Francistown popularly known as ‘Ghetto’
Population approximately 115 000
Location North East Botswana, near the border with Zimbabwe
Airports 1 – Francistown Airport has two runways; one paved and one not, and most flights fly for the airline Air Botswana.
A Little History
One of Botswana’s oldest towns, Francistown was the centre of southern Africa’s first gold rush. It came to prominence in the mid 19th century when European prospectors ‘discovered’ and mined gold in the region. Africans living in the area were already mining gold for generations prior to this. Indeed the area’s gold deposits are said to stretch as far back as the 12th-14th centuries.
Early miners reportedly bribed locals with blankets to tell them the location of the old tribal mineshafts; hence the term ‘blanket mining’.
Francistown was named after the British prospector and miner Daniel Francis, who acquired prospecting licenses in 1869, eventually becoming director of the Tati Concessions Company. Francis along with other prospectors often used ancient gold shafts as guiding points for their prospecting. The city is still surrounded by old, abandoned mines.
The original town was founded as a settlement near Monarch mine in 1897, consisting of only one main street lined with bustling saloons and supply stores running parallel to the railway line, which was established by British entrepreneur, Cecil Rhodes as a vital link between South Africa and Britain’s northern colonies.
Modern Day Francistown
Located 436 kilometres North of Gaborone, Francistown is the country’s second largest city. The main road North West of Francistown leads to Maun and the Okavango Delta, Kasane and Chobe National Park, Livingstone (Zambia) and Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe).
Much like Gaborone, Francistown has over recent years seen the emergence of modern shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, housing developments and industrial complexes that now dominate the city. Some old, colonial buildings can still be seen in the city centre.
The main street in Francistown, Blue Jacket Street, was named after a prospector called Blue Jacket Anderson. Quite why the gentleman was called Blue Jacket or why the street was named after him is not clear!
The Tati River divides Francistown in two. Although largely dry, Tati River can get flooded. Perhaps this explains why the thatched chalets at Marang Hotel are built on stilts. The hotel Marang is situated along the river.
Modern day Francistown is a major transportation hub and is the gateway to Northern Botswana.
Francistown By Road
The A1 connects Francistown to Gaborone in the South and to Zimbabwe in the North. The A3 Connects Francistown to Nata and Maun to the West.
There are regular buses from Francistown to Gaborone, and the journey takes approximately 5-7 hours, depending on traffic. There are usually police checks along this route, which involve inspecting travel documents. There are also direct buses to tourist destinations like Maun and Kasane. People heading towards Bulawayo and Harare in Zimbabwe can catch daily buses from Francistown bus rank.
Francistown By Air
Francistown Airport is the third biggest airport in Botswana in terms of passenger traffic. This airport, open to both domestic and international traffic, is located about 2.4 km West of Francistown City.
Air Botswana offers two daily flights to Gaborone, and flights to Johannesburg, South Africa on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
*Please check the Air Botswana website before you travel to be sure.
Botswana Railways ceased all rail travel in April 2009, citing poor returns. However, in March 2016, the blue train resumed services due to ‘popular demand’. Unlike before, when the train had services into neighbouring Zimbabwe, it’s now restricted to a few destinations within Botswana, including Francistown. Read more here.
Construction of new train stations in Gaborone and Francistown is underway. Train Schedules & Fares links on the Botswana Railways website lead nowhere, but if you want to keep checking:
Source: Mmegi BW, Botswana Tourism