Botswana Road Network

By | November 11, 2022

The A-roads of Botswana.

According to wholevehicles, Botswana had a network of 31,762 kilometers of road in 2018, of which 18,507 kilometers was managed by the national government and 13,254 kilometers by local governments. Of the total network, 30.8% is paved. Of the national road network of 18,507 kilometers, 6,955 kilometers are paved, 7,530 kilometers gravel and 4,022 kilometers sand. Since the national government has been operating an extensive network of secondary unpaved roads since 2011, the proportion of tarmac roads in Botswana seems relatively low, but the main road network is almost completely tarmac. Given its small population, Botswana has relatively one of the most extensive networks of paved roads in Africa. The network of paved roads is even called oversized, with paved roads on routes with fewer than 300 vehicles per day.

Due to the low population density, the main road network is very thin, but reasonably well maintained by African standards. There are three major main roads in Botswana, the A1 from Gaborone to Francistown, the A2 from Gaborone to Windhoek in Namibia and the A3 from Francistown to Ghanzi through the north of the country. Regional roads mainly run in the east of the country, except for the A2, there are virtually no roads through the Kalahari Desert. There are no motorways in Botswana, but there are quite a few 2×2 lane roads in Gaborone, often connecting with roundabouts. The main roads are well constructed, with good asphalt and road markings.

The main border crossing with South Africa is at Lobatse, just south of Gaborone, where the A1 becomes the N4 from South Africa to Johannesburg. There is also a border crossing at Gaborone, as well as southeast of Palapye, where the South African N11 from Mokopane connects. The border facilities are modern, but not very extensive because there is not much cross-border traffic. With Zimbabwethere is one major border crossing, north of Francistown, where the A3 becomes the Zimbabwean R2 towards Bulawayo. This border crossing is also quite modern, with larger facilities. There is one major border crossing with Namibia, where the A2 becomes the B6 to Windhoek. This is also a modern border crossing. There is also a secondary border crossing at Mohembo, a small but modern border crossing. Botswana has a 150-meter border with Zambia, in the form of the Zambezi River. The Kazungula Bridge provides a connection between Botswana and Zambia.

Major Roads in Botswana
A1 • A2 • A3 • A10 • A11 • A12 • A14 • A15 • A20 • A30 • A31 • A32 • A33 • A35

Road management

Road management in Botswana is carried out by the Department of Roads, a department within the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

Toll roads

There are fewer toll roads in Botswana than in other South African countries. In 2021, the country’s first toll plaza was opened at the Kazungula Bridge over the Zambezi to Zambia, at which point there was talk of building more toll plazas.

History

Year Paved road
1966 12 km
1975 150 km
1980 1,500 km
1990 2,565 km
1995 4,761 km
2000 6,082 km
2008 6,506 km
2013 6,925 km
2018 6,955 km

In the colonial period, Botswana was virtually undeveloped. The only significant industrial asset was the railway from South Africa to Zimbabwe passing through Gaborone and Francistown. In 1955 Botswana had only one significant road, the north-south route from the border with South Africa south of Lobatse via Gaborone to the border with Zimbabwe. This road was parallel to the railway, but was almost completely unpaved. It was the best improved road in Botswana. There was also a short road from Gaborone to the border with South Africa east of the city. At independence in 1966, Botswana had virtually no road network, only 12 kilometers of paved road existed in the country. There was also 2,000 kilometers of improved dirt road and 7,200 kilometers of dirt roads. About 430 kilometers of road was suitable as an all-weather road. The situation in Botswana was therefore very different from Zimbabwe and South Africa, which at the time already had an extensive network of paved roads.

Botswana’s road network was developed quite quickly in the 1970s-80s-90s, in 1996 Botswana had 5,620 kilometers of paved road, meaning the country has built an average of 185 kilometers of paved road per year. This was possible thanks to the calm political situation, especially in comparison with neighboring countries. Government revenues from 1969 came largely from the Southern African Customs Union, from 1972 supplemented by income from diamond mines. Road construction was a high priority in the 1970s, with about half of the national development budget going to road construction. In 1975, Botswana had 150 kilometers of paved road, but it developed rapidly after that. Between 1972 and 1980 the A1paved as the first priority road from the border with South Africa via Gaborone to Francistown. Shortly after 1980, the remainder followed to the border with Zimbabwe. Road construction at the time was largely financed by the World Bank, with a ‘First Road Project’, ‘Second Road Project’, ‘Fifth Road Project’, etc.

The capital, Gaborone, was originally little more than a hamlet, but it was at the crossroads of the country’s two main roads, at the intersection of two roads from South Africa to Zimbabwe. The construction of Gaborone started in 1964 and was spacious. By 1970 the city had 20,000 inhabitants. In the 1990s, the city had about 150,000 inhabitants.

In the 1970s, the construction of the BOT-ZAM Road, the road from Botswana to Zambia, was a priority. This included the A3 and A33. In the period 1972-1977 the connection was built as an all-weather road, however due to instability in Rhodesia and later border closure between Zambia and Rhodesia, Zambia insisted on the construction of a paved road south through Botswana. Even before the gravel road was ready, plans were already being drawn up for this. Between 1979 and 1984, the nearly 500-kilometer stretch from Francistown to the Zambian border at Kasane was paved.

In 1980 Botswana had 1,500 kilometers of paved road, of which the A1 made up more than a third. At the time, the largest part of the paved road network was formed by the A1, A3 and A33. In 1990 Botswana had 2,565 kilometers of paved road. The most important road project of the 1990s was the construction of the Trans-Kalahari Highway (A2) as a paved road to Namibia. This project involved the construction of 595 kilometers of paved road between Sekoma and the border with Namibia. This project was completed in three phases between 1995 and 1998. In the period 1990-2000, Botswana’s paved road network more than doubled to 6,082 kilometers of paved road.

The national road network was 8,916 kilometers long in 2008, of which 6,506 kilometers were paved (73%). In 2011, the national government took over the management of 9,096 kilometers of road, all of which were gravel and dirt roads, so that the share of unpaved roads in that year grew sharply from 24.2% to 59.5% of the road network. In 2013, the national government took over another set of paved roads, which then grew from 6,689 kilometers to 6,925 kilometers.

In 2021, the Kazungula Bridge over the Zambezi opened, creating the first road link between Botswana and Zambia. In 2022 a bridge opened at Mohembo over the Okavanga, which is the largest bridge in Botswana after the Kazungula Bridge.

Road numbering

Since the 1990s, Botswana has had a road numbering system consisting of A and B roads. The A-roads form the main road network, B-roads are secondary roads.

Within the A-roads, the A1, A2 and A3 form the primary through roads of the country, which together also form a ring road through Botswana. The two-digit A-roads are branches of this.

Routes

Giraffes on the A2 in the Kalahari Desert.

# No. Route Length
A1 Border South Africa – Lobatse – Gaborone – Palapye – Francistown – border Zimbabwe 639 km
A2 Border South Africa – Lobatse – Kanye – Charles Hill – border Namibia 761 km
A3 A2 – Maun – Nata – Francistown 815 km
A10 Gaborone – Kanye 81 km
A11 A1 – Ramotswa 10 km
A12 Molepole – Gaborone – South Africa border 79 km
A14 Orapa – Palapye 250 km
A15 Serule – Selebi Phikwe 56 km
A20 Sekoma – Werda – Tshabong – border South Africa 298 km
A30 Orapa – Francistown 225 km
A31 Tutume – Sebina 50 km
A32 Sowa – A3 37 km
A33 Nata – Kasane – Ngoma Bridge – Namibia border 363 km
A35 Sehithwa – Mohembo West – Namibia border 296 km

Signage

In Botswana, green signposts with white text are used, based on the harmonized signage of Southern Africa. More about this on the page about South Africa. The road numbers have yellow text.

Maximum speed

The speed limit in Botswana is 60 km/h within built-up areas and 120 km/h outside built-up areas, including on single-lane roads with oncoming traffic.

Botswana Road Network