Alexander McCall Smith to be honoured for writing ‘love-letters to Botswana’

Date Published: 29th September 2010

Alexander McCall Smith is to receive one of Botswana’s highest awards.

President Ian Khama has conferred the honour of Presidential Order of Meritorious Service (PMS) on one of the world’s favourite storytellers. The Scottish writer, who receives the award for services to Botswana, is famous throughout the world for his best-selling No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which is set in Botswana. He will travel to the country to collect the award in person, early next year.

Alexander McCall Smith’s The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency was first published by Polygon in Edinburgh in 1998, and has since been translated into more than 45 languages around the world. The book grew from a stand-alone novel into a series which now contains 11 books and which enjoys sales of more than 20 million copies in the English language alone.

These engaging books, with their gentle humour and eccentric characters, have had a major impact on tourism in Botswana and been responsible for the world-wide success of Roibos, also known as Redbush tea, the sales of which have been transformed by Mma Ramotswe’s taste for the product.

In 2008, in what turned out to be his last film, Anthony Minghella adapted and produced the novels for television, filming in Botswana. The film, starring the American jazz singer and actress, Jill Scott, was financed by the Weinstein Company and the BBC with the support of the Republic of Botswana. The following year, BBC television and HBO made a drama series to follow-on from the world-wide success of the film and books.

President Khama is the President of Botswana and the Paramount Chief of the Bamangwato tribe. The 57 year-old president is the son of Seretse Khama, the country’s President from 1966 to 1980.

Other awardees include: Bill and Melinda Gates who, through their foundation, partnered with the Botswana government and the Merck Foundation, support Botswana’s response to HIV and AIDS; Merck Foundation chairman, Richard Clark; Bob and Sara Rothschild, who through their foundation are building two libraries per annum over a 10-year period.

Alexander commented: “I am delighted to have received this honour. I had not expected it and I am very touched by this gesture from the government of Botswana. I have the highest respect for the country and its people. If my books have helped to correct a negative image of Africa then I am very happy that this is the case.”