Anyone seen the HBO series yet? I saw a few and it kind of changes how you think of things... but interesting nevertheless
=======================Detective agency series puts Botswana on tourist map
GABORONE (AFP) – At the foot of Kgale Hill, the sudden appearance of new shops caused a bit of a buzz as bemused locals seeking to book a haircut or buy beer found themselves turned away from a film set.
This was not a new mall, but Botswana's very own "Kgalewood" where the successful No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency novels were turned into a television series that has introduced the tiny African country to a whole new audience.
As a stable, uneventful African state, Botswana is little known beyond diamond buffs who recognise it as the world's largest producer of the gem, and wealthy wildlife-chasers who can afford its high-end safaris.
However the success of the books, and the series screened on Britain's BBC, America's HBO and MNET in South Africa has generated huge interest in the nation, which itself has woken up to the potential of a bigger film industry.
Where tourists used to be "your average middle-aged female American", Tim Race of Africa Insight tours says more younger people and families are delighted to see landmarks made famous in the novel.
Race said the book is now compulsory reading for diplomats coming on mission to the US Embassy to get a sense of the country, and is slowly making its way into schools as a set work novel.
"I think the books have put Botswana into people's consciousness more. Having it on TV has expanded the audience for the books," says Race who runs the "only tour endorsed by Alexander McCall Smith," the author of the novels.
Benson Phuthego, a strategy manager at First National Bank and part-time television newsreader in the capital Gaborone, got his break in the short role of a "charismatic MC".
"It was a short role, but the impact was huge... in terms of promoting the country," says Phuthego of the series, starring Grammy award-winning singer Jill Scott as lady detective Precious Ramotswa.
"People will ask 'where is Botswana, what is this Botswana?'. They will learn it is the country that is the biggest producer of quality diamonds in the whole world. Fact," he said proudly.
"It has got wonders in terms of tourism... our democracy is a signature democracy."
Using mainly locals as extras in the series has also boosted the local film industry, which government is hoping to promote further.
Producer Robert Dargie, originally from Uganda, is already busy on his own film project, and plans to release short films on Botswana, for locals and neighbouring South Africa.
"To be frank that film has impacted a lot in this place. We have been inspired by it coming to Botswana," said Dargie, who used to record music videos, never dreaming of that "filming can be a good business here."
McCall Smith, inspired by the people of Botswana to set his novel in the country, told AFP in an interview he was working on the 11th book, due for release in March.
"Botswana has a lot to offer as a country and the world has to know that. In my previous novels Mma Ramotswe only has cases in and around Gaborone and in my next novel she will go as far as Maun (in northern Botswana) to investigate a case which means that the readers also go with her."
With its main income from diamonds expected to run out in 20 years, Botswana is eagerly venturing into different fields to diversify its economy.
According to Phutego, Ramotswa and her detective agency have provided a big stepping stone for the country.
"For the locals who have studied film, this is the time for them to know that they really can do something and write the stories and put them on the screen for the international community to appreciate."