University of Botswana History Department

Religion in Botswana: statistics

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Census 2001 results

Since the publication of the Afrobarometer survey's findings on religious affiliation in Botswana an important new study has appeared: Muhammed Haron, "The Demographics of Botswana's Christian Population and BC 2001", in Aspects of the History of the Church in Botswana, (eds) Fidelis Nkomazana and Laurel Lanner, (Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications, 2007) pp. 322–339.

This traces the history of previous attempts to assess the figures, and makes use of the results of the 2001 Census, in which a question on religion was included. The following table is based on the complete table on p. 333. (The table uses the term "Badimo"(1) to refer to what is perhaps often known as "African Traditional Religion (ATR).)

ReligionApprox. %
Christian71.6 %
Badimo6.0 %
Muslim0.4 %
Hindu0.3 %
Bahai0.06 %
No religion20.6 %
Other1 %

The total respondents numbered 1,189,688.

The census "proves conclusively that Christianity is the dominant religion" (p. 333). Haron points out (p. 335) that, despite assertions that ATR is the most common belief, only a small percentage of Batswana give this as their affiliation when asked. (Some studies have suggested that people who mix elements of Christianity and ATR are "really" adherents of the latter, but the reasons for denying these respondents the name of "Christian" when they claim it are not at all clear.)

The census results were broken down into age groups. Comparison of these shows that the proportions vary surprisingly little across age groups, except that there seems to be a decline in ATR among the young (4 % among ages 15–19, compared to 6.8 % among 40–44 and 18.0 % among the 75+ group).

Comparison with Afrobarometer 2005 results

Compare these results with the Afrobarometer survey:

Christian71.6 65
ATR6.0 5
Muslim0.4 0
Hindu0.3 0
No religion20.6 28

The general results suggest that Afrobarometer was fairly accurate, given its limited sample. This gives added weight to its other findings.

(1) Badimo: Setswana word for the ancestors, who play a major role in Tswana traditional belief. Presumably, in the census this category includes all answers indicating ATR, including the Mwali cult. [Return]

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Copyright © 2008 University of Botswana History Department
First uploaded 3 June 2008
Last updated 3 June 2008