Botswana's economy depended primarily on the raising of livestock, especially cattle, until the early 1970s. At that time, the diamond industry surpassed cattle raising as the main source of foreign exchange. While the export of diamonds generates a great deal of money for the few who own and work the diamond mines, subsistence agriculture and cattle raising provides employment for about 80 percent of the population and supplies half of the domestic food consumption. The government of Botswana hopes to develop a more diversified economy through ecotourism , manufacturing, and financial services.
Botswana's external debt is small, at US$651 million (or about 10 percent of GDP in 1998). The country is one of the only African nations (with Swaziland) that contributes money to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Botswana has historically favored free market policies and encourages foreign investment, although a monopoly in the diamond industry discourages smaller mining ventures. The South African company De Beers, in partnership with the Botswanan government, controls virtually all of the diamond industry. In contrast, cattle are exported from smaller domestic companies. Large African companies such as Waverly Blankets (from South Africa) run manufacturing operations.