of Botswana , Wikipedia (retrieved 2014-09-29).
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