During the colonial period and in the years immediately after independence, Botswana's trade was primarily with Great Britain and Western Europe. Imports from Europe declined during the 1970s while imports from other African countries, and especially with South Africa, increased. In 1999 Botswana exported a total of US$2.36 billion in goods and imported US$2.05 billion. In 1996 74 percent of exports went to EU countries, 21 percent went to South African Customs Union (SACU) countries, and 3 percent went to Zimbabwe. In the same year, 78 percent of imports came from SACU countries, 8 percent from EU countries, and 6 percent from Zimbabwe.
The South African Customs Union was formed in 1969 with Botswana as one of the founding members, along with South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, and Swaziland. Membership in the customs union removes many of the trade barriers, such as import duties and taxes, between member countries, making it easier to import and export goods within the local region. South Africa especially has been a source of imports (electricity, manufactured goods, and foodstuffs) and a destination for exports (diamonds, copper, and livestock). Exports to Europe, and especially to Great Britain, have increased. The declining value of the Botswanan currency has made imports from outside the customs union more expensive, while also making it cheaper for European nations to import Botswana's products, especially diamonds.