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Republic of Namibia

Major Cities:
Windhoek, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Luderitz

Other Cities:
Grootfontein, Keetmanshoop, Mariental, Tsumeb


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 2001 for Namibia. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


NAMIBIA is a recently independent, multicultural country still grappling with the implications of its colonial and apartheid past. Namibia offers a clean, modern capital city, highly developed infrastructure, striking desert landscapes, abundant wildlife, charming coastal towns, and endless opportunities for recreation and adventure. Pleasant housing, good schools, English-speaking environment, and diverse recreational and social options help ensure that everyone in the family enjoys their stay.



Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, is built on and among hills rising above a large plateau, and has an altitude of 5,600 feet. Windhoek is a small and sometimes sleepy city, but with well-developed infrastructure, services, and amenities.

Windhoek came into existence because of its springs. In 1849, Jan Jonker Afrikaner, a leader of the Orlam Namas, settled at the largest spring in what is now the residential area of Klein Windhoek. Reportedly, Afrikaner named the city after the Winterhoek Mountains in the Cape of Good Hope, where he was born. In time, Winterhoek was corrupted to Winduk in German and Windhoek in Afrikaans. It translates from the Afrikaans as "Windy Corner." In those days, Windhoek was the site of fierce struggles between the warring southern Namas led by Jonker Afrikaner and the northern Hereros. The wars largely destroyed the then-prospering Windhoek by the 1870s.

When South West Africa was declared a German colony in 1884, Major Curt von Francois stationed his garrison in Windhoek. The site was chosen both because it was strategically situated as a buffer between the Namas and the Hercros, and because the 12 strong springs provided sufficient water for drinking and the cultivation of food.

The present Windhoek was founded on October 18, 1890, when von Francois laid the foundation stone of the fortress that is now known as the Alte Feste (Old Fort) and serves as a museum. Today, Windhoek is a trim, clean, and attractive city, with remnants of German inspired architecture creating a charming downtown district.


Public utilities in Windhoek function well, and telephone, water and electricity outages are rare.


Food supplies in Windhoek are plentiful, easy to obtain, and generally inexpensive by U.S. standards.

In general, the quality of food available in Namibia is high, and extra safety precautions are not required during food preparation. Windhoek has good, quality supermarkets that carry mostly South African and Namibian products, with some European items as well. Supermarkets stock most products sold in standard U.S. supermarkets, including occasionally some Mexican foods (e.g., taco shells and sauces, salsa); however, shoppers find very few U.S. brand names on the shelves.

A wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, mostly imported from South Africa, is available in good supply, but availability is seasonal. In addition to supermarkets, a number of stores specialize in fruits and vegetables. Produce typically available includes apples, melons, grapes (including seedless), plums, peaches, nectarines, oranges, tangerines, bananas, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, yams, a variety of lettuces, spinach, corn (on the cob), beets, and green beans. A shop specializing in fresh fruit juice offers a wide selection, including mango, orange, apple, and mixed varieties.

Local meat, including lamb, beef, poultry, and pork, is of high quality and leaner than meat in the U.S. A variety of game meat, including ostrich, oryx, and kudu, is available from supermarkets and butchers and is generally very mild, tender, and lean. Frozen turkeys are imported and available around the holidays. Chicken is available (whole or in parts, including boneless breasts), but because some farmers use a combination of grain and fish meal, the meat may sometimes have a fishy taste. Sausages are also widely sold and delicious, but may be unfamiliar in taste and texture to most Americans. Hamburger can sometimes be too lean to fry. Most supermarkets have deli counters similar to their U.S. counterparts, as well as pre-packaged high quality deli meats. Deli counters also sell marinated, uncooked meats and kabobs for grilling. Bacon and hotdog-type sausages are available at most supermarkets.

Dairy products pose no health hazards and are generally stored chilled and pasteurized when appropriate. Fresh whole and lowfat milk is generally available, and one store has recently begun to stock skim milk, as well. Long-life milk (whole, low-fat, and skim) is readily available. A range of cheeses (including cottage and cream cheese), yogurt, and butter is consistently available. Brown shelled eggs from grain-fed chickens are available in small, medium, and large sizes and are excellent.

Good-quality bakeries and supermarkets throughout Windhoek make white and grain loaf breads; slicing machines yield sliced rectangular loaves familiar to the American sandwich consumer. Heavier loaves, including rye, pumpernickel, and seed breads, are always available, as are German-style "broet-chen" bread rolls-a breakfast favorite. European-style cakes and pastries are also available. A wide variety of breakfast cereals is available, some sold under well-known U.S. brand names. In some cases, however, the actual products differ in flavor or texture from their U.S. counterparts.

Supermarkets are stocked with limited but adequate selections of frozen foods, including meat, vegetables, fruits, ice cream, and ready-to-eat dishes, but consumers in Namibia will find far fewer microwave-ready products than in the U.S. Some supermarkets have recently expanded their ranges of ready-to-eat convenience foods sold from deli counters, and options ranging from full-course dinners to sushi are available.

A wide range of baby foods and other baby products is available, including formulas (milk or soy), baby cereals, jarred foods, disposable diapers, and wipes. Some U.S. consumers may prefer familiar brands to local brands.

Food prices are generally less than in the U.S.; however, some imported items (e.g., cheeses) can be significantly higher.

South African wines of excellent quality and reasonable prices are available locally. Namibia also produces a variety of good-quality and inexpensive beers. Namibian breweries adhere to German purity laws; local beer has no chemical additives.


Western clothing and footwear including clothing suitable for office, recreation, safari, workout, and casual, weekend wear, are available in Windhoek, but selection can be limited. Reasonably priced clothing is not of high quality, and high-quality clothing may cost more than in the U.S. or South Africa. Name brand athletic shoes are available at sporting goods stores, but dress and casual shoes are limited in selection and quality. Unusual shoe sizes are generally not available.

Casual children's clothing and shoes are readily available, reasonably well designed, and moderately priced, although generally not as high in quality as comparable items from the U.S.

For those who sew, equipment, patterns, fabrics and notions are readily available in Windhoek. All-cotton fabric, however, is difficult to find and very limited in selection.

Office attire is comparable to that worn in the U.S. Men wear a suit or blazer and tie; women wear suits, dresses, or skirts/pants and blouses. Cotton dresses or suits made from non-synthetic materials or cotton-synthetic blends are best during warmer months (October-February). During hot summer days, most men and women shed their coats and blazers, unless engaging in a meeting where the more formal suit coat is a necessity. In winter, (March-September), sweaters and heavier-weight suit coats and blazers are good for cold mornings and evenings, although less essential during the warm afternoons. Very few social functions require formal attire, and a dark suit or cocktail dress is generally a suitable substitute for most formal occasions. Representational and non-representational social functions generally take one of three formssit-down dinner, cocktail or catered buffet, or braai (outdoor barbecue); corresponding dress ranges from business attire to "smart casual" (coat, no tie for men; slacks, blouse for women) to "weekend casual" (polo shirt, khakis).

Supplies and Services

Pharmacies, supermarkets, department stores, and specialty stores are well stocked, with many U.S. brands (although South African-made) of personal products or easily recognizable equivalents available. A broad range of women's cosmetics (Revlon, Max Factor, Clinique, Lancome, etc.) and hygiene products are available at reasonable prices. Men's toiletries are also readily available. All common drugstore items are found in Windhoek, including some American products.

Non-prescription and prescription drugs are available, but brands may differ from those sold in the U.S. Depending on the item, cost of medicine can be substantially less than, or more than, U.S. equivalents. Some over-the counter medications in Namibia would require a prescription in the U.S., so caution should be used when purchasing any over-the-counter medication.

Maintenance, household repair, and housekeeping supplies are readily available and reasonably priced. A wide selection of hardware, plus manual and power tools, is available. Cleaning supplies comparable to U.S. products are available at reasonable cost.

Entertainment items, such as china, glassware, candles, and serving pieces, are available although selection is limited and prices for imported items are higher than for comparable items purchased in the U.S.

Basic paper products, such as toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, and paper plates, are available, as are food wraps and trash bags. Quality is generally lower than U.S. equivalents, and paper products suitable for entertaining (i.e., sturdy or decorative paper plates) are generally not available or very limited in selection.

A wide variety of cigarette brands, including American brands manufactured in South Africa (but which differ in taste from their American counterparts), are sold in Namibia.

Windhoek has a wide selection of good, quality haircutting establishments (men's, women's, unisex), as well as a small number of day spas offering facials, manicures, pedicures, massages, etc. Costs are comparable to U.S. prices.

Numerous professional dry-cleaning and laundry facilities exist; dry-cleaning prices are generally comparable to those in the U.S., but laundry prices are higher. "Express" same-day service is available at added cost. Basic tailoring services are available and affordable, although high skill dressmaking or tailoring is not readily available. It is unusual to have clothing made in Namibia. Shoe repair services are comparable in quality and price to US. establishments.

Repairs for electrical appliances are of reasonable quality and price, although service can be quite slow and all parts are not readily on hand.

Veterinary services in Namibia are comparable to those in the U.S., and offer the full range of vaccinations and "veterinarian" pet foods (i.e., lams, Science Diet). Pet foods and other pet items are also available in grocery stores and pet stores. The SPCA and private kennels offer boarding services. The SPCA is also a good source for inexpensive pets, although private breeders exist as well.

Domestic Help

Competent maids and garden cleaners are available in Windhoek, but it requires a little effort to find the right one. Most are able to speak and understand a little English, although fluency and literacy are harder to find. Maids are generally competent at housekeeping, laundry, and ironing. Garden cleaners are able to sweep leaves, water plants, and cut grass, but are rarely skilled gardeners. Commercial gardening services are available for about US$15 per day. Cooks are rare; some employees use private, good quality caterers for representational entertaining. Good, experienced nannies are available, although more difficult to find than maids. It is extremely unusual to hire a driver in Windhoek, although qualified drivers can be found for this purpose, if needed.

Salaries for domestics who do basic housecleaning and laundry vary from US$80 to US$150 per month, full-time on average, varying with experience and additional responsibilities; gardeners receive about US$8 to US$10 a day and are usually only needed 1 or 2 days a week. In addition, some employers provide food or a food allowance, and/or a transportation allowance.

Most domestic help is not live-in, although live-in help can be found, if needed Full-time domestic employees must be enrolled in local social security at the employer's expense and granted at least 24 days of paid leave per year. A year-end bonus is traditionally given to employees, sometimes equal to onemonth's pay, but this is not required.

Religious Activities

Services are available for most faiths commonly practiced in the U.S., although facilities and English-language services are limited in some cases. Christian denominations include Baptist, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Dutch Reformed, Roman Catholic, and the Church of the Latter-Day Saints. Windhoek has a small Jewish community that hosts a Hebrew Association, a Bahai community, and a mosque and Islamic Center.


The Windhoek International School (WIS): A State Department-supported school covering grades prekindergarten through grade 12. It is fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the European Council of International Schools. WIS has an enrollment of approximately 450 students, with a diverse mix of Namibian and expatriate students and faculty. WIS offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) program in both primary and secondary schools. Enrollment in the IB program facilitates the academic integration of students as they move from WIS to other international schools or to IB magnet schools in the Washington area. In addition, WIS offers the Southern African IGSCE and HIGSCE examinations. WIS's school year runs on an approximately American schedule-from mid-August to late June, with breaks in October, December, and March. WIS's curriculum is designed to address the needs of local and other international students, as well as American students; the curriculum does not fully correspond to all U.S. curriculums and new students, especially those in secondary grades, may find themselves behind or ahead of their peers in certain subjects. WIS does not require school uniforms.

St. George's Diocesan School (Anglican): Covers grades pre-kindergarten through grade 7. It has an enrollment of approximately 450 students, predominantly Namibian, but with a mix of expatriate students as well. The St. George's school year runs from January to December, and the school requires uniforms.

St. Paul's College (Catholic) offers classes from grades 5 to 13, with an enrollment of approximately 375. Students from St. George's typically feed into St. Paul's for their secondary education. St. Paul's offers the IGCSE and HIGCSE examinations, which are geared for students intending to attend southern African universities. The St. Paul's school year runs from January to December. St. Paul's requires uniforms.

Deutsche Hohere Privatschule (DHPS): The most prominent of several private German schools, covering grades kindergarten through 13 with an enrollment of 1,000 students. Instruction from grade five to 12 is in English, and instruction in the lower grades is a mix of German and English. The 13th grade, which is taught in German, is intended to prepare students to attend university in Germany or Austria. The DHPS school year runs from January to December, with classes from Monday to Friday, plus every other Saturday. The DHPS requires uniforms.

Windhoek offers a variety of pre-school options. The Windhoek International School has the most comprehensive and the most expensive at US$3,350 per year. Windhoek's Montessori pre-school costs approximately US$1,000 per year. Other preschools are run mostly from private homes. These typically cost US$500 per year, and also are available short-term or for as little as 1 day per week. Pre-school hours typically run from 7:30 am to 1:00 pm.

Special Educational Opportunities

The Windhoek International School is the only school of international standard in Windhoek with some resources for children with special learning needs. Its resources are limited, however, and parents of children with special requirements should contact WIS before accepting an assignment to Windhoek to determine whether the school can accommodate their children's needs.


Windhoek has excellent facilities for a wide range of sports. A number of stores sell most of the sports equipment and clothing needed.

The city of Windhoek has an excellent 8-lane, 50-meter outdoor pool, with separate diving pool. Admission fees and seasonal passes are very inexpensive. One private health club has an indoor 25-meter lap pool. Swimming instruction for adults and children is readily available and affordable.

Several tennis clubs are available with outdoor hard surface courts. Some courts are lighted for night play. Memberships are very inexpensive. Instruction is available and affordable.

Windhoek has an excellent grass 18-hole golf course set in a scenic desert landscape. Single membership costs about US$250, plus an annual fee of about US$200. Greens fees are about US$5 for members and US$10 for non-members. Instruction, caddies, and equipment rental are available and inexpensive by U.S. standards. The coastal resort of Swakopmund, about 3 to 4 hours from Windhoek, also has a nice 18-hole course.

Windhoek has a number of health clubs. The largest of these is equivalent to a high-end US. facility and costs about US$240 per person, per year. It has free weights, circuit training, aerobics, bikes, treadmills, stair machines, rowing machines, squash courts, and a 25-meter indoor pool. Personal training and diet planning are available and relatively inexpensive.

Windhoek has clubs and/or facilities for basketball, soccer, baseball/soft-ball, volleyball, and cricket. Bicycling is very popular, with several road races organized throughout the year. Motor sports are also very popular among the Namibian population, with facilities in or near Windhoek ranging from go-karts to motocross to a race track for occasional car races.

Horseback riding is available from private stables, with well-kept horses, equipment, and facilities. Registration fees are nominal and lessons cost less than $10 an hour, but there is often a waiting list. Guided trail tours and horseback game viewing are available at several lodges, and multi-day horseback trips to the coast are offered periodically.

The coastal towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay offer opportunities for sea sports including surfing, sea kayaking, and deep-sea fishing, with boat charters, equipment, and instruction available and affordable. Surf fishing, possible along 450 kilometers of coastline from Sandwich Harbor in the south to Terrace Bay in the north, is reputed to be among the best in the world. Also centered on the coast and the adjacent Namib Desert are facilities for adventure sports, such as quad biking, sand surfing, para-sailing, skydiving, hang-gliding, and micro-light flying.

Licensed hunting is permitted both on privately owned game farms and on communal lands. Numerous professional hunters offer their services to newcomers. Bird watching is another popular pastime in Namibia, home to a wide variety of southern Africa's vast and valued bird life.

Windhoek offers high-quality, inexpensive instruction in a variety of sports for children and/or adults, including aerobics, yoga, martial arts, horseback-riding, ballet, gymnastics, and tennis. Soccer, rugby, and cricket are the most popular spectator sports, and national and international matches can be viewed at Independence Stadium or on television.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Namibia is a paradise for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. Namibia was the first country to include environmental conservation in its constitution. To protect the country's wildlife and scenic natural beauty, several national parks and conservation areas were created, covering 14% of the country's surface area. The Department of Nature Conservation operates rest camps at 22 locations, offering a range of camping and lodging options, including reasonably priced hotels, kitchen-equipped bungalows, developed camp grounds, and undeveloped wilderness camping. These locations provide comfortable bases from which to explore Namibia's wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. Many privately run hotels, guest and game farms, and lodges are also available, and offer excellent rooms and service.

The largest game reserve, Etosha National Park, is about a 5-hour drive from Windhoek. It offers a range of overnight accommodations at spot lit watering holes, and has some of the world's best game viewing: abundant elephants, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, many types of gazelles and antelopes, lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, warthogs, and more. Many other reserves and game lodges offer accommodations ranging from basic to luxurious, all with excellent game-viewing possibilities. The closest reserves and lodges are within 20 minutes of Windhoek. The very expensive Skeleton Coast Park in the far northwest of Namibia offers the chance to see extremely rare desert-adapted elephants and rhinos.

Namibia offers excellent hiking and camping in a variety of stunning landscapes. Camping facilities range from basic and remote to luxury, with potable water, electrical outlets, and kitchen/toilet facilities. The Fish River Canyon-second in size only to the Grand Canyon-can be hiked in 4 to 5 days. The Orange River, along Namibia's southern border offers rafting and canoeing, as well as camping.

Soothing hot springs at the Gross Barmen resort and Rehoboth are less than an hour away from Wind-hoek. The hot springs of Ai-Ais, in southern Namibia, provide respite to hikers of the Fish River Canyon. The Namib-Naukluft Park and the Skeleton Coast give windows on the beauty of the Namib, the world's oldest desert. The Namib is also home to the world's tallest sand dunes, many easily accessible from the road for climbing. In contrast to these examples of untamed nature are the coastal towns of Luderitz and Swakopmund, quiet resort areas carved from the desert landscape that lines Namibia's coast. These towns offer quaint German architecture and comfortable lodging and restaurants. Swakopmund is also a center for "recreational" shopping. Luderitz is adjacent to fascinating ghost towns being reclaimed by the desert, as well as to Namibia's diamond region where access is strictly regulated.

A common activity for seeing many of Namibia's sights is a camping safari. Several safari companies in Windhoek offer "drive-in" or "fly-in" guided tours of Namibia's beauty and wildlife. At night, tourists sleep under a brilliant night sky untroubled by pollution or city lights.

Other popular excursions include visits to Namibia's numerous prehistoric rock paintings, a trip to a petrified forest, excursions to see the rare welwitschia, a desert plant that lives for thousands of years, and trips to various regions and festivals to experience Namibia's fascinating indigenous cultures.

Namibia offers a handful of small, but good museums of history and culture. Museum subjects include history, traditional tribal cultures, geology and gems, railroads and transportation, and art.


Windhoek sometimes seems like a sleepy little town, but it does have nightspots and entertainment features. The National Theatre of Namibia has a variety of presentations, from musical groups to film festivals to plays. Namibia boasts an amateur, but good symphony orchestra made up of members of the community, and an opera group that sponsors a handful of sold-out performances each year. The Warehouse Theatre is a popular venue for live jazz and other performances suitable to the small stage. There are also a small number of night-spots that feature dancing and live or recorded music. The College for the Arts features frequent recitals and offers inexpensive art and music lessons for both children and adults. A three screen movie theater shows recent U.S. movies (about 3 months after their U.S. release). There are numerous video rental outlets (PAL system) with good selections of VHS tapes; many rent DVD videodiscs and electronic game cartridges. Saturday mornings find most of Windhoek strolling through downtown, shopping, sitting in outdoor cafes and restaurants, or browsing the handicraft vendors along the Post Street Mall shopping area. Sidewalks roll up promptly at 1 pin when the stores close and everyone leaves for home or the country, although Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning store hours are gradually becoming more common.

Windhoek has a good number of restaurants that are good and inexpensive. Many restaurants are steak houses or otherwise meat-oriented, and there is a limited range of international cuisine beyond Italian and Chinese. Restaurant meals generally cost less than $10 per person. Some restaurants include standard German cuisine on their menus, while others offer more exotic game entrees (e.g., ostrich, kudu, oryx, springbok). A gourmet restaurant situated in an early 1900s castle is reputed to be the best, and is certainly the most expensive, in town. Kentucky Fried Chicken is the only American fast food franchise operating in Windhoek, although several South African fast food chains are present as well.

Social Activities

Windhoek, for all its amenities, is a quiet town, and social life is what each individual makes of it.

Americans have the possibility of a great deal of social contact with both Namibians and other nationalities. There is a large anglophone international community, with more than 50 countries and international organizations represented in Wind-hoek.

Contacts with the local and international community are facilitated by a Rotary Club and Roundtable, which provide business networking opportunities. Namibia has a small, but active, Scientific Society, that sponsors occasional seminars and publishes papers, reports, and books on subjects related to Namibia-commonly wildlife, biology, and geology. Parents and children in schools with international enrollments have opportunities to meet and befriend people from other countries at various school activities held throughout the year. The Association of Diplomatic Spouses has a very active calendar, sponsoring several fund-raising events each year in support of grassroots charities offering aid to women and children in Namibia. There are also any number of non-governmental organizations who welcome people willing to volunteer their time and skills supporting programs that help nature conservation and wild-life, the poor, battered women and children, orphans, HIV/AIDS victims, and the victims of landmines.


Windhoek is rated high for crime by the Department of State. The most common crimes are non-violent crimes such as residential breakins, pick-pocketing, purse snatching, vehicle theft, and vehicle break-in. Common sense measures, such as using residential locks and alarms, not leaving valuables in parked cars, safeguarding purses, keeping wallets in front pockets, and being alert to one's surroundings, are the best deterrents against crime.

Due to unrest caused by the civil war in neighboring Angola, as well as to the lingering effects of a secessionist effort in the Caprivi Strip, the northern regions of Kavango and Caprivi are not considered safe.


Located in northwestern Namibia, Swakopmund was once Namibia's most important port. Today, it is the country's primary resort destination. Its temperate climate and beautiful beaches make it a popular spot for sunbathers, surfers, anglers, and water sports enthusiasts. The city was founded in the 1890s as a German colonial town. A very strong German influence remains today. The city attracts many German tourists and many German-speaking Namibians have homes and beachfront cottages here. Swakopmund is clean and attractive, with palm trees lining the streets and seaside promenades.

In addition to tourism, Swakopmund is the site of the Rössing mine. This mine, which is the largest opencast uranium mine in the world, forms the backbone of the city's economy and infrastructure. Swakopmund had a population of approximately 15,500.


Many visitors to Swakopmund enjoy viewing the city's German colonial architecture. One of the most prominent is the Woermann Haus, which was constructed in 1905. It has been restored to its original grandeur and declared a national monument. Today, it serves as a library. The tower of Woermann Haus offers visitors an excellent view of the city.

Swakopmund has a good museum, which is located on the site of an old harbor warehouse. The museum offers exhibits detailing the history and ethnology of Namibia and displays relating to the plant life which surrounds the city.

Other recreational activities near Swakopmund include tours of the Rössing Mine and visits to a camel farm. Camel rides are offered in the afternoon.

Swakopmund has a number of shops and art galleries which specialize in prints and paintings of the area, from modern classic watercolors to modern surrealistic African art. A tannery in town offers tremendously low prices for handbags, belts, sandals, and " Swakopmunders" (durable kudu leather shoes). Swakopmund also offers souvenir and curio shops featuring African crafts. Many tourists also shop at the city's jewelry stores. Jewelry is made from semiprecious stones and local gems. It is often quite expensive.


Most entertainment centers around eating and drinking. Swakopmund offers all types of restaurants, from exquisite dining to fast-food restaurants. The city's cafes and pubs also serve food and tend to be rather informal.

Aside from restaurants, entertainment is limited. Films or other events are occasionally scheduled at the city museum.

Walvis Bay

Walvis Bay is situated on the coast of Namibia, midway between the northern and southern borders. For over one-hundred and fifty years, Walvis Bay has served as Namibia's main port. Today, the town has modern harbor facilities and is linked to Namibia's mines, farming regions, and towns by road, rail, and air links. The city was once the home to a sizeable fishing industry. However, severe overfishing during the mid-1970s has caused a drastic decline in fishing and a subsequent rise in unemployment. Many of the fisheries and canneries remain empty today.

Aside from fishing, Walvis Bay's economy is sustained by small-scale engineering and ship repair businesses. Between 1978 and 1994, South Africa directly governed Walvis Bay and used the city's deep-water harbor as a strategic base and training facility for its naval forces. Walvis Bay and twelve offshore islands were formally transferred from South Africa to Namibia on March 1, 1994, after three years of negotiations. The population of Walvis Bay was estimated at 21,000.


Luderitz is located on one of the last natural harbors along the Namibian coast. The site of the present day city was visited in 1487 by Portuguese navigator Bartholomew Diaz, who named the harbor Angra Pequena (Little Bay). The city gained importance as the first German settlement in southwest Africa. Founded as a trading post by a German merchant, Adolf Luderitz, the territory was placed under German protection in 1884. The discovery of diamonds in 1908 transformed Luderitz into a booming mining town. Eventually, the diamond boom faded and many parts of the city were largely abandoned. Today, Luderitz's diamond mines are owned and operated by the Consolidated Diamond Mines (CDM). Certain areas near the mines are cordoned off and heavily guarded. These areas cannot be entered without a permit.

In addition to diamond mining, rock-lobster fishing and processing is a major industry. New industries include seaweed and seagrass harvesting.


Luderitz offers many fine examples of German colonial architecture. Among them are the Railway Station, Old Post Office, Magistrate's House, and Concert & Ball Hall. Many of these buildings are open to the public.

Many visitors enjoy touring the remains of Kolmanskop, a small mining town located a few miles south of Luderitz. Kolmanskop was once a booming mining town. However, a sharp decline in diamond sales after World War I and the discovery of more profitable diamond areas elsewhere caused the town to decline. By 1956, Kolmanskop was virtually abandoned. A few buildings have been restored, but the ghost town atmosphere remains.

It is possible to travel to the spot where Bartholomew Diaz landed in 1487. This spot, Diaz Point, is located approximately 15 miles outside of Luderitz. Diaz Point offers wonderful opportunities to view cormorants, flamingos, a wide range of wading birds, dolphins, and seal colonies. Visitors should bring a warm jacket when visiting Diaz Point because of extreme wind and cold.

Shopping opportunities are limited in Luderitz. Luderitz is known for its beautiful rugs. They are very well made and woven in desert colors with local flora and fauna as favorite designs. A fine selection of newspapers, books, and jewelry can be found at the Luderitz Boekwinkel bookstore.


Entertainment opportunities are extremely limited. Two fine restaurants are located in Luderitz. The first, the Bay View, is located at the top of a converted colonial building. Spectacular views enhance the dining experience. Specialties include crayfish, local oysters, and kingklip. The Oyster Bar, a restaurant located near the Old Post Office, features a wide variety of light meals and snacks.


GROOTFONTEIN is a small city situated in northeastern Namibia. The area was settled in the mid-1880s by Boers, who called the settlement Grootfontein or "Great Spring." The discovery of copper in the late 1890s led to the development of productive mines near the city. Grootfontein is currently Namibia's major cattle farming center and is renowned for its jacaranda and other flamboyant trees. The city is also a shipping point for the timber products from Namibia's northeastern region. Local industries produce dairy products, meat, and leather goods. Grootfontein has an estimated population near 15,000.

Situated in southeastern Namibia, KEETMANSHOOP was founded in 1860 by the Rhenish Mission Society. It became a town in 1895 after the Germans stationed a military garrison there. Today, Keetmanshoop is a main transit point for visitors and freight from Windhoek, Luderitz, and the South African cities of Upington and Cape Town. Keetmanshoop is located in an area where karakul sheep abound and the city is a major processor of karakul skins. Other major industries include the manufacturing of leather goods and processed foods. Although Keetmanshoop has several fine examples of German colonial architecture, the city does not have many attractions or entertainment opportunities for visitors. Keetmanshoop has a population of roughly 15,000.

Located in south-central Namibia, MARIENTAL is situated 170 miles southeast of Windhoek. Mariental was founded in 1912 as a railway stop between Windhoek and Keetmanshoop. This city of 6,500 is mainly an administrative and commercial center. Processing and transport of animal skins serves as the main economic activity. Although there are not many points of interest in Mariental itself, there are several attractions nearby. The Hardap Dam, located 14 miles northwest of Mariental, has a man-made lake and recreational area that is popular with campers and fishermen. The Hardap Game Reserve allows visitors to view over 260 bird species, kudus, springboks, ostriches, gemsboks, and mountain zebras. These wildlife areas are accessible by car or walking trails.

TSUMEB is a mining town whose prosperity is based on the presence of copper ore, lead, germanium, silver, and cadmium. Located in north-central Namibia, Tsumeb became a center for colonial mining activities during the 1890s. Today, more than 200 varieties of minerals are mined near Tsumeb. Many examples of these minerals are found in museum collections throughout the world. A small museum in Tsumeb chronicles the history of the town and is worth a visit. Several shops offer crafts, carvings, and jewelry made from locally produced minerals. Tsumeb has a population of approximately 16,000.


Geography and Climate

Namibia is an arid country covering more than 320,000 square miles, or about twice the size of California. It is bordered to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the north by Angola, to the south by South Africa, and to the east by Botswana; the Caprivi Strip juts out to the northeast to touch both Zimbabwe and Zambia. Namibia has four distinct geographic regions. The Namib Desert forms a 50-to 70-mile wide belt along the entire coastline. A semi-arid and mountainous plateau, varying in altitude from 3,000 to 6,000 feet, covers the central part of the interior and includes Windhoek, the capital city. The low-lying eastern and southeastern plains are extensions of the dry Kalahari Region of Botswana and South Africa. The northern, bush-covered plains include the relatively high rainfall areas of the Kavango and the eastern Caprivi.

Windhoek, the capital, is at an altitude of 5,600 feet. This altitude and the extreme dryness of the air can initially make newcomers uncomfortable. Dryness and dust may persistently bother those who wear contact lenses, exacerbate or provoke allergies or respiratory problems, and cause extreme dryness of the skin.

The city itself is hilly and surrounded by sparsely vegetated mountains, creating a landscape that calls to mind Arizona or New Mexico. Indeed, with its bustling downtown commercial section, good-quality roads and public services, and trim residential areas, Windhoek proper could easily pass for a small, southwestern, American city.

Namibia's climate is typical of a semi-desert and high plateau country, with hot days and cool nights. In midsummer (December-February), daytime temperatures can exceed 100°F in lower elevations. In Wind-hoek, January average high temperatures are in the 90s. Winter (May-September) sees daytime highs of about 70°F; nights can be cold, dipping below freezing.

Windhoek enjoys about 300 sunny days a year. Rains usually come from December through March, peaking in February, for a yearly average rainfall of 12-16 inches in Windhoek. The unrelenting dryness of the rest of the year makes the rains refreshing, welcome, and eagerly anticipated, turning the mountains surrounding Windhoek green for the brief summer months.


With a total population of 1.7 million people, Namibia has one of the world's lowest population densities. The population growth rate is high, at about 3%, although the United Nations estimates that population growth will turn negative in 2005, due to the HIV epidemic. Some two thirds of the population live in the north of the country, in Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana, Otjikoto, Kavango, and the Caprivi Region. Nearly 160,000 people live in Wind-hoek. The Ovambos (55%) are the largest single ethnic-linguistic group among the black population, which also includes Kavangos, Hereros, Damaras, Namas, Caprivians, San (or Bushmen), and Tswanas. Whites, mainly of Afrikaner (South African Dutch), German, or English descent, comprise 6% of the population. Afrikaans-speaking, mixed-race peoples, such as the "Coloureds" and the Rehoboth Basters, make up 7%.

English is Namibia's official language, but is very few Namibians' first tongue. Indigenous ethnic languages are the first language of 90% of the population. Afrikaans is widely spoken; German is also used extensively. The main indigenous languages are Oshiwambo, spoken by the Ovambo; Kwangali, spoken by the Kavango; Otjiherero, spoken by the Herero; Nama-Damara, a "click" language spoken by both the Nama and Damara; Lozi spoken by Caprivians; and Setswana, spoken by the Tswana.

Eighty to 90% of the population is Christian. Lutheran is the predominant Christian faith. Ten to 20% of the population practices indigenous beliefs.

Standards of living vary markedly among the population, largely along racial lines-a vestige of the apart-heid policies of Namibia's colonial past. Annual per capita income in Namibia exceeds US$1,500, but the per capita income for many blacks is less than US$200. In Windhoek, these imbalances are readily apparent when crossing from the city's well-to-do and predominantly white neighborhoods into the black and mixed race former township areas of Katutura and Khomasdal.

Namibia's independence brought a substantial international community to Windhoek; more than 30 nations and international organizations are represented.


The area of present-day Namibia was first inhabited by Bushmen (or San). They were followed by the Nama and Damara peoples. During the 16th and 17th centuries, two Bantu-speaking peoples moved into Namibia. Northern portions of Namibia were settled by the Ovambo while the Herero inhabited northwestern and central Namibia. The early inhabitants of Namibia lived a nomadic existence and survived through a process of hunting and gathering.

The peoples of Namibia remained isolated from the outside world until the late 1700s when the first Europeans began exploring the coast and limited inland areas. They were soon followed by groups of traders, hunters and missionaries. By the mid-1800s Europeans, particularly the Germans and British, began vying for control of Namibia (then known as South West Africa). In 1878, the British annexed the coastal enclave of Walvis Bay and made it a part of South Africa. A dispute arose between Germany and Great Britain in the 1880s regarding who would control South West Africa's rich coastal regions. After a series of intense negotiations, the Germans were allowed to control all of the coastal regions with the exception of Walvis Bay. Also, on July 1, 1890, Great Britain and Germany signed an agreement granting Germany control of the Caprivi Strip. Great Britain was given the island of Zanzibar in return for its concessions in South West Africa. Germany administered South West Africa until World War I. In 1915, with Germany preoccupied with the war in Europe, South African troops marched north and occupied South West Africa. Following Germany's defeat in World War I, South Africa was granted permission in 1920 by the League of Nations to administer South West Africa. The League required that South Africa must strive to promote the moral, material and social well-being of the people.

South Africa's treatment of the people in South West Africa was extremely harsh, however. All opposition to South African rule was ruthlessly crushed. In 1933, South Africa petitioned the League of Nations for formal permission to incorporate South West Africa as its own colony. However, member nations were very displeased with South Africa's repressive methods and refused the request.

At the end of World War II, the League of Nations was dissolved and replaced by the United Nations. In 1946, South Africa asked the United Nations General Assembly for permission to formally annex South West Africa. The United Nations refused, citing South Africa's brutal treatment of people in the territory. South Africa challenged the UN's decision on the grounds that only the League of Nations had the right to question the manner in which South Africa governed South West Africa. Because the League was defunct, they held, any restrictions imposed by the League on South Africa's administration of South West Africa were null and void. In the 1950s, the United Nations petitioned the assistance of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to help resolve the dispute. After reviewing the case, the ICJ decided that South Africa should be required to relinquish control of South West Africa to the United Nations. Despite this ruling, South Africa refused to leave the territory.

Within South West Africa, resistance to South African rule was becoming increasingly organized. On April 19, 1960, a national liberation movement known as the South West African People's Organization (SWAPO) was formed. SWAPO adopted a policy of armed resistance against South African rule and sent many of its fighters abroad for guerrilla warfare training. The United Nations General Assembly, weary of South Africa's uncooperative attitude, issued a declaration on October 27, 1966. This declaration stated that South Africa's presence in South West Africa was illegal and that all South African forces should be withdrawn from the territory. Buoyed by the UN resolution, SWAPO launched a guerrilla campaign against South African troops after infiltrating South West Africa from secret bases in Zambia. On May 19, 1967, the United Nations established a special council to administer South West Africa, draft a constitution, hold free elections and create an independent government. Despite the UN declarations and SWAPO military campaign, South Africa refused to leave the territory. The UN's special council was denied entry into South West Africa on the grounds that the United Nations resolutions were invalid. On December 16, 1968, the United Nations General Assembly voted to change the territory's name to "Namibia."

In 1971, the International Court of Justice supported the UN's contention that South African occupation of Namibia was illegal. The ICJ ruling touched off a series of strikes and demonstrations against South African rule. These activities were brutally suppressed. Also, South African authorities launched a crackdown on SWAPO during late 1973. Leaders of SWAPO were arrested and imprisoned while suspected SWAPO activists and supporters were publicly flogged. In May 1975, Prime Minister Vorster of South Africa stated that although South Africa would be willing to discuss future Namibian independence with the UN, it would not negotiate with or recognize SWAPO as a legitimate representative of the Namibian people.

On May 17, 1977, a referendum was held on a new constitution that called for equal representation of Namibia's eleven major ethnic and racial groups. The constitution was enthusiastically endorsed by 95 percent of Namibia's white voters. However, SWAPO rejected the plan and called for a constitution that would guarantee black majority rule. In late 1977, UN Security Council representatives from England, Germany, France, Canada and the United States traveled to Namibia in an attempt to broker a peaceful solution to the Namibian conflict. After a series of negotiations with South African and SWAPO officials, the representatives presented a proposal to the United Nations in April 1978. This proposal, approved by the United Nations as Security Council Resolution 435, called for the ending of armed conflict between South African troops and SWAPO guerrillas and the holding of free elections under UN supervision. Both sides agreed to the plan. However, South African officials stressed that they would not give up their claims to Walvis Bay or several islands off the Namibian coast.

The hopes for a peaceful resolution to the Namibian problem were shattered in December 1978 when South Africa held unilateral elections in Namibia without UN approval or supervision. SWAPO angrily boycotted the elections and denounced the results as null and void. The South African action led to a resumption of intense fighting between SWAPO and South Africa. In May 1979, South African troops crossed into Angola and Zambia and attacked suspected SWAPO bases. During 1980 and 1981, several UN attempts to bring South African and SWAPO officials to the bargaining table failed. Heavy fighting continued in 1981 and 1982 as South African troops and paramilitary police launched a series of raids into Angola. On December 8, 1982, representatives from Angola and South Africa met in Cape Verde to discuss a possible cease-fire and Namibian independence. South Africa stated that it would not withdraw its troops from Namibia until Cuban troops were removed from Angola. The Angolans countered by declaring that South Africa must stop its attacks on Angola and drastically reduce the number of South African troops in Namibia before the Cubans would be withdrawn. The talks ended in February 1983 without an agreement being reached.

On June 17, 1985, the South Africans installed a new "Transitional Government of National Unity" (TGNU) in Namibia. This new government was composed of a 62-member National Assembly and a cabinet of eight ministers. However, this government was rejected as illegal by SWAPO officials and a vast majority of Namibians. In addition, the TGNU failed to gain the recognition of the international community.

In early 1986 the president of South Africa, P.W. Botha, announced that South Africa would abide by the UN Security Council Resolution 435 on the condition that all Cuban troops were withdrawn immediately from Angola. This proposal was rejected by SWAPO. Also, more violence erupted in Namibia during 1986. On November 30, a SWAPO rally in Katatura was broken up by police. One person was killed and 21 seriously wounded.

Hopes for a peaceful settlement in Namibia gained momentum in 1988. In May and June, the United States and the United Nations mediated a series of negotiations between South Africa, Angola and Cuba. All sides eventually agreed that all Cuban troops should be withdrawn from Angola and South African troops from Namibia by April 1, 1989. Also, the South African-installed Transitional Government of National Unity agreed to resign on February 28 to make way for a new government. United Nations peacekeeping troops and civilian advisors were sent to Namibia to monitor troop withdrawals and to ensure the holding of free elections. An election was held in November 1989 with SWAPO winning a majority of seats in a new National Assembly. Once in place, the National Assembly drafted and ratified a new constitution on February 9, 1990. Also, one week later, the assembly elected SWAPO's Sam Nujoma as Namibia's first president. Namibia became officially independent on March 21, 1990.

In 1994, South Africa transferred to Namibia control of the deep-water port, Walvis Bay, along with twelve offshore islands. The peaceful resolution of this territorial dispute, which dated back to 1878, followed three years of bilateral negotiations.

Public Institutions

Namibia's constitution established the new nation as a multiparty democracy, with an elected President and bicameral legislature. President Sam Nujoma was elected by the constituent assembly in 1989 to his first 5-year term, and was reelected by popular vote in Namibia's first post-independence general election in 1994. The constitution was changed to allow Nujoma-as Namibia's first President-to run for a third term in the 1999 general election, and he was reelected by an overwhelming margin. Barring another constitutional amendment, he will serve until 2004.

The Prime Minister is appointed by the President, and serves as head of the Cabinet and Civil Service. Namibia has more than 40 Ministerial and Deputy Ministerial positions, as well as other officials with Cabinet rank. All Ministers and Deputy Ministers must be either voting or non-voting members of Parliament. One result is that there are very few "backbenchers," or ruling party parliamentarians without Cabinet responsibility. The Ombudsman's Office and the Directorate of Elections are independent entities.

The more powerful legislative house is the National Assembly. It is comprised of 72 members elected on the basis of proportional representation from among countrywide party slates and 6 nonvoting members appointed by the President. Members are elected for 5-year terms and their election is contemporaneous with the presidential election. The National Assembly has primary responsibility for drafting and passing legislation. In the 1999 general election, the ruling South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) won 55 of the 72 voting seats, and thus, has the two-thirds majority needed to pass constitutional amendments. Two opposition parties, the Congress of Democrats (COD) and the Democratic Turn-halle Alliance (TA), won some 10% of the national vote and seven seats each. The United Democratic Front won two seats and the Monitor Action Group secured one seat. With support from the UDF, the DTA holds the position of "Leader of the Opposition."

The other legislative house is the National Council, comprising 26 members, two each chosen by regional councilors to represent each of Namibia's 13 regions. The regional councilors themselves are directly elected by popular vote, so the National Council was designed to be more reflective of popular sentiment at the local and regional level. The National Council was formed in 1992 and members are elected for 6-year terms, so those members elected in 1998 will stand for reelection in 2004. The National Council cannot vote down legislation, but can return bills to the National Assembly for review.

The judiciary is independent and has full authority to review laws for constitutionality. The Supreme Court hears constitutional cases and is an ad hoc panel of two High Court judges and the Chief Justice. The next highest judicial body, the High Court, is the primary appellate body. Generally, citizens have initial contact with the judicial branch through lower courts chaired by magistrates or, in communal land areas, the traditional courts headed by traditional authorities.

Arts, Science, and Education

With a culture combining German antecedents and deep African roots, Windhoek offers its residents a diverse variety of cultural experiences. The National Theater of Namibia presents concerts, plays, film festivals, and various special events. The National Symphony performs periodically as do other local groups, with occasional visits from performing artists from the southern African region and beyond. The Windhoek Youth Choir performs several times a year, giving residents the opportunity to hear Western music in indigenous African rhythms. The Warehouse Theater provides informal and experimental entertainment in a coffeehouse setting.

Local private galleries feature exhibits by local and regional artists. The State Museum focuses on the natural sciences (stones and fossils) and indigenous cultures. The National Art Gallery, next to the National Theater in downtown Windhoek, frequently features special exhibits by local artists in addition to its permanent collection of Namibian art. The Namibian Crafts Center and adjoining Omba Gallery sell and exhibit Namibian handi-crafts and artwork. The Alte Feste (or Old Fort) Museum, Windhoek's oldest building, was formerly the garrison for the first contingent of German colonial troops sent to Windhoek; it now houses a collection of historical artifacts and photographs.

In addition to the Alte Feste, several other German colonial buildings dating to the early 1900s add to the architectural interest of downtown Windhoek. The historic seat of government, known as the Tintenpalast [Ink Palace] now houses Namibia's Parliament. The historic Christuskirche church dominates a traffic circle in front of the Alte Feste.

Namibia's unique natural environment, featuring significant populations of endangered species (such as cheetah and black rhino) and the world's oldest desert, the Namib, engenders many interesting research initiatives. Several private American citizens are at the fore-front of these research efforts, particularly in animal conservation and at an institute for study of the Namib Desert. The Cheetah Conservation Fund, also run by an American, has received international acclaim for its efforts to preserve Namibia's cheetah population.

Windhoek's adult educational opportunities are extensive and relatively inexpensive. The University of Namibia, established in 1992, offers degree and non-degree instruction in English in law, economics, management, arts, science, education, health sciences, and Namibian languages. The Polytechnic of Namibia focuses more on vocational and career based training, although it too is slated to become a degree-granting institution in the future. The College for the Arts offers instruction in art, music, dance, and performance for adults and children, as well as occasional student and faculty recitals. The Franco-Namibian Cultural Center offers instruction in French.

Upgrading the availability and quality of education for the non-white population is a priority of Namibia's Government. Qualified teachers, particularly those competent in English, are in extremely short supply. Schools, particularly in rural areas and the black townships, are overcrowded and lack instructional materials. In January 2001, children in the north of Namibia, as well as in some poorer areas of Windhoek, were turned away from schools because of a shortage of teachers.

Education is a major thrust of U.S. assistance to Namibia; the U.S. Peace Corps provides teachers and teacher trainers. Education is one of four focuses of USAID's program in Namibia. The Humanitarian Assistance Program of the DOD provides both financial and in-kind assistance for the improvement of primary and secondary education facilities in underprivileged population areas. USAID is helping the Ministry of Basic Education upgrade its staff capabilities and implement its policy reform agenda. Program achievements to date include the training of nearly 2,500 teachers in the use of new instructional and assessment materials and production of these materials in five local languages. USAID is now shifting its focus to improving the quality of educational systems and services provided to primary schools and to fostering stronger community and parental involvement in the schools. USAID's education program is targeted at the northern areas of the country.

Commerce and Industry

Namibia's economy depends heavily on a few primary commodity exports, such as diamonds, uranium, copper, lead, zinc, grapes, livestock, and fish. A budding tourist sector has also emerged, capitalizing on Namibia's vast natural attractions. The economy remains highly integrated with the Republic of South Africa, with more than two-thirds of its imports coming from there. In addition, well developed telecommunications, power, and transport infrastructures link the two countries.

Namibia has a strikingly dual economy, with the modern market sector producing most of its wealth, but involving a small minority of the population, and a traditional subsistence sector that barely supports most of the population. Government economic policy is geared primarily toward creating jobs in value added manufacturing, to lessen the economy's dependence on resource extraction, and to address chronic unemployment. Government priorities focus on fisheries, mining, oil and gas, and export processing zone development. Another focus of the Government is development of the Port of Walvis Bay as the gateway to the region, exploiting the port's geographical advantage and the superior transport network linking it to the industrial regions of South Africa and the landlocked countries of southern Africa.

Namibia is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the region's primary regional integration organization. SADC has initiated a process to establish a free trade zone throughout southern Africa. Namibia also belongs to the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), along with South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland. South Africa collects the customs and excise duties for all members, and then distributes a share of the total customs collections, determined by an established formula, to other members. Namibia is a member of the Rand Common Monetary Area (CMA), along with South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland, and as such, the South African rand is legal tender throughout Namibia. The Namibian dollar, which is equal in value to the rand, is accepted only in Namibia.



U.S. driver's licenses are valid in Namibia, and no other licenses (such as the AAA international driver's license) are needed. Unleaded and leaded gasoline and diesel fuel are always available in Windhoek. Unleaded gasoline is not available in some, remote areas of Namibia.

Roads in Windhoek are paved and kept in excellent condition. Main roads linking cities and towns are generally paved, undivided roads with one lane in each direction. Rural roads are largely gravel, although well maintained. Four wheel drive is not needed for most driving in Namibia, but the more adventurous may find it helpful for some rural driving conditions. Certain roads in Windhoek and elsewhere in Namibia flood briefly during the rainy season, which can make high ground clearance a useful feature.

Traffic moves on the left (non-American) side of the road, so cars made for local conditions are right-hand drive (steering wheels on the right side of the car). A variety of new and used right-hand-drive vehicles are available locally and from South Africa, Japan, or Europe. Toyota, Isuzu, Mazda, Nissan, Honda, Volkswagen, Chrysler, Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Ford, and Chevrolet have dealerships in Namibia. Many vehicles, such as most sport-utility vehicles, are more expensive than comparable models in the U.S. Some vehicles, such as Mercedes and BMW, can be less expensive than U.S. models. Local vehicles are not built to U.S. specifications and are not suitable for bringing to the U.S.

Repair and maintenance services are roughly equivalent to those in the U.S. for vehicles purchased locally or from Europe and Japan. Authorized dealers are generally willing and able to perform maintenance and repair on corresponding U.S.-purchased models, although exceptions and problems sometimes occur. For U.S.-purchased models that do not have local dealer representatives, it may be necessary to provide garages with repair manuals and/or parts.

Third-party-liability insurance (covering the cost of repairs to the other vehicle if you are responsible for causing an accident) is required and available locally for about US$120 per year. More comprehensive coverage is available from local or U.S.-based insurers.

Rental cars are readily available, but rather expensive compared to the U.S.


Public transportation consists of municipal buses, private buses, and taxis. Municipal and private buses link the city with the Katutura and Khomasdal townships and run limited routes through Windhoek. Taxis can be hired at the various taxi stands throughout Windhoek, but some are of questionable road-worthiness and sometimes occupied by thieves in cahoots with the taxi driver. "Radio" taxis ordered by phone are safer than those hired on the street. Passengers must be sure to ask the rate when calling for the taxi and to confirm the price with the driver prior to entering the taxi.

Namibia has over 26,710 miles in the national road network, of which some 3,381 are paved. Roads are generally undivided and straight, open, and monotonous, with one lane in each direction and little shoulder. Four-wheel drive is not necessary for most of Namibia's roads, but is helpful for exploring the bush, the desert, and the mountains.

Main roads from Windhoek to the principal towns are paved, as are the roads linking Windhoek with the South Africa, Angola, and Botswana borders. Secondary roads are gravel, but generally well graded and well maintained. Gravel roads can become rough or corrugated, especially toward the end of the rainy season. The coast has "salt" roads-a foundation of gypsum, which is soaked with brine and compacted to form a surface as hard and smooth as tarmac, but extremely slippery when moistened by the frequent coastal fogs.

Driving outside of Windhoek requires caution and prudence. The narrowness of roads and the lack of shoulders cause many head-on and rollover accidents. Gravel roads can be deceptively smooth, causing drivers to exceed safe speeds and resulting in loss of control of the vehicle. Curves on gravel roads should be approached and negotiated at reduced speeds, even in the absence of warning signs. Rental car rates in Namibia are high, in large part due to the frequency with which drivers severely damage rental vehicles on gravel roads. Animals (wildlife and livestock) are a serious danger on open roads, especially when curves or high grass limit visibility. Either hitting or swerving to avoid animals can cause serious accidents, so reduce speed to provide for a reasonable response time. Driving at night is strongly discouraged, as darkness compounds the hazards of driving in Namibia-few roads are lit, other vehicles often lack working lights, and animals become more active.


Namibia has 1,400 miles of rail lines; the main lines link Windhoek to Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, and Gobabis, Otavi to Grootfontein, Otjiwarango to Outjo, and Keetmanshoop to Luderitz. Few passenger trains operate, but poor quality passenger cars are often attached to freight trains that move between these towns. A luxury train service runs between Windhoek and Swakopmund; it is a 24-hour trip each way with several tourist excursions en route. Buses and trucks serve centers that do not have rail links, but are unsafe and operate unreliably. Inexpensive and safe bus service operates between Windhoek and the Namibian coast, Cape Town, and Johannesburg.

Windhoek has two airports: Eros Airport is a small municipal airport on the south side of town offering commercial and charter service to various cities and towns in Namibia, as well as commuter service to Johannesburg, South Africa. Hosea Kutako International Airport is about 30 minutes east of Wind-hoek, and offers service to Frankfurt and Munich, Germany; London, England; Luanda, Angola; Gaborone and Maun, Botswana; Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe; Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa and various destinations within Namibia. Several airlines have daily flights to Johannesburg and Cape Town. From Johannesburg there are frequent flights to the U.S., Europe, Asia, South America, and other African countries. Lost baggage and baggage theft are recurring problems in Johannesburg, so travelers are advised to pack and safeguard their luggage accordingly. Cape Town offers service to a smaller number of international destinations. South African Airways has a code share agreement with Delta Airlines and has daily flights connecting Johannesburg to New York and Atlanta. Delta code share flights from Cape Town to Ft. Lauderdale and Atlanta are available, but less frequent. Lufthansa Airways has a code share agreement with United Airlines to fly daily from Johannesburg to New York and Washington, D.C. via Frankfurt, Germany.


Telephone and Telegraph

Telephone service in Windhoek is generally reliable, although problems with service and billing are not infrequent. The telephone structure within Windhoek is in flux, with new technology, such as fiber optic lines and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), existing with old copper wiring, which fails in the rainy season due to deteriorating insulation. There is a substantial push to replace the aging lines with the newest technology, which gives hope for more a more reliable telecommunications infrastructure in the future.

Namibian phone service is compatible with U.S.-based callback services, which can substantially reduce the cost of calls to the U.S. or other international locations. Typical callback rates are currently around 75 cents per minute.

Cellular phones are widely available in Namibia, with coverage in all of the most important cities and tourist locations, although often not on the roads or in the towns in between. Cellular phones are in much more evident use in Namibia than in the US. and, in many instances serve as the primary means of communication. Cellular service is reliable and is complete with options for Callmail, International Roaming, Call Forwarding, Short Message Service, Call Barring, Call Wait/Call Hold, FAX Mail, and Call Line Identity, just to name a few.

The cost of cellular phone instruments-chiefly Motorola, Nokia, and Siemens-ranges from under $100 to more than $400 depending on features. Fees include a one-time connection fee of about US$30 and monthly subscription fees of US$15. A pay-as-you-go option, called Tango, does not require a connection fee or subscription service. Cell to cell calling charges are about 15 cents per minute, and there is no charge for receiving calls. Local cellular service covers 52 countries in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, but not the U.S. The instruments themselves also work in much of Europe, but require a separate service subscription. Instruments purchased in the U.S. will generally not work in Namibia.

Windhoek has five Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to choose from for residential access. Users can dial into the ISPs using a standard analogue modem with a maximum speed of 56Kbps (average is around 36Kbps) or via an ISDN Basic Rate Access (BRA) line at 64Kbps. All ISPs provide Internet access, as well as e-mail services. For analogue ISP service, the monthly service charge is about US$14, and the cost of a local call to the ISP is about two cents per minute. For ISDN service, the monthly service charge from the ISP is about US$52, the monthly charge from the phone company for the ISDN line is approximately US$25, and the onetime installation fee is about US$40.


The local international mail service is reasonably effective and affordable, although delays and pilferage are recurring complaints. The average transit time for a letter from Namibia to the US. via local mail is one to two weeks.

Windhoek offers two express mail services: DHL and Federal Express, which have proven to be reliable and safe, although costly. For documents or parcels weighing less than one kilogram, the cost of sending items from Namibia to the US. is about US$26. The cost for a one kilogram package is about US$46, and the cost of larger packages goes up from there depending on weight.

Radio and TV

The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (" NBC," although unaffiliated with the U.S. network with the same initials) broadcasts radio programs in all of Namibia's major languages, with a combination of news and music during the day and evenings, and mostly music at night. South African Radio, the BBC and VOA can be received with a shortwave radio and via satellite TV subscription.

NBC also runs the TV station, broadcasting English-language programs from 5:30 in the evening until 11 or 12 at night. A 45-minute news program features local news, sports and weather, and limited coverage of international events every day. Programming includes some popular British and American series, a few Australian and Canadian shows, and sports events. NBC broadcasts on the PAL system. A second commercial station, focusing on sports and entertainment and with some local content, is expected to begin broadcasting shortly.

To supplement free commercial broadcasting, a company called MNET provides several menus of cable TV programming, as well as Digital Satellite TV (DSTV) with some 40 channels. These channels include CNN, ESPN, MTV, VH1, Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel, BBC Prime, BBC World, Sky News, Super Sport, Cartoon Network, and several movie channels. DSTV also offers numerous audio music and news channel received via television sets. The cost of obtaining DSTV is about US$410 for equipment purchase and installation, plus monthly fees of about US$40.

There are several video rental stores in town, as well as a limited selection of videos for sale. Videos are in PAL format, requiring a PAL or multi-system, video cassette player, and TV DVD disks are also available at many video outlets.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

The Namibian (issued five times per week), the New Era (twice weekly), and the Observer (weekly), are English-language newspapers, with local coverage, as well as some regional and international coverage. Daily newspapers are also published in German and Afrikaans. English-language newspapers from South Africa and the U.K. are available at some larger bookstores, as are dated copies of the International Herald Tribune. Time, Newsweek, and The Economist are available on local newsstands, as well as several other popular American, British, and South African magazines.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Windhoek has a small number of good private medical hospitals/clinics capable of providing emergency care and performing many routine procedures. In general, medical facilities in Windhoek are comparable in quality and breadth to those of a mid-size American city.

Doctors, both general practitioners and specialists, as well as dentists, generally have training and facilities that match U.S. standards. Medical care in Namibia often costs less than it does in the U.S., and doctors seldom impose the long waits in waiting rooms that are the norm with their American counterparts. Windhoek's small number of specialists cover a wide range of specialties, including dermatology, ENT, obstetrics/gynecology, internal medicine, ophthalmology, orthopedics, neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry, pediatrics, plastic surgery, radiology, and dentistry.

Patients requiring more sophisticated care than that available in Windhoek are generally evacuated to South Africa. If warranted by the patient's condition, Windhoek-based "medevac" companies are available to evacuate patients by air, accompanied by appropriate doctors and equipment, on short notice.

Pharmacies in Windhoek are well stocked and professionally run. Some pharmacies are open 24 hours a day. Depending on the particular medication, costs may be more or less than in the U.S.

Community Health

Windhoek poses few health hazards to Americans. Sanitation is excellent, and tap water is potable in Windhoek and throughout most of Namibia. Windhoek is connected to a central sewage system. A high-tech wastewater-treatment facility purifies water for residential use. Garbage is collected by municipal trash trucks once a week and disposed of in landfills. Milk, dairy products, meat, and produce are safe when purchased from reputable retailers. Industrial and automobile pollution is not a problem in Windhoek. The main residential pests are ants. Some areas of Wind-hoek have large numbers of mosquitoes during the rainy season, but as Windhoek is in a non-malarial zone, they are a nuisance more than a health hazard.

Preventive Measures

The chief ailments afflicting Americans in Windhoek are allergies and respiratory problems. Pollen and dust, some largely unique to Namibia, can cause problems even for those who have not experienced allergies or respiratory problems elsewhere.

Namibia's high altitude can cause fatigue, especially for newcomers. Namibia's extreme dryness can cause uncomfortably dry skin and chapped lips. Frequent applications of skin lotions and lip balm help. Windhoek's windy climate kicks up dust storms that can complicate medical conditions and make contact lenses uncomfortable. Lens-wearers often find they use more lubricating fluids in Namibia, and some find short-term disposable lenses to be most comfortable.

Namibia has one of the world's highest rates of HIV infection and AIDS. Most segments of the rural and disadvantaged urban population suffer from a lack of adequate sanitation and public health facilities. Incidences of tuberculosis, enteric diseases, and hepatitis are high among this group. Although HIV/AIDS testing of prospective employees is prohibited by Namibian law, it is prudent to screen prospective domestic employees for other health problems.

Namibia's strong sun, high altitude, and clear skies have given it one of the world's highest incidences of skin cancer. If spending any time outdoors, it is essential to use common-sense precautions, such as sun block (SPF 15 or higher), hats, and skin-covering clothing. In reflection of the seriousness of this risk, the Windhoek International School does not allow children to play outside unless they are wearing broad-brimmed hats.

Namibia has a variety of venomous snakes, scorpions, and spiders, but bites or stings from these are rare. Namibia also has rabies, but the risk of contracting rabies is low if one avoids undue contact with wild animals. Occasionally, tourists are injured or killed in game reserves by wild animals. It is essential that visitors to game reserves remain in their vehicles at all times, and avoid coming too close to or aggravating the wildlife.

Food items purchased from reputable stores require no special precautions or handling. Those susceptible to stomach ailments should thoroughly clean and disinfect unpeeled produce.

Although malaria does not exist in Windhoek, it does in many northern and northeastern areas of Namibia, including the Etosha National Park. Visitors to those areas should begin taking antimalarial medication at least 1 week prior to travel and should take sensible precautions against mosquito bites, such as using insect repellent, skin-covering clothing, and mosquito netting.


Passage, Customs and Duties

A passport and visa are normally required. Bearers of U.S. passports who plan to visit Namibia for tourism for less than ninety (90) days can obtain visas at the port of entry and do not need visas prior to entering the country. Travelers coming for work, whether paid or voluntary, must obtain their visas prior to entering Namibia. Travelers should obtain the latest information from the Embassy of Namibia at 1605 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, telephone (202) 986-0540, or from the Permanent Mission of Namibia to the U.N. at 135 W. 36th St., New York, NY 10016, telephone (212) 685-2003, fax (212) 685-1561. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Namibian embassy.

Air Namibia and LTU Airlines have direct flights to Windhoek from several European cities. Most flights from South Africa to Windhoek arrive at Hosea Kutako International Airport, approximately 30 minutes outside of Windhoek. Some flights, on smaller commuter planes, land at Eros Airport, located on the outskirts of the city. While Eros is a more convenient airport, the size of the planes may limit how much luggage can accompany the traveler.

Baggage theft and pilferage is a recurring problem at Johannesburg International Airport, so travelers should pack valuables and necessities in their carry-on luggage and safeguard their checked luggage as much as possible.

U.S. citizens living in or visiting Namibia are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Windhoek and obtain updated information on travel and security within Namibia. The U.S. Embassy is located at 14 Lossen Street, Ausspannplatz, Windhoek, telephone (264-61) 22-1061, fax (264-61) 22-9792. The mailing address is Private Bag 12029, Wind-hoek, Namibia.


Importation permits are required for all animals entering Namibia. Cats and dogs with valid rabies shots are not subject to quarantine. Birds are subject to a 30-day quarantine. The application process for importation permits requires sending documents back and forth between the pet owner and the Namibian Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Rural Development's State Veterinarian office, so it is recommended that you start the process at least 2 months ahead of arrival. The State Veterinarian office issues a permit form, which must be filled out by the pet's own veterinarian. A current rabies shot is required, and must have been administered not less than 30 days and not more than 1 year prior to the pet's arrival in Namibia. Once completed by your veterinarian, the permit is returned for final processing and the permit is then issued and returned to the pet owner. The permit must accompany the pet during shipment. Certain animals, especially certain bird species, require an additional permit, so please allow 2 additional weeks if bringing a bird to Namibia. After arrival, dogs and cats will be immediately released to the custody of the owner on the understanding that the pet will be brought to the State Veterinarian in town for final health approval. The State Veterinarian requires notification of arrival of incoming animals.

Firearms and Ammunition

Importation of ammunition and firearms, except handguns, for sporting purposes is possible with the Government of Namibia licensing. Licensing of the item must be obtained from the Namibian Police. Namibia prohibits the importation of handguns. Age 18 is the legal hunting age in Namibia.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

Namibia's currency is the Namibia dollar. It is based on the decimal system, with 100 cents equaling I dollar. The currency is tied to the South African rand, which has a floating rate of exchange, and as of January 2001 the exchange rate was N$7.90 = US$1. The Namibia dollar is equal in value to the South African rand. The rand is legal tender in Namibia, but Namibian dollars are valid only in Namibia and are not accepted in South Africa.

Travelers to Namibia may wish to obtain a small amount of rand prior to their departure for Namibia or when transiting South Africa, as rand is easier to obtain internationally and accepted throughout Namibia. Upon arrival in Wind-hoek, U.S. dollars can be converted at airport currency exchange counters at reasonable exchange rates.

Namibia recently introduced a Value Added Tax. Third-party-liability insurance is required for all motor vehicles. This insurance is available locally for approximately US$120 per year.

Traveler's checks can be used at hotels and banks, and major credit cards are accepted at most commercial establishments. Many ATM machines in Namibia accept U.S. ATM cards that are members of international syndicates (Cirrus, Plus, Honor, Interlink), issuing Namibian dollars at a reasonable exchange rate. The daily ATM maximum withdrawal is currently N$1,500 (approximately US$200) at most machines.

Namibia uses the metric system of weights and measures.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Mar. 21 Independence Day

Mar. (2nd Mon) Commonwealth Day*

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

May 1 Worker's Day

May 4 Cassingda Day

May/June Ascension Day*

May 25 Africa Day

Aug. 26 Heroes' Day

Dec. 10 Human Rights Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Dec. 26 Family Day



These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on Namibia. In addition to the titles listed, a variety of travel guides on Namibia and neighboring countries is available at most bookstores and online booksellers.

Bauer, Gretchen. Labor and Democracy in Namibia, 1971-1996. Ohio University Press, 1998.

Britz, Lang, Limprecht. A Concise History of the Rehoboth Basters. Klaus Hess Publishers: Wind-hoek/Gottingen, 1999.

Comley, P & Meyer, S. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Namibia. South Africa, 1997.

Conniff, Richard. "Cheetahs: Ghosts of the Grasslands." National Geographic Magazine. December, 1999.

Crandall, David P. The Place of Stunted Ironwood Trees: A Year in the Lives of the Cattle Herding Himba of Namibia. Continuum Publishing Group: 2000.

Dierks, Klaus. II Khauxa!nas, Growing to Nationhood. Windhoek, 1992.

Dreyer, Ronald. Namibia and Southern Africa: Regional Dynamics of Decolonization 1945-90. Kegan Paul Intl, 1994.

Gewald, Jan-Bart. Herero Heroes: A Socio-Political History of the Herero Of Namibia, 1890-1923. Ohio University Press, 1999.

Gibson, Larson, McGurk. The Kavango Peoples. Franz Steiner Verlag: Wiesbaden, 1981.

Godwin, Peter. "Bushmen: LastStand for Southern Africa's First People." National Geographic Magazine. February 2001.

Groth, Siegfried. Namibia: The Walls of Silence. Peter Hammer Verlag: Wuppertal, 1995.

Grotpeter, John J. Historical Dictionary of Namibia. Scarecrow Press, 1994.

Grunert, Nicole. Namibia: Fascination of Geology. Klaus Hess Publishers: Windhoek/Gottingen, 2000.

Hayes, Patricia; Silvester, Jeremy;Wallace, Marion; Hartmann, Wolfram (ed.). Namibia under South African Rule: Mobility and Containment 1915-46. Oxford, 1998.

Hartmann, Wolfram (ed). The Colonising Camera: Photographs in the Making of Namibian History. Ohio University Press: 1999.

Heywood, Masdoorp. The Hendrik Witbooi Papers. National Archive: Windhoek, 1996.

Jaffa et al. An Investigation of the Shooting at the Old Location on 10 December 1959. Discourse Publications: Windhoek, 1995.

Katjavivi, Peter. Church and Liberation in Namibia. Pluto Press: 1990.

Katjavivi, Peter. A History of Resistance in Namibia. Africa World Press: 1990.

Kinahan, Jill. By Command of Their Lordships. Namibia Archaeological Trust: Windhoek, 1992.

Kinahan, John. The Archaeology of Social Rank Among Eighteenth Century Nomadic Pastoralists in Southern Namibia. Johannesburg, 1996.

King, Kimberly Lenease and Mabokela, Reitumetse Obakeng (eds.). Apartheid No More: Case Studies of Southern African Universities in the Process of Transformation. Bergin & Garvey, 2001.

Lau, Brigitte. Carl Hugo Hahn Diaries. Archive Services Division: Windhoek, 1985.

Lau, Brigitte. Namibia in Jonker Afrikaner's Time. National Archives of Namibia: Windhoek, 1994.

Lewis-Williams, Dowson. Images of Power: Understanding San Rock-Art. Struik Publishers: Cape Town, 2000.

Leys, Colin T. and Saul, John S. Namibia's Liberation Struggle: The Two-Edged Sword. Ohio University Press: 1995.

Maho, J.E. Few People, Many Tongues. Gamsberg Macmillan: Windhoek, 1998

Malan, J.S. Peoples of Namibia. Rhino Publishers: Wyngate Park, Pretoria, 1995.

Martin, Henno. The Sheltering Desert. AD. Donker: Jeppestown, 1983.

Notkola, Veijo and Sliskonen, Harri. Fertility, Mortality and Migration in Subsaharan Africa: The Case of Ovamboland in North Namibia, 1925-90. Palgrave: 2000.

Palgrave, K. Trees of Southern Africa. South Africa, 1977.

Pendleton, Wade C. Katutura: A Place Where We Stay: Life in a Post Apartheid Township in Namibia. Ohio University Press: 1996.

Pool, Gerhard. Samuel Maherero. Gamsbert Macmillan, Windhoek, 1991.

Silvester, Jeremy. My Heart Tells Me I Have Done Nothing Wrong: The Fall of Mandume. Discourse Publications: Windhoek, 1995.

Tonjes, Hermann. Ovamboland. Namibia Scientific Society: Wind-hoek, 1996.


Etosha: Africa's Untamed Wilderness. PBS: Living Edens Series Home Video.

Namib: Africa's Burning Shore. PBS: Living Edens Series Home Video.

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Republic of Namibia

CAPITAL: Windhoek

FLAG: Top left triangle is blue, center diagonal band is red, and the bottom right triangle is green. Colors are separated by narrow white bands. On the blue triangle is a golden sun with twelve triangular rays.

ANTHEM: Namibia Land of the Brave, music and words by Axali Doeseb.

MONETARY UNIT: The Namibian dollar (n$) of 100 cents is in use; n$1 = $0.15748 (or $1 = n$6.35) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is in use.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Independence Day, 21 March; Workers' Day, 1 May; Casinga Day, 4 May; Ascension Day, 12 May; Africa Day, 25 May; Heroes' Day, 26 August; Day of Goodwill, 7 October; Human Rights Day, 10 December; Christmas, 2526 December. Movable religious holidays include Easter and Easter Monday.

TIME: 2 pm = noon GMT.


A vast land of desert and semidesert along the southwestern coast of Africa, Namibia covers 825,418 sq km (318,696 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Namibia is slightly more than half the size of the state of Alaska. It extends 1,498 km (931 mi) sse-nnw and 880 km (547 mi) ene-wsw (excluding the Caprivi Strip). Namibia is bordered by Angola and Zambia in the n, by Botswana in the e, by South Africa in these and s, and by the Atlantic Ocean to the w, with a total land boundary length of 3,936 km (2,446 mi) and a coastline of 1,572 km (977 mi).

The enclave of Walvis Bay (1,124 sq km/434 sq mi) was administered from 1977 to 1994 as part of South Africa's Cape Province, as were 13 offshore islands. Walvis Bay was reincorporated into Namibia on 1 March 1994. Namibia's capital city, Windhoek, is in the center of the country.


Namibia is largely an elevated, waterless plateau partly suitable for arid grazing. The average altitude is 1,080 m (3,543 ft) above sea level; the high point, near the coast, is Konigstein, at 2,606 m (8,550 ft). Along almost the entire range of the coast there are sandy wastes and high, reddish sand dunes. The coastal strip comprises the Namib Desert, and the eastern region is part of the Kalahari Desert. All four permanent rivers form borders: the Kunene and Okavango in the north, the Zambezi in the northeast, and the Orange (Oranje) in the south.


Namibia's climate is the driest in Africa, with sunny, warm days and cooler nights, especially during the winter months. The average temperature along the coast is the summer is 23°c (73°f); in winter, the average temperature is 13°c (55°f). The fertile northern strip is always warmer, having a climate similar to that of southern Angola.

Much of Namibia is a land of perennial drought. The annual rainfall, which is concentrated in the NovemberMarch period, generally averages more than 70 cm (28 in) in the far north, 2.515 cm (16 in) in the south, and 35 cm (14 in) in the central plateau. But the rains often fail: some regions have gone nearly a century without a drop of rain.


Namibia is the home of a great variety of large fauna and avifauna. In the game parks and the neighboring grazing areas, there are the tallest elephants in the world, along with rhinoceroses; an abundance of lions, cheetahs, and leopards; ostriches; and a profusion of ungulates, including the giraffe, zebra, kudu, eland, blackfaced impala, hartebeest, springbok, gemsbok, and wildebeest. Namibia is one of two countries in the world (with Mali) where there are elephants living in desert conditions. Desert elephants tend to have smaller bodies and larger feet than other elephants. Birds of prey are numerous, as are the Kori bustard and the Karroo korhaan. Among the unique flora are the desert welwitschia and many varieties of aloe. As of 2002, there were at least 250 species of mammals, 201 species of birds, and over 3,100 species of plants throughout the country.


Namibia's environmental concerns include water pollution and insufficient water for its population. The nation has 6 cu km of renewable water resources. About 68% of the annual withdrawal is used in farming and 3% for industrial purposes. Only about 72% of the people living in rural areas have access to improved water sources. Nearly all of the urban population has safe water. Deforestation and soil erosion also threaten the nation's land. Agricultural chemicals, such as DDT, pose a threat to the environment due to excessive usage.

The Namibian Wildlife Trust, organized in 1982, works closely with the Department of Nature Conservation to maintain the habitat and to prevent poaching of threatened fauna and avifauna. In 2003, 13.6% of Namibia's total land area was protected. Twelve nature conservation areas cover 99,616 sq km (38,462 sq mi). Among these are the 22,270-sq-km (8,603-sq-mi) Etosha National Park, one of Africa's best-run and least-visited animal preserves; a smaller game park near Windhoek; and the Namib Desert Park (23,401 sq km/9,035 sq mi), east of Swakopmund. There is a seal reserve at Cape Cross, north of Swakopmund. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 10 types of mammals, 18 species of birds, 4 types of reptiles, 1 species of amphibian, 11 species of fish, 1 type of mollusk, and 24 species of plants. Threatened species include the black rhino, cave catfish, and the wild dog. Burchell's zebra has become extinct.


The population of Namibia in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 2,031,000, which placed it at number 140 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 40% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 98 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 1.1%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The projected population for the year 2025 was 2,061,000. The overall population density was 2 per sq km (6 per sq mi), with the far north the most densely populated region of the country.

The UN estimated that 33% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.54%. The capital city, Windhoek, had a population of 237,000 in that year. Other important areas (and their estimated populations) include Ondangwa (50,000) and Oshakati (40,000).

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on the population of Namibia. The UN estimated that 22.2% of adults between the ages of 1549 were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001. The AIDS epidemic causes higher death and infant mortality rates, and lowers life expectancy.


Namibia's migrant labor force exceeds 100,000. Ovambo from northern Namibia have moved south since the 1920s to work in the diamond mines near the mouth of the Orange River, in the port of Walvis Bay, and in the cities and towns of the interior. Ovambo formerly migrated by the thousands to work in the gold mines of South Africa, but that traffic has diminished. Only 14,817 blacks of Namibian birth were resident in South Africa in 1991. Some Ovambo have gravitated from neighboring Angola into northern Namibia. The resurgence of war in Angola in mid-1998 drove thousands of refugees into Namibia.

In 2000 there were 143,000 migrants residing in Namibia. Remittances in 2002 were us$783 million. In 2004, there were 14,773 refugees, primarily from Angola, and 2,155 asylum seekers. Of the refugees, 8,490 were detained in a camp at Osire. The net migration rate in 2005 was an estimated 0.52 per 1,000 population. The government views the immigration level as too high, but the emigration level as satisfactory.


About 87.5% of the population is black; 6% is white; and 6.5% is mixed. Approximately 50% of total population belong to the Ovambo tribe, the largest group, who live mainly in the well-watered north. The second-largest group, constituting 9% of the population, is the Kavango, who reside along the Okavango River. The Damara, accounting for 7% of the populace, live east of the arid coast and to the south of the Ovambo, and the Herero, a herding people who range north of Windhoek, account for another 7%. The Nama, herders in the deep south, make up 5% of the population; the Caprivian, living in the easternmost portion of the strip, total 4%; the San (Bushmen) 3%; the Basters of Rehoboth, a farming community of mixed origin, 2%; and the Tswana 0.5%. The white population lives predominantly in central and southern Namibia. The Coloureds (peoples of mixed descent) live largely in Windhoek and other cities.


The official language of Namibia is English; however, it is only used by about 7% of the population. Afrikaans is the common language used by most people, including about 60% of the white population. Approximately 32% speak German. Ovambo, in any of several dialects, is widely used throughout the country, and Herero is widely spoken in Windhoek. Other indigenous languages are also used by the various tribes.


The first missionaries to proselytize in Namibia were British Congregationalists and Methodists; German and Finnish Lutherans; and German-speaking Roman Catholics. As a result, between 8090% of Namibians are Christians, with the largest denominations being Lutheran and Roman Catholic. Other principal denominations, include Baptists, Methodists, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. There are also a number of Zionist churches that blend traditional African beliefs with Pentecostal Christianity. Nearly 10% of the population practices indigenous religions, primarily among the ethnic tribes. One notable custom is the ritual fire, which some tribes keep burning continuously to ensure life, fertility, prosperity, and the happiness of ancestors. There are small numbers of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Baha'is in the country.

The constitution provides for religious freedom and this right is generally respected in practice. Though there is no state religion, the government seems to favor the Anglican, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic churches. Certain Christian holidays are celebrated as national holidays.


As of 2004, Namibia was traversed by 2,382 km (1,481 mi) of narrow gauge railway. The system consisted of a main line from South Africa connecting east of Karasburg and continuing to Keetmanshoop (with a side branch to Lüderitz), Mariental, and Windhoek before heading eastward to the ranching area of Gobabis and north to the copper-mining area of Tsumeb. Westward from Windhoek and also southwestward from Tsumeb, the main rail lines link the interior with Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Of Namibia's 42,237 km (26,271 mi) of roadway, a total of 5,406 km (3,363 mi) were paved in 2002. The Trans-Kalahari Highway links Namibia and Gauteng Province in South Africa. The Trans-Caprivi Highway links Namibia to Zambia, Zimbabwe, and northern Botswana. As of 2003, there were a total of 154,850 vehicles in Namibia, of which 73,550 were passenger vehicles and 81,300 were commercial vehicles.

Walvis Bay, a South African enclave from 1977 to 1994, has been the main handler of Namibia's imports and exports and the home of the territory's once-vital fishing fleet since the 1920s. About 95% of all Namibian seaborne trade is transshipped there. Lüderitz, the site of the first German entry in 1883, has lost its status as a port because of harbor silting and poor transport links. However, it remains a center of the territory's crayfish industry. In 2005, Namibia had one merchant vessel, a cargo ship, of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 2,265 GRT.

In 2004, there were an estimated 136 airports, 21 of which had paved runways as of 2005. Namibia's international airport (Windhoek International) is near Windhoek, with other modern facilities at Rundu, Grootfontein, Walvis Bay, Lüderitz, Keetmanshoop, and Oranjemund. Other towns have dirt airstrips, and many white Namibians fly their own aircraft from their farms to the urban centers. Air Namibia flew 214,000 international and domestic passengers in 1997. South African Airways links Windhoek to Europe and to the principal cities in South Africa. In 2003, about 266,000 passengers were carried by domestic and international airlines.


Paintings of animal figures on rock slabs in Namibia testify to at least 25,000 years of human habitation there. The San (Bushmen) may have been Namibia's earliest inhabitants. The Damara also claim to be the true indigenous Namibians, who were compelled to welcome waves of Herero and Ovambo from the north. By the 19th century, the Damara, Ovambo, and Herero were the largest indigenous ethnic groups. The Kavango and the Caprivians were settled in the areas where they now reside. There was competition for land, mostly between the Ovambo and the Herero. But then the invaders arrived. First came the Hottentots (now called Nama), brown-skinned peoples of mixed parentage from South Africa. They had guns and conquered a large swath of southern and central Namibia from the Herero and the Damara. The Germans came in 1883, initially as commercial colonizers and missionaries and then as soldiers. With military might, the Germans in the 1890s moved inland across the desert from Walvis Bay (which had been annexed by the British in 1878 and incorporated into Cape Colony in 1884) to Windhoek, establishing forts and subjugating the Herero and Damara. The Germans forcibly took land and cattle from the Herero, whose revolt was suppressed by the Germans at a cost of about 65,000 Herero lives. A Nama revolt met a similar fate in 1904.

When World War I broke out, the South Africans invaded Süd-West Afrika, as the German colony was then known. The South Africans wished to annex the territory, but the new League of Nations granted South Africa a mandate instead. From 1920 to 1946, South Africa administered the mandatory territory as if it were an integral part of the Union, but neglected social services and the Ovambo-Kavango sphere in the north.

After World War II, South Africa refused to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the UN over Namibia as a successor organization to the League of Nations. Instead, it progressively integrated Namibia into the Union. In the 1950s, senators from South West Africa sat in the South African parliament. The UN took South Africa before the International Court of Justice, which gave ambiguous verdicts in 1962 and 1966, but in 1971 it decisively declared South Africa's occupation of Namibia illegal. In 1978, the UN Security Council rejected South Africa's annexation of Walvis Bay.

Meanwhile, in 1960, representatives of the indigenous majority had formed the South-West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) to seek independence and black majority rule. Beginning in 1966, but especially after 1977, SWAPO used guerrilla tactics with varying success. South Africa countered by building up its armed forces along Namibia's borders with Zambia and Angola, where SWAPO had established bases and from where it launched raids.

In 1978, South Africa ostensibly accepted a Western-sponsored plan for an independent Namibia, but at the same time sponsored elections for a constituent assembly (opposed by the UN) that resulted in the victory of a white-dominated multi-ethnic party, the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance. Representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, and Canada then attempted to devise a formula acceptable to South Africa that would permit Namibia to proceed to independence in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 435 of 1978. Black African countries rejected South Africa's demand that Cuban forces leave neighboring Angola as part of a settlement.

A "transitional government of national unity," composed of South African-appointed members of six parties, was installed in 1985. The South African administrator-general retained the right to veto legislation, and South Africa continued to exercise authority over foreign affairs and defense. On 13 December 1988, seven months of US-mediated (with observers from the Soviet Union) negotiations, resulted in the signing by Angola, Cuba, and South Africa of the Protocol of Brazzaville, by which South Africa agreed to implement the UN Plan for Namibia. Cuba and Angola agreed to a phased, total withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. Further agreements on details were signed in New York on 22 December 1988.

The process to implement UN Resolution 435 on 1 April 1989 started off shakily. In contravention of SWAPO president Sam Nujoma's assurances to the UN to abide by a cease-fire and repatriate only unarmed insurgents, around 2,000 armed members of the People's Liberation Army (PLAN), SWAPO's military wing, crossed into northern Namibia from Angola. South African forces were authorized to oppose them and 375 PLAN fighters were killed. This misunderstanding was overcome by negotiations and peace was restored.

Elections, held 711 November 1989, were certified as free and fair. This transitional period involved the return of some 42,000 refugees and the return of SWAPO politicians and PLAN fighters in exile. SWAPO took 57% of the vote, just short of the two-thirds necessary to allow it a free hand in drafting a constitution. The main opposition Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) received 29%. By 9 February 1990 the constituent assembly had drafted and adopted a constitution based on the 1982 constitutional principles. Namibia became independent on 21 March 1990. Nujoma was sworn in as president by UN Sec. Gen. Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. Namibia's independence shines as a UN success story.

Since independence, the SWAPO government has pursued a policy of "reconciliation" with the white inhabitants. It is a vibrant multiparty, nonracial democracy. On 1 March 1994, the reincorporating of Walvis Bay into Namibia was completed through an agreement with South Africa.

Nujoma won the two-day 78 December 1994 legislative and presidential elections with 76% of the vote to the DTA's Mishake Muyongo's 23%. SWAPO won, 53 of the 72 contested seats of the National Assembly; DTA, 15; United Democratic Front (UDF), 2; Democratic Coalition of Namibia, 1; Monitor Action Group (MAG), 1.

By the late 1990s, secessionist sentiments were growing among the 92,000 Lozi of the Caprivi Strip in northeastern Namibia. They formed the Caprivi Liberation Front, led by Mishake Muyongo, former SWAPO executive secretary and DTA leader. On 2 August 1998, Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA) rebels attacked military, police, and other government installations around Katima Mulilo in Caprivi. Namibia declared a state of emergency that lasted three weeks. Six soldiers and police officers, and several civilians died in the attack. Many rebels were captured or killed by security forces. By December 1998, 2,250 Namibians from the Caprivi region had crossed into Botswana, allegedly fleeing persecution by the Namibian Defense Force, and 2,232 of them were given asylum in Botswana. In 2005, over 130 Caprivians are being held for trial on charges of treason, of which 13 are lodging a complaint under one of the several international and regional human rights treaties applicable in the country.

In November 1998, SWAPO used its two-thirds majority in parliament to change the constitution to allow Nujoma a third term of office. This move attracted wide national and international criticism in what some observers called a "torpedoing of democracy" to suit certain individuals. Namibia's ambassador to Britain and high-ranking SWAPO member, Ben Ulenga, resigned in protest over this. In March 1999, he formed his own party, the Congress of Democrats (CoD). Nujoma went on to win the (substantially free and fair) elections held on 30 November and 1 December 1999, taking 77% of the vote and three-quarters (55) of the 72 parliamentary seats. The CoD (tied with DTA at 7 seats) won the highest number of opposition votes (10.5%). At its congress in 2002, Nujoma was reelected head of SWAPO, which he has led for nearly 40 years. Although Nujoma will remain president of SWAPO until 2007, Hifikepunye L. Pohamba was selected as SWAPO's candidate at the extraordinary congress held in May 2004. Pohamba, former Minister of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation, won the National Assembly and presidential elections with 76.4% of the votes. The elections of 1516 November 2004, described as "generally free and well administered", gave SWAPO 55 of the 72 elected seats in the National Assembly. Six opposition parties won a total of 17 seats, including the CoD party, which won the largest number of opposition votes; the DTA; the National Unity Democratic Organization; the UDF; the Republican Party (RP); and the MAG.

Namibia maintained neutrality in its foreign policy, until the late 1990s, when 2,000 Namibian solders were sent to help President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo fight rebels. By August 2001, all but 150 of these troops had returned home. In December 1999 Namibia allowed Angolan troops to use its territory to pursue UNITA rebels. Between December 1999 and January 2000, scores of civilians were wounded or killed. The death of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi in February 2002 and the subsequent peace accord between UNITA and the Angolan government ended bouts of "hot pursuit" across the Namibian-Angolan border in connection with the quarter-centurylong civil war in Angola. In 2003, the Namibian and Botswanan governments accepted the demarcation of their joint border along the Kwando, Linyanti, and Chobe rivers. In 2004, the Shesheke bridge across the Zambezi River was officially inaugurated, extending the Trans-Caprivi highway from Zambia and the DROC to Walvis Bay.

In June 2003, Namibia was included in free trade talks with the United States as part of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). It also received more than us$37 million over five years in assistance from the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS and is one of 14 countries that will benefit from a us$15 billion five-year emergency plan for HIV/AIDS which was coordinated by the US government. Although the local production of anti-AIDS drugs was still being delayed, Namibia already provides anti-retrovirals to six public hospitals in an effort to assist the, then, 22.5% of the adult population that were HIV positive.


The Namibia constitution adopted on 21 March 1990 is considered a model of democratic government. Universal suffrage and a strong emphasis on human rights and political freedom are prominent. An independent judiciary and legal obligations to improve the disadvantaged sectors of the population are written into the government. Namibia has a bicameral legislature. It consists of a National Assembly of 72 deputies elected for a five-year term, and up to six members appointed by the president, and a National Council comprised of two members from each of 13 regions elected for a six-year term. The National Council functions purely in an advisory capacity. The president is elected by direct, popular vote and serves as head of state and government and commanderin-chief of the defense force for no more than two five-year terms. The constitution was amended in November 1999 specifically to allow Nujoma (alone) a third term, a move that has attracted criticism both from within the country and the international community. There is also an independent ombudsman to investigate complaints and take action in defense of the interests of individuals and organization in their dealings with the state.


The South-West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) is the largest political party, and during the struggle for independence, it was recognized by the OAU and the UN General Assembly as the sole legitimate representative of the Namibian people. SWAPO had a political wing, PLAN, that was engaged in war with South Africa. SWAPO's support comes chiefly from the Ovambo people of the north and from urban areas. The Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), a white-led amalgam of constituent ethnic parties, was the main opposition party in Namibia's first two elections. It narrowly lost the main opposition role (partly due to early alleged financial links with white South Africa) to the new (formed in March 1999) Congress of Democrats (CoD) in the 1999 elections. Three other partiesthe United Democratic Front (UDF), the Monitor Action Group (MAG), and the Democratic Coalition of Namibiawon at least a seat in the 1994 and 1999 elections. There are also several small ethnic parties, most of which were represented in the bodies appointed in 1985.

In the 1989 elections to the constituent assembly, SWAPO gained 41 seats (57.3%); the DTA 21 seats (28.6%); the United Democratic Front, four seats (5.6%); and the Action Christian National, three seats (3.5%). The other parties collectively gained three seats on 5% of the vote. In the 1994 elections, SWAPO maintained its commanding majority in the assembly, taking 73.9% of the vote, which translated to 53 seats. DTA held 15 seats; United Democratic Front, 2 seats; and one each by the Democratic Coalition of Namibia and the Monitor Action group. In the November/December 1998 elections for National Council, SWAPO took 21 seats, DTA 4, UDF 1 seat. In the November/December 1999 presidential elections, Nujoma performed even better that in previous elections, winning 76.8% of the vote. Ben Ulenga of the CoD had 10.5%; Katuurike Kaura of DTA, 9.6%; and Chief Justice Garoëb of the UDF, 3%. SWAPO swept 55 of the 72 National Assembly seats; CoD and DTA, got 7 each; UDF, 2; MAG, 1.

Nujoma and SWAPO hold a monopoly on power in what a specialist on Africa, Mahmood Mamdani, calls the "old nationalist model"in which the liberation party is "the custodian of the nation, and anyone who disagrees is unpatriotic".

In the 2004 local elections, SWAPO won 64% of the votes, CoD, 30%; DTA, 7.8%; UDF, 6%; and NUDO Progressive Party, Local Associations, RP, and NDMC, less than 5% of the votes each. The results of the 1516 November 2004 presidential and National Assembly elections gave again a vast majority to SWAPO, with 76.3% of the votes backing up the newly elected president Hifikepunye Pohamba, followed by CoD (7.3%), DTA (5.2%), NUDO (4.2%), UDF (3.8%), RP (1.9%), and MAG (1.1%).


There are 13 regions in Namibia. The most populous is Omusati, followed by Ohangwena, Khomas, Kavango, Oshana, Oshikoto, Otjozondjupa, Erongo, Caprivi, Kunene, Karas, Hardap, and Omaheke. They are governed by elected councils. Local governments (municipalities, towns and villages) have elected councils.


The court system retains Roman-Dutch elements inherited from South Africa along with elements of the traditional court system. The formal court system is arranged in three tiers: 30 magistrates' courts, the High Court, and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court serves as the highest court of appeals and also exercises constitutional review of legislation.

The traditional courts handle minor criminal offenses such as petty theft and violations of local customs. In 1991 a presidential commission recommended that the traditional courts be maintained provided they act consistently with the constitution and laws. Legislation enacted in 1993 was intended to bridge the gap between traditional and magistrates' courts by creation of a system of "community courts."

The constitution calls for an independent judiciary as well as an extensive bill of rights protecting freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion and a guarantee of redress for those whose fundamental rights have been violated. It provides for an ombudsman to deliver free legal advice upon request.

Because of a shortage of trained magistrates and lack of legal counsel, courts typically face a significant backlog of cases awaiting trial. The government appointed the first public defender in 1993 and renewed funding for representation for indigent defendants.

Although the constitution specifically prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, color, ethnic origin, religion, creed, or social or economic status, some customary and apartheid-based laws dating from before independence have not yet been repealed.


The armed forces in Namibia numbered 9,000 active personnel in 2005 and included the Presidential Guard and an air wing. The Army was equipped with a small number of aging main battle tanks, 12 reconnaissance vehicles, 60 armored personnel carriers and 81 artillery pieces. The Navy numbered around 200, and operated two patrol craft and one utility helicopter for fishery protection. The air wing's equipment included two MiG-23 fighters, 11 fixed wing transports and two attack helicopters. The paramilitary arm consisted of a special field force of 6,000, which included border guards. Namibia participated in five UN peacekeeping efforts in Africa. In 2005, the defense budget totaled us$160 million.


Namibia became a member of the United Nations on 23 April 1990; it belongs to ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IAEA, ILO, ITU, UNESCO, UNHCR, the World Bank, and the WHO. It also serves as a member of the African Development Bank, the ACP Group, the Commonwealth of Nations, G-77, the African Union, and the WTO. In the subregion, Namibia belongs to the South Africa Customs Union (SACU) and to the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). Namibia is also part of the Common Monetary Area (CMA) that includes Lesotho, Swaziland, and South Africa. Namibia is a member of the Nonaligned Movement.

In environmental cooperation, Namibia is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Namibia's economy is dependent on a few primary commodity exports, including minerals (mainly diamonds, uranium, zinc, lead, copper, tin, lithium, and cadmium), livestock (both meat and hides), and fishing. Mining accounts for 14% of GDP and the majority of exports. Diamonds alone contribute approximately 10% of the national GDP. Tourism is also a growing Namibian industry. Led by the diamond industry, the GDP grew 6.6% in 1994, but by only 3.1% in 2003. The economy is highly linked to that of South Africa, in spite gaining independence from that country in 1990. Eighty percent of Namibia's imports originate there, and transport and communications infrastructure are strongly linked with South Africa. The Namibian dollar continues to be linked at parity to the South African rand. Following significant depreciation in 1998, the currency regained strength since 2002, with the exchange rate at us$1 = n$6.35 at the end of December 2005.

Although one of the most prosperous African countries, the country's high per capita income level (approximately us$1,800) is unevenly distributed. With 22.5% of the adult population infected at the end of 2003, the HIV/AIDS pandemic is also having a devastating effect on the economy. Nonetheless, a democratically elected government is following economic and social policies aimed at the development of previously neglected regions of the country and that respond to the major challenges faced by the population.

The economy has a superior transport and communications infrastructure, an extensive natural resource base, a small population, and a stable government committed to competitiveness in attracting investment. Large oil and gas reserves were discovered in 2000. For these reasons analysts believe that Namibia's economy holds enormous potential for long-term economic growth.

According to the last national census, unemployment was high at around 31% in 2001, and the government was geared toward the creation of jobs. The services sector is the largest employer (56%), followed by agriculture (31.1%) and industry (12.2%). The private sector employs about 43% of all employed persons. The government indicated it wished to privatize state-owned enterprises, including in the electricity, telecommunications, water, and transportation sectors, but established no time frame for such privatization. Although tourism accounted for less than 3% of GDP in 2002, it grew faster than any other sector of the economy. Ecotourism is an important segment of the tourism industry, as Namibia has a wide variety of wildlife and striking scenery.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Namibia's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at us$15.8 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at us$7,800. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 4.2%. The average inflation rate in 2002 was 2.7%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 9.3% of GDP, industry 27.8%, and services 62.9%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled us$13 million or about us$6 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.3% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to us$146 million or about us$73 per capita and accounted for approximately 3.2% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Namibia totaled us$2.38 billion or about us$1,182 per capita based on a GDP of us$4.3 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 4.1%. It was estimated that in 2002 about 50% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


As of 2005, the labor force was estimated at 820,000 workers. In 2000 (the latest year for which data was available), agriculture accounted for 31.1% of the workforce, with another 56% in the service sector, 12.2% in industry, and 0.7% in undefined occupations. In 2002, the unemployment rate was nearly 40%.

The constitution provides freedom of association, including the right to form and join trade unions, which was extended to public servants, farm workers, and domestic employees under the Labor Act of March 1992. The principal trade union organizations are the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), a SWAPO-aligned federation, and the Namibia Federation of Trade Unions (NFTU). The main public service and construction unions are affiliates of the Namibia People's Social Movement (NPSM), formerly known as the Namibian Christian Social Trade Unions. Workers generally have the right to strike. Collective bargaining is permitted but is virtually only practiced in the mining and construction industries.

The minimum legal working age is 14, however child labor remains prevalent especially in rural areas. There is no legal minimum wage, and many workers have difficulty maintaining a decent standard of living. The legal workweek is set at 45 hours with a mandatory 24-hour rest period per week. The government implements health and safety standards.


Less than 1% of Namibia is arable. About 31.1% of the active population depends on agriculture for their living. Agriculture consists of two sectors: a commercial sector with some 50,000 workers (producing 80% of annual yields), and a subsistence sector situated largely in communal areas. Colonialism left Namibia with a three-tier agricultural production system: 4,000 commercial ranches; 20,000 stock-raising households; and 120,000 mixed farming operations. The ranches displaced local farmers on 66% of the viable farmland and left only 5% of the land to the 120,000 mixed-farming operations.

Corn is grown primarily in the area known as the GrootfonteinOtaviTsumeb triangle, where farms are much smaller than in other parts of the country. Corn production in 2004 amounted only to 33,000 tons (down from 50,000 tons in 1991). Recent droughts have created a dependency on grain imports. Namibia is dependent on South Africa for corn, sugar, fruit, and vegetables. In 2004, Namibia's agricultural trade deficit was us$43.3 million.

Caprivi and Kavango in the northeast have potential for extensive crop development. Communal farms there are estimated to produce 60% of their staple food, such as mahango (which is also used to brew beer). Cotton, groundnut, rice, sorghum, and vegetable production have begun on an experimental basis in Kavango. An irrigation project at Hardap Dam near Mariental produces corn, alfalfa, feed corn, and grapes.


Namibia is an arid country with very little arable land. Livestock production is the major agricultural activity, making up more than 90% of that sector's output. In 2005, there were an estimated 2,500,000 head of cattle, 2,900,000 sheep, and 2,100,000 goats. In 2005, meat production totaled 107,600 tons, including 77,300 tons of beef, 14,000 tons of mutton, and 5,000 tons of goat meat. Karakul pelts have been a leading export, but the world market is currently depressed. Namibia has ideal conditions for commercial breeding of ostriches, and of other African game animals for meat, hide, trophy, and tourism purposes.


The fish stocks of the rich Benguela current system were seriously depleted in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. Most species, however, were expected to recover by the late 1990s as a result of conservation programs. Fishing and fish processing are among the nation's best prospects for employment and economic growth. In early 1992, a new fisheries code was presented to parliament, which stressed employment and training opportunities for Namibian citizens, profit reinvestment, and revenue gain for the nation. The total catch in 2003 was 636,464 tons, with Cape hakes accounting for 192,275 tons and Cape horse mackerels for 366,912 tons. After independence in 1990, the volume of the nominal catch skyrocketed nearly tenfold. Exports of fish and fish products totaled us$333 million in 2003.


About 10% of Namibia consists of forests and woodland, including woodland savanna, all in the north and northeast. Most of the timber is used locally.


Namibia is among the world's premier producers of gem diamonds. In 2003 the mineral industry accounted for 20% of GDP and about two-thirds of the country's exports by value. More than 6,000 workers were employed by the minerals industry. The most valuable minerals were diamonds, uranium, copper, silver, lead, zinc, gold, pyrite, and salt. Diamonds were mainly recovered from a 96 km stretch along the coastline north of the Orange River; which produced 1,481,489 carats in 2003. Also produced in 2003 were tantalum, tin, cement, fluorspar, gypsum, semiprecious stones (agate, amethyst, garnet, pietersite, rose quartz, sodalite, and tourmaline), dolomite, granite, marble, sulfur (pyrite concentrate), and wollastonite.

In 2003, mine copper output was estimated at 19,500 metric tons (copper content), up from 18,012 metric tons in 2002; mine lead, 18,782 metric tons (metal content); zinc concentrate, 60,500 metric tons (metal content); and salt, 697,914 metric tons. Rössing Uranium, owned by Río Tinto-Zinc, of the United Kingdom, produced uranium oxide at the world's sixth-largest producing uranium mine, at Swakopmund. Coal has been discovered in southeastern Namibia. Mineral exports accounted for one-half of total export value. In the period 19992003, the following minerals experienced one or more years of no output: antimony, arsenic, tantalite, tin, industrial diamond, gypsum, lithium minerals (amblygonite, lepidolite, and petalite), several semiprecious gemstones (amethyst, chrysocolla, garnet, crystal quartz, pietersite, rose quartz, and tourmaline), and sulfur.


Namibia, as of 1 January 2005, had no proven reserves of crude oil, or refining capacity, but does have proven reserves of natural gas.

In 2004, Namibia's demand for refined oil products and imports each averaged 23,000 barrels per day.

Proven reserves of natural gas have been placed, as of 1 January 2005 at 2.2 trillion cu ft. However in 2003, there was no recorded demand or output of natural gas.

Namibia generates around 50% of the electric power it consumes domestically. The main source is the 240 MW Ruacana hydroelectric plant. However, output is cyclical, necessitating the importation of power from South Africa. In addition, the Ruacana plant has been experiencing significant problems, thus boosting the need by Namibia to import power. In 2003, demand for electric power totaled 2.37 billion kWh, with production that year totaling 1.46 billion kWh.


Namibia's small industrial sector has centered on meat packing and fish processing, with some production of basic consumer goods. There are furniture and clothing factories, metal and engineering works, assembly plants for imported components, and a cement plant (which, however, closed in 1999 due to pollution risks to the lives of workers and residents in the area). A Malaysian textile company, Ramatex, established a garment factory in Windhoek in 2002, yet was closed in 2005 following accusations of workers' rights violations and inappropriate environment and labor conditions.

In 2002, the manufacturing sector represented 10.7% of the national GDP. Historically dependent on South Africa's manufacturing sector, Namibia processes fish, minerals and meat for export, and produces food and beverages. The government has committed to a mixed-market economy and aims to diversify the economy away from its traditional reliance upon the mining sector, encouraging private-sector investment and export-oriented manufacturing industries. Although the construction only contributed 2.2% of GDP in 2002, new projects included extending the Northern Railway line from Tsumeb to Oshikango, the construction of a new State House, the resurfacing of the Kongola-Katima road, and the extension of the Trans-Caprivi highway westward.

Namibia remains under explored with regard to oil and natural gas, but its greatest potential in the hydrocarbon sector remains with natural gas. The main significant discovery as of 2002 was the Kudu gas field off Luderitz. Originally involving big multinationals such as Shell and ChevronTexaco, these companies withdrew leaving the state-owned National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (Namcor) in charge. Plans were to construct a moderatesize electric power generation plant in Orangemund, a pipeline to the Western Cape in South Africa, and potentially two electric power plants there. The primary partners in the Kudu gas field project are Namcor, NamPower, Energy Africa and South Africa's Electricity Supply Commission (ESKOM).


The Namibia Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, founded in 1979 at Windhoek, supports extensive research on natural resources and ecology. The Desert Ecological Research Unit of Namibia, founded in 1963 at Swakopmund, carries out exploration and research in the Namib Desert and semiarid Namibia. The University of Namibia has a faculty of science. The Namibia Scientific Society, at Windhoek, is concerned with ornithology, spelaeology, botany, archaeology, herpetology, astronomy, and ethnology. Natural science exhibits are displayed at the Lüderitz Museum, the Museum Swakopmund, and the National Museum at Windhoek. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 4% of college and university enrollments. In 2002, Namibia's high technology exports totaled us$6 million, or 1% of its' manufactured exports.


Windhoek is the country's major commercial center. A good road network, increasingly paved, facilitates trade and communications around the country. The marketing and distribution systems are mainly controlled by foreign investors and managers from South Africa and Germany. Domestic trade is heavily dependent on South African imports for most consumer goods; there is also significant South African presence in domestic investment mainly in the form of pension funds, life insurance and transactions between commercial banks. Business hours are from 7:30 am to 4:30 or 5 pm, Monday through Friday. Many businesses are closed from mid-December to mid-January for a summer holiday.


Key export markets for Namibia are the United Kingdom (48%), South Africa (23%), Spain (15%), and France (4%). Main exports in 2001 were diamonds (approximately 46% of total export earnings in 2003), processed fish, other minerals, animals and derived products, and beverages and other foods. Along with uranium, copper, silver, lead, zinc, and gold, mineral exports accounted for 68.9% of total export earnings in 2002. The Walvis Bay enclave is an export-processing zone, with the potential of becoming a center for re-exports toward Angola, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.

Leading imports are vehicles and transport equipment, petroleum products and fuel, chemicals, foodstuffs, and machinery and electrical equipment. South Africa (80%), the United States (4%), Germany (2%), and Japan are the leading suppliers for Namibia's imports.

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 1,303.7 1,427.9 -124.2
South Africa 410.7 1,149.0 -738.3
Angola 324.9 4.5 320.4
Spain 167.0 19.4 147.6
United Kingdom 135.7 17.5 118.2
United States 35.2 14.2 21.0
Congo 33.8 33.8
France-Monaco 23.4 9.0 14.4
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 23.0 2.8 20.2
Germany 14.5 33.5 -19.0
Netherlands 13.9 3.0 10.9
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account 270.6
   Balance on goods -465.9
     Imports -1,726.0
     Exports 1,260.2
   Balance on services 111.1
   Balance on income 226.3
   Current transfers 399.0
   Capital Account 57.0
   Financial Account -653.3
   Direct investment abroad 10.8
   Direct investment in Namibia 33.3
   Portfolio investment assets -217.4
   Portfolio investment liabilities 3.9
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets -451.1
   Other investment liabilities -32.7
Net Errors and Omissions 0.2
Reserves and Related Items 325.5
() data not available or not significant.


Traditionally, Namibia has maintained a trade surplus resulting from its valuable mineral exports. However, over 95% of Namibia's consumption and investment goods are imported, resulting in wide fluctuations in the merchandise trade surplus due to the constant changes in world mineral prices. Displaying a trade deficit, the overall balance of payments went from a deficit of us$50 million in 2002 to a deficit of us$103 million in 2003.

Namibia joined the IMF in September 1990, when it began opening more to foreign trade. In recent years, the current account has maintained a surplus, due to surpluses in net current transfers, particularly in Southern African Customs Union (SACU) receipts and foreign development assistance not linked to capital assets. Germany, the United States, and Scandinavian countries are the principal bilateral donors. Although revenues from the SACU are expected to decline for Namibia as a result of the 2002 new arrangements, they still represent an important financial source for the government.


Banking activities have recorded strong growth since independence in 1990, while the range of financial institutions operating in Namibia has begun to expand. Total assets of the four main commercial banks more than doubled in 199195, and during 1995 bank lending to the private sector rose by 34%, that represented 92% of total domestic credit, of which 41% comprised loans to individuals. There have been no banking failures since independence, but the regulatory regime inherited from South Africa is being brought more into line with international norms under a new banking institutions act that was due to come into effect in 1997.

First National Bank Namibia and Standard Bank Namibia have the largest branch networks and remain wholly owned subsidiaries of their South African parent banks. Other commercial banks included the Commercial Bank of Namibia (CBN, a subsidiary of the Geneva-based Société financière pour les pays d'outre mer, or SFOM), South Africa's Nedcor Bank, FirstRand Limited, and Bank Windhoek (in which South Africa's ABSA Bank is the main shareholder). In mid-1996, Bank Windhoek completed a merger with the Namibia Building Society. The City Savings and Investment Bank (CSIB) was launched in 1994 as Namibia's first indigenously owned financial institution. At that time it had a single branch in Windhoek, but has since grown. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to us$733.3 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas us$1.2 billion. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 9.25%.

Within four years, the Namibian Stock Exchange (NSE), which started operations in October 1992, grew to become sub-Saharan Africa's second-largest in terms of market capitalization, next to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). The NSE is increasingly being used by local firms to raise capital for business expansions, while foreign investors are buying into Namibian equities through new listings and rights offers, which have been mainly oversubscribed. Some 95% of the NSE's overall market capitalization comprises dual-listings of South African parent groups of Namibian subsidiaries. Thirteen different companies were listed in 2001, when local market capitalization was us$151 million. As of 2004, a total of 13 companies were listed on the NSE, which had a market capitalization that year of us$442 million.


The government embarked on a considerable shake-up of the insurance and pensions sector during the 1990s, over which the South African mutual societies had the biggest influence. Premium income continued to be invested mainly in South African assets following independence, overriding Namibian insurance funds like the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF).

Legislative amendments of 1995 required that 35% of Namibian-generated funds under management be reinvested in specified local assets. A long-term insurance bill tabled at the end of 1996 made it compulsory for South African mutuals to establish Namibian-registered public companies and match net liabilities with local assets. As part of their asset localization measures, Sanlam and Old Mutual launched the first Namibian unit trusts in 1995. Other major insurance companies include Metropolitan Life and Mututal and Federal Insurance Company.


Although per capita GDP is one of the highest in Africa, the majority of Namibia's people live in poverty. The economy is one of the most advanced in the region, but income distribution is very skewed. In order to combat this problem, the government continues to concentrate its spending on social services. A large portion of the budget is also allocated to development projects, including

Revenue and Grants 10,349 100.0%
   Tax revenue 9,326 90.1%
   Social contributions 53 0.5%
   Grants 34 0.3%
   Other revenue 936 9.0%
Expenditures 10,657 100.0%
   General public services 2,818 26.4%
   Defense 956 9.0%
   Public order and safety 1,044 9.8%
   Economic affairs 1,106 10.4%
   Environmental protection
   Housing and community amenities 955 9.0%
   Health 1,128 10.6%
   Recreational, culture, and religion 234 2.2%
   Education 2,384 22.4%
   Social protection 774 7.3%
() data not available or not significant.

boosting the construction industry and expanding the infrastructure.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Namibia's central government took in revenues of approximately us$1.9 billion and had expenditures of us$2 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -us$94 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 39.6% of GDP. Total external debt was us$1.164 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues were n$10,349 million and expenditures were n$10,657 million. The value of revenues in US dollars was us$982 million and expenditures us$1,081 million, based on a market exchange rate for 2002 of us$1 = n$10.54075 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 26.4%; defense, 9.0%; public order and safety, 9.8%; economic affairs, 10.4%; housing and community amenities, 9.0%; health, 10.6%; recreation, culture, and religion, 2.2%; education, 22.4%; and social protection, 7.3%.


There is a progressive personal income tax with a top rate of 35%. The basic tax on corporate profits is 35%. Nonresident shareholders are taxed 10% on dividends, and there is a tax on undistributed profits. Mining companies, and oil and gas extraction companies are taxed at special rates. As of 27 November 2001, a value-added tax (VAT) replaced the 8% general sales tax (GST), with a standard rate of 15%. Exempted from VAT are education, medical services, hotel accommodations, and public transportation. There are also excise taxes on luxury goods.


Namibia is part of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa (PTA), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the SADC Free Trade Protocol. No tariffs exist on most goods moving between members, but there is a 15% duty on nonimports from nonmember nations, plus a 15% sales duty. It also has signed bilateral trade agreements with over 20 major trading nations around the world. Imports from outside the union are subject to a common tariff rate based on the Harmonized System of Import Classification; most imports need licenses. South Africa levies and collects most of the customs and excise duties for the other members and then pays each a share, based on an established formula. Namibia has double taxation agreements with South Africa, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Germany (but not the United States) and is a member of the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization.


International investment, mostly South African, has historically played an important role in Namibia. In addition, there is significant UK and US investment in mining. Several international oil and gas distribution as well as fishing companies operate in Namibia. In December 1990, foreign investment legislation was liberalized. In April 1993, Namibia announced a program of private-sector investment incentives that included lower taxes, grants, and development loans. In 1994, the government created an export processing zone at Walvis Bay. Namibia's goal is to create an infrastructure that will serve as a reexport center for southern Africa, including Angola, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.

The total foreign direct investment (FDI) in Namibia as a percent of GDP increased from 17.8% in 1998 to over 25% in 2004.


Namibia's government will continue to build and diversify its economy around its mineral reserves. Priorities include expanding the manufacturing sector, land reform, agricultural development in the populous north, and improved education and health opportunities. Transfer of Walvis Bay and 12 offshore islands to Namibia in 1994 returned to Namibia its deep-water port and 20% of its offshore rights. With 9,000 workers, the fishing industry is an increasingly important source of private-sector employment.

The five-year development program started in 1994 set an annual growth rate target of 5%, highlighting government budget cuts and foreign investment and trade. As of 2002, gross domestic product (GDP) growth since the mid-1990s had averaged 3.5% a year. Unemployment remained high, at around 30% of the labor force, and economic growth was not substantial enough to significantly reduce poverty. The 200405 budget aimed to limit the fiscal deficit to 1.6% of GDP. The recent Namibian Stock Exchange (NSX) continues to expand, gaining weight particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.


By many economic and social indicators, including population per physician, per hospital bed, and per telephone, Namibia is statistically better off than many other sub-Saharan African countries. However, such comparisons also mask the huge disparities between rural and urban Namibia, and between its black and white populations.

The government is obliged by the constitution to promote actively the welfare of the people, including gender, racial and regional equality. Considerable discrimination against women exists in both formal and customary law. Community property laws, for example, define women as legal minors, unable to enter into any kind of contract without the husband's signature. In the absence of this permission, women may not open a bank account or purchase property. Some measures were taken to address these inequities through the Married Person's Equality Bill, which out-laws discrimination against women in civil marriages. However, the law does not affect practices in customary, or traditional, marriages. Domestic abuse and violence are widespread, and cultural views of women exacerbate the problem.

Human rights are generally respected. However, there are excesses by security forces, and prison conditions remain harsh. Indigenous San peoples have historically faced discrimination from Namibia's other ethnic groups. The government has attempted to redress the marginalization of the San by increasing their participation in decision-making on issues that affect them. These efforts have been applied unevenly, and the San remain relatively isolated and largely excluded from national decision making.


In 2004, there were an estimated 30 physicians, 168 nurses, and four dentists per 100,000 people. Safe water and adequate sanitation were available to 77% and 41% of the population, respectively. Since health services are provided by the ethnically-based second-tier authorities, the system is effectively segregated. Approximately 57% of the population had access to health care services.

In 2005, average life expectancy was 43.93 years and infant mortality was 48.98 per 1,000 live births. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 34.2 and 22.3 per 1,000 people and the maternal mortality rate was estimated at 230 per 100,000 live births. About 29% of married women ages 15 to 49 years used some form of contraception.

Immunization rates for children up to one year old were: tuberculosis, 100%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 79%; polio, 79%; and measles, 68%. The rates for DPT and measles were, respectively, 72% and 66%. About 26% of children under age five were malnourished. The Namibian government is considering fortifying foods with vitamin A and/or iron. Vitamin A deficiencies were seen in 20.4% of children under age five and goiter is a common problem.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 21.30 per 100 adults in 2003, the 6th highest rate in the world. As of 2004, there were approximately 210,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 16,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003. The epidemic was worst in the northeastern part of the country, where rates of infection were as high as 29% of the population. HIV/AIDS was the leading cause of mortality, followed by pneumonia, tuberculosis, and malaria. Measles and polio prevalence was low.


There is a sharp contrast in housing standards between white and black Namibians primarily because the economic imbalance between these groups has not evened out since the end of apartheid. A majority of the population is rural, where most dwellings are self-constructed from local materials. In a 1991 housing survey, 50% of all housing units were kraals (huts) made from pole frames and thatch or mud walls. Some kraal are plastered with cow dung. It was estimated that 58% of all households lived in these type of huts. About 40% of kraal households had seven or more members. About 33% of all housing units were detached homes, but these were only serving 30% of all households.

The urban areas of Windhoek, Walvis Bay, and Swakopmund have faced housing challenges with rapid urbanization in those areas. In 2001, about 30% of all residents in Windhoek lived in informal settlement communities. From 199199, the city had developed three reception areas that were intended to be temporary settlements for new residents, who would have been resettled under the squatter's policy. Unfortunately, the settlements grew more quickly than the land and utility systems could be developed. In other cities, it has been estimated that about up to 70% of urban residents live in informal settlements. Regional and town governments build and rent housing to migrants, but the demand has overwhelmed the supply. In the 1990s, the backlog in housing units was estimated at 45,000 units.

In 2001, there were about 346,455 private households. The average number of people per household was about 5.1. About 87% of all households had access to safe drinking water. Less than 50% had access to modern toilet facilities, only 32% have electric lighting, and 62% used wood or charcoal for cooking fuel.


Education is compulsory for 10 years between the ages of 6 and 16. Primary education is for seven years, and secondary lasts for five years. The academic year runs from February to November. In 2001, about 23% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 78% of age-eligible students; 76% for boys and 81% for girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 44% of age-eligible students; 39% for boys and 50% for girls. It is estimated that about 92.4% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 28:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 24:1.

Higher education is provided primarily by the University of Namibia, the Polytechnic of Namibia, and the Colleges of Education (at Windhoek, Ongwediva, Rundu, and Caprivi). There is an Academy for Tertiary Education for adult students. In 2003, about 7% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 85%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 7.2% of GDP, or 21% of total government expenditures.


Public libraries serve most cities and towns in an extensive network. The National Archives and a public library (78,000 volumes) are both located in Windhoek, as is the National Library, which contains about 90,000 volumes. The library of the University of Namibia at Windhoek holds 86,800 volumes.

There is a National Museum of Namibia in Windhoek, with an emphasis on the natural and human sciences, and local museums in Lüderitz, Swakopmund, Gobabis, Omaruri, Outjo, Tsumeb, and other towns. The State Museum in Windhoek features objects from the cultures of the Nama, Bushman, Herero, Ovambo, and other Southern African peoples. The Lüderitz Museum features displays of diamond mining.


Namibia has good quality telephone service, with at least 18 automatic telephone exchanges that can put callers in touch with 63 countries. Communication with rural areas is provided by about 65 fixed radio stations and 500 mobile stations. Fax machines and telex services are readily available. In 2003, there were an estimated 66 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 2,600 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. Also in 2003, there were approximately 116 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

The government-owned Namibian Broadcasting Corp. transmits radio programs in English, German, Afrikaans, and African languages. Television relays from South Africa began in the Windhoek and Oshakati areas in 1981. In 2004, there were nine private radio stations, one private television station, and a private cable and satellite television service. In 2003, there were an estimated 134 radios and 269 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 16 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 99.3 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 34 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were nine secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

Four major daily newspapers are published in Windhoek, including (with 2002 circulation): The Namibian (11,000), Die Republikein (12,000), and The Windhoek Advertiser (5,000). Tempo is a Sunday paper with a circulation of 11,000. The government owns and operates the Namibia Press Agency. The government also owns one biweekly newspaper, New Era, and two magazines, Namibia Today and Namibia Review.

The constitution provides for free speech and a free press, and the government is said to generally respect those rights. However, the government-owned Namibian Broadcasting Corporation operated most radio and television services, and though it provides significant coverage of opposition opinions, there have been many complaints of bias in the reporting of sensitive issues.


There are two chambers of commerce in Windhoek. Professional and trade associations exist for teachers, miners, journalists, architects, jewelers, and members of the tourist industry. The National Scientific Society promotes research and education in the fields of national history, ethnology, archaeology, zoology, botany, and geology.

National youth organizations include the Namibian National Students Organization, the National Youth Council of Namibia, the SWAPO Youth League of Namibia, Junior Chamber, and Boy Scouts of Namibia. A number of sports associations are active within the country, representing such pastimes as sailing, badminton, baseball, and tennis. Women's organizations include the Sister Namibia Collective and the Namibia National Women's Organization. The YWCA has chapters in Namibia.

Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs International, are also present. The Red Cross and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul are also active in the country.


Namibia's prime tourist attractions are game viewing, trophy hunting, and the scenic beauty of its deserts. In the west, Swakopmund is a Hanseatic-style resort town populated by Namibians of German descent. It is the center for tours of the nearby Namib dunes, and for visits to the wild Skeleton Coast to the north. In the south, the Fish River Canyon, 85 km (53 mi) long and 700 m (2,300 ft) deep, ranks second in size to the Grand Canyon.

In 2003, Namibia had 695,221 foreign visitors, of whom 32% came from South Africa. There were 2,749 hotel rooms with 6,091 beds and an occupancy rate of 43%. Visitors stayed an average of two nights. Vaccinations are required if traveling from an infected area. All nationals except those of Japan, Germany, the United States, and 42 other countries are required to carry a visa for stays of up to 90 days.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Windhoek at us$157; in Etosha, us$198; and in Swakopmund, us$172.


Herman Toivo ja Toivo (b.1915?), the founder of SWAPO and the leader of Namibian nationalism, languished in a South African prison from 1966, when he was convicted of treason, until his release in March 1984. Sam Nujoma (b.1929) has been leader of SWAPO since 1966, and served as first president of Namibia, from 19902005. Hifikepunye Pohamba (b.1935) took office as Namibia's second president in 2005.


Namibia has no territories or colonies.


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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Namibia
Region: Africa
Population: 1,771,327
Language(s): English, Afrikaansion, German, Oshivambo, Herero, Nama
Literacy Rate: 38%
Academic Year: January-November
Compulsory Schooling: 10 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 9.1%
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 400,325
  Secondary: 115,237
  Higher: 11,344
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 131%
  Secondary: 61%
  Higher: 8%
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 132%
  Secondary: 66%
  Higher: 10%

History & Background

On the southwestern coast of Africa, bordering the south Atlantic Ocean and lapped by the cold waves of the Benguela ocean current, lies the Republic of Namibia. Formerly known as South-West Africa, and before that as German Southwest Africa, it gained independence on March 21, 1990, at which time it adopted the name Namibia. The Namib Desert (from which the country gets its name), one of the planet's oldest deserts, runs along almost the entire coastline, except for the northernmost part, the Kaoko Veld, which presents a somewhat more gentle climate than the desert regions.

The Skeleton Coast, which stretches along the northern parts of the Namibian coastline, is one of the earth's most inhospitable places. It has treacherous shorelines with coastal fogs and cold sea breezes caused by the icy Benguela current. These shorelines became the graveyard of numerous ships and mariners. The impenetrability of the area may have been one of the reasons the people of this part of the world were spared the excesses of the Atlantic slave trade that raged along the West African coast.

Namibiabordered to the north by Angola, to the south by South Africa, and to the east by Botswanais a land of many contrasts, ranging from the desert regions of the coast to the wildlife-rich areas of the Etosha Pan game reserve and the Caprivi Strip (a narrow strip of land that extends eastward from Namibia and borders Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana). The large Kunene and Okavango Rivers border Namibia to the north; the Kwando River cuts through the Caprivi Strip; the Zambezi River flows along the northeastern border; and the Orange River forms Namibia's southern border. Otherwise Namibia is a dry land where droughts often occur. The extremes in landscape, temperature, and climate provide the background for the country's history and for the national and cultural character of its people.

Namibia is home to some of the most ancient nations on earth, the !Kung (the "!" indicates a click sound), members of the Khoisan people, whom the white people called Bushmen and Hottentots, speak what are known as the "click languages" of Africa. While there are few members of the original Bushmen still alive today, except in the far northern parts of Namibia and in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa, these ancient hunter-gatherers are famous for their lifelike art painted and carved on the desert rock. The traditional education of these people is largely part of their oral tradition, and much is lost in antiquity. What is known, however, is that there were strict codes of honesty, so much so that even in times of dire necessity, no Bushman would use the water another had stored in ostrich eggshells and buried in the desert sand. They were skillful in fashioning tools from wood and stone; clothing from animal hides; musical instruments from wood, catgut, and ostrich quills; and bows and arrows. From an early age, young men learned to hunt, killing prey with poisoned arrows. The rock paintings they left indicate that for the Bushmen the hunt not only fulfilled their need for food, but also for a sacred ritual. In modern times many Bushmen have become laborers on farms. Their traditional skills were used by the South African Defense Force during the late twentieth century to track down the whereabouts of the opposition in Namibia's struggle for independence.

By about 1000 A.D., the indigenous Bushmen and Hottentot peoples of southern Africa gave way to various migrating Bantu-speaking peoples who today make their home in Namibia. Large numbers of Herero and Ovambo people moved southwards to Namibia and, by the 1800s, the Damara, Herero, and Ovambo were the largest ethnic groups in the country.

Beginning in the mid-1800s, German settlers, missionaries, and soldiers began arriving in what is today Namibia. They settled mainly in the coastal regions. In 1884 Otto von Bismarck, the German "Iron Chancellor" who had declared "My map of Africa lies in Europe," convened the Berlin Conference at which the European powers, in search of new markets and coveting the riches of Africa, gerrymandered the continent, dividing it up between them with no regard to existing ethnic and national boundaries. Together with Togo, Kamerun (which with Togo was split between Britain and France after World War I and is today known as Cameroon), German East Africa (after World War I, Tanganyika, known since independence as Tanzania, was mandated to Britain, and Ruanda-Urundi to Belgium), and German Southwest Africa (known today as Namibia) became German property.

In 1915, during World War I, South Africa allied with the British and took over South-West Africa. South Africa wanted to annex the country but was prevented from doing so in 1920 by the League of Nations, which gave South Africa a mandate to manage Namibia's government and affairs. In 1945, after World War II, the United Nations, which replaced the League of Nations, requested that South-West Africa be placed under United Nations trusteeship. When South Africa refused, a long period of often-acrimonious negotiations and eventually guerrilla warfare, led by the South-West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), ensued. On March 21, 1990, Namibia, under the leadership of SWAPO's Sam Nujoma, became independent. A strategically important area, the deep sea port of Walfish Bay (later known as Walvis Bay) on the coast of South-West Africa, remained under South African control until 1994 when it was turned over to Namibia.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Education in pre-colonial Namibia was an integral part of everyday life rather than a specialist activity carried out in a particular venue with a set curriculum. All the adults in the community were involved in the education of the young as knowledge, skills, values, and the understanding of roles was transmitted by means of conversations, imitation, stories, games, songs, and ritual ceremonies.

In 1909 the German authorities introduced organized education for the white population; however, little changed for the indigenous population who were not yet seen as being necessary for the country's economic development, so were not provided with any education. Like the German authorities, the missionaries did not wish to risk giving the indigenous population an education that might result in the development of ideas of democracy and equality. However, in order to establish Christian communities, the African people at least had to be taught to read and write. Primary schools were founded in small, scattered communities around the country from the late nineteenth century onwards.

In 1921, under the South African mandate, education for whites in Namibia between the ages of 7 and 17 became compulsory. The government until 1940 built only two primary schools for Africans, both in the central region of the country. In the northern part of Namibia, where the majority of the African population lived, no state schools were built. After 1945 changes in educational policy were gradually introduced. Putting "native education" on a sound basis was seen as a key to a positive relationship between the races.

In 1949 the Eiselen Commission was set up in South Africa. Its report in 1951 and the Bantu Education Act of 1953 formed the basis of education both in South Africa and later in Namibia. As the economy required an increasing number of literate people, state education for Africans was increased. However, as H.F. Verwoerd, South Africa's leading architect of apartheid, declared, education would always be separate, unequal, and designed to let Africans develop exclusively within their own communities. Christian National Education, the underlying philosophy of the apartheid system of education, was geared to ensure that all nations would guard their own identity by educating their children in the mother tongue and fostering in them a strong national and cultural identity. Because of what they perceived to be their racial superiority, whites considered themselves the trustees of black education, and therefore the ones to enforce the policies of Christian National Education.

In 1958 the Van Zyl Commission introduced the system of Christian National, apartheid-based education into Namibia. Black education was to be expanded so that by 1988, approximately 80 percent of black children would have a basic four-year primary school education. However, only 20 percent were to go on to higher primary level. Thus, only one secondary school would be provided for each ethnic group. Education was taken out of the hands of the missionaries who could not be trusted to transmit apartheid ideology correctly. Initially education was administered along racial lines with a different system for white, black, and "coloured" (people of mixed racial descent, usually black and white) students. Eleven separate education authorities were set up in 1980, one for whites, one for "coloureds," and nine for different African ethnic groups. German language schools were also supported, with the high school in Windhoek administering the German Abitur school-leaving and university entrance examinations.

During this period before independence in 1990, education for whites was compulsory and paid for by tax. Black people paid directly for their education in the form of fees. In 1981 the expenditure per black pupil was 232 South African Rand, for "coloureds," it was 300 South African Rand, and for whites it was 1,210 South African Rand. One in three black pupils who attended primary school did not complete their first year of schooling. Of those who reached their final year of primary education, less than 30 percent went on to secondary school. Poverty, large classes, and poorly qualified teachers all contributed to the high dropout rate. Teacher training during this period was totally inadequate. Only 200 students availed themselves of the facilities offered by the only teacher training college in Namibia, which was situated in Windhoek. Hundreds of black students could not gain entrance to colleges, and those who did complete their education were pressured by the government to transmit apartheid policies, of which the communities increasingly disapproved. Textbooks proposed a Eurocentric and fundamentalist Calvinist Christian view of whites as the carriers of civilization and blacks as warlike, ungrateful, and culturally inferior. History books ignored the rich African background, which was still being transmitted orally to children of the different African nations living in the then South-West Africa. A teacher-centered rote learning, with the teacher transmitting knowledge and the students not questioning, as well as obedience, were the pillars of classroom education.

Towards the end of primary school, African children and their white counterparts were taught in their mother tongue. Secondary education was in English or, more usually, in Afrikaans. In practice, however, even primary education was in Afrikaans as classroom material in the Namibian languages had not been sufficiently developed. In South Africa as in Namibia, the high dropout rate and the use of Afrikaans, which by 1981 had become the main medium of instruction in junior secondary schools, caused increasing hostility amongst students.

Resistance & Independence: After 1971, when the International Court of Justice in The Hague confirmed South Africa's occupation of Namibia illegal, strikes and mass expulsions of pupils became a regular occurrence. School boycotts, which in Ovamboland in the north were particularly marked by militancy, became the order of the day, especially after 1976 when events in Soweto, South Africa, inspired widespread student strikes in Namibia. Students considered ringleaders were expelled, and teachers and students who boycotted school were arrested and taken in for questioning by the authorities. A number of alternative schools, calling themselves "schools of resistance," opened during the 1980s. By 1988 there were 10 of these schools. All used English as the language of instruction and several introduced curriculums from Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Although the police and the army harassed the staff and students of these schools, they were not closed down. These schools were involved in political education and taught history from an Afrocentric perspective. However, because the teachers were themselves products of the apartheid education system and used teaching methods and administered examinations they themselves had learned, traditional didactic forms of education continued.

In order to counter the effects of the liberation struggle, the South African Defense Forces (SADF) began their "hearts and minds" campaign, which was aimed at gaining control of the local population through improving quality of life. SADF personnel took over positions in hospitals and schools. However, this policy backfired because of the accompanying dependence on military structures. Violence against teachers and pupils became widespread, resulting in the flight of many Namibians into neighboring Angola, Zambia, and Botswana. By the mid-1980s, more than 70,000 Namibians, numerous of them school age, were in exile. Many of these young people were intent on gaining an education and went to schools in Cuba and East Germany. Others were sent to other African countries for education. The majority remained in SWAPO refugee camps in Angola and Zambia.

Two of the refugee camps, the SWAPO health and education centers at Nyango in Zambia and Cuanza Sul in Angola, were particularly important in providing education to Namibian refugees. With English as the language of instruction, these centers emphasized literacy and a non-South African version of history. They also reinforced the ideological and practical motivations of the fight for independence, and prepared young freedom fighters to make contact with people back home and educate them in the ideology of the struggle. The weaknesses inherent in the education offered stemmed from the fact that, on the one hand, SWAPO enforced its theme of "no questions" throughout the liberation struggle, and, on the other hand, it was intent on obtaining international support for its liberation struggle and thus had to match its rhetoric to the ideology of benefactors. Unlike the ZANU camps in Zimbabwe's liberation struggle, where discussion and democratic dialogue were paramount to political education, teachers in SWAPO camps replicated the authoritarian attitudes of the colonial system.

When the SWAPO government took office in March 1990, the 11 separate ethnic education departments were merged into one. By 1994 to 1995, the South African Cape syllabus was replaced by the Cambridge Local International GCSE. English became the medium of instruction for junior secondary schools in 1991, and black access to education was addressed, with a new generation of students needing education for a future of democracy and equality of opportunity, where tolerance and understanding were key issues. Often the efficiency of the bureaucratic structures, rather than the relevance of education and the transformation of educational structures, was stressed. Some areas that needed to be addressed were the underqualification and lack of accountability of teachers; poor discipline in schools; inadequate textbooks, classroom equipment, and facilities, especially in rural areas; and the need to motivate and educate the general public to support SWAPO's vision for educational reform.

During Namibia's political struggles of the 1970s and 1980s, other countries hosted Namibian refugees. Namibia has since become a first asylum country. Its policy of continuing to permit asylum-seekers to enter the country has resulted in more than 8,000 refugees and asylum seekers residing at the Osire camp. Ninety percent of the refugees are from Angola, with the rest from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and other African countries. Schools have been established at the Osire refugee camp, but resource constraints make meaningful education problematic.

Educational SystemOverview

At independence in March 1990, a new teaching and learning paradigm had to be developed that would dismantle the previous regime's policy of segregation and inequality of access and that would reflect the new government's priorities of equity, access, quality, and democracy in education. The National Institution for Education and Development (NIED), one of the branches of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sport, was entrusted with the task of reforming and developing the curriculum, integrating the national language policy with English as the official language. The goal of the new education plan was that all Namibians would acquire basic literacy and numeracy skills and a basic understanding of natural phenomena within a few years. Increased funds were provided for adult and nonformal education, and there were increased educational opportunities for girls. While racial segregation was prohibited, the establishment of private schools, including Afrikaans or German medium schools that appealed mainly to whites, were tolerated by the new government. A new university, the University of Namibia, raised the level of the country's education, and much attention was paid to in-service teacher training as many teachers were ignorant of curriculum and syllabus development, having based their teaching on textbook content. Teachers were encouraged to participate in a democratic education system where both they and their students were creative and proactive.

From 1991 to 1993 the first learners, those in junior secondary schools, were phased into the new system. Senior secondary schools followed in 1994 and 1995. The implementation of the language policy and the phasing in of a new subject per grade per year was followed by upper primary schools from 1993 to 1999. Thus, mathematics was reformed and implemented in grade four in 1993, and it was taught in English from that year on in grades five to seven. Year after year other core and non-core subjects followed. From 1996 to 1999, the NIED, recognizing that lower primary reform was the foundation of schooling, phased in the new curriculum on a per grade per year basis, which included all subjects. In order to involve the parents and provide for their constitutional rights, all syllabi and materials for the first three grades were provided not only in English, but also in nine of the Namibian African languages, as well as German and Afrikaans. External examinations were set on the curriculum for junior secondary schools annually beginning in 1993 and for senior secondary schools beginning in 1995.

Language of Instruction: In the early twenty-first century in independent Namibia, 13 languages were officially recognized. While many belong to similar language families, they are distinct from one another, and retaining their use is the object of much work in the education department. The main languages are 10 national languages of African origin, spoken by the major ethnic groups, along with three languages of European origin (English, Afrikaans, and German).

The indigenous languages of African origin are spoken by an overwhelming majority of Namibians, many of whom can communicate in at least two indigenous tongues as well as English or Afrikaans. The African languages can be broken into two groups, Bantu and Khoe. Among the Bantu languages are those that can be grouped into the Sotho and Nguni language families: Oshikwanyama, Oshindonga, Rukwangali (the dominant language of the five related languages of the Kavango who live in the area of the Okavango River in the north of Namibia), Otjiherero (spoken by the Herero and Ovahimba), Rugciriku, Thimbukushu, Silozi (the language of the Caprivian people who inhabit the eastern end of the Caprivi Strip), and Setswana (a language spoken also by citizens of Botswana and South Africa). The two Khoesan languages recognized in the formal educational system of Namibia are Khoekhoegowab (formerly known as Nama/Damara) and San (also known as Bushman or Ju/'Hoanthe language of the largest Bushman group).

Although it is difficult and costly to have such a multitude of languages, it is important to the Namibian people to retain their cultural diversity, and educating the citizens of the nation is seen as the most important investment the government can make. Thus, in primary schools the national languages are used from grades one to three, and English is the language of instruction beyond grade seven. The Namibian education system encourages schools to offer at least two languages as subjects and to organize extracurricular language activities. Private schools are permitted to use any language throughout the primary cycle.

After independence in 1990, English, spoken only by about 7.0 percent and the mother tongue of only 0.8 percent of the population, became the national language. From 1884 to 1914, when then South-West Africa was colonized by the Germans, German was the official language. About 32 percent of the population spoke German by the year 2000, an important business language. After 1914, when South-West Africa became a South African Trusteeship, Afrikaans became the main official language and the language of instruction from the fourth grade upwards. In 2001 Afrikaans is the common language of most of the population and of about 60 percent of the white population.

The choice to make English the official language was based on international criteria such as unity, acceptability, familiarity, feasibility, science and technology, Pan-Africanism, wider communication, and the United Nations. National criteria, such as ease of learning, cultural authenticity, and the empowerment of the underprivileged, were not really considered, nor was the possibility of choosing a language such as Kiswahili, which is spoken by far more Africans on the African continent and can be more easily learned by Bantu-speaking Namibians than any of the languages of European origin. Consequently, even though most Namibians will never make use of the international contacts their official language gives to them, and even though it is virtually non-existent in many areas, English, the sole medium of communication in all the country's executive legislative and judiciary bodies, is increasingly replacing the Namibian languages in education. Even though Namibia's SWAPO-government is committed to a policy of "Education for All," most international donors, such as the World Bank and the Norwegian government, are not interested in supporting indigenous languages and make their contributions dependant on the use of English in schools. Given this pressure, and despite the findings of recent research that learning in the home language actually creates better competence in another language, Namibian parents often think that learning a local language takes time away from the international language.

This development is of great concern to educators. It indicates that, as the value system of the dominant group is being adopted, there is a corresponding deterioration in the self-esteem of the various speech communities that increasingly regard their community, language, and culture as inferior. It is ironic that in the apartheid system imposed by the South African government, the development of African languages and the publishing of books in these languages received much greater priority than in the present government, which prioritizes the official language to the detriment of the national languages. In the San or Bushman language groups, this issue is intensified. Before independence these groups were given little or no education. Whatever education was available was transmitted in Afrikaans. Today these groups are marginalized by black Namibians and their culture and languages are under threat. There are, however, attempts to develop educational programs geared to the culture of these learners in which teachers travel with children who must go hunting with their parents.

Preprimary & Primary Education

The guiding motto in Namibia's education system is "Education for All." Children three to six years of age attend nursery schools, day care centers, crèches, and preprimary schools, where available, mainly in the urban areas. In the rural areas, children of preschool age continue in the traditional way, remaining close to the mother.

The Constitution of Namibia guarantees that primary education in Namibia is free and compulsory until completion of primary school or age 16. Students pay for higher education. Between 60 and 70 percent of the children in formal education in Namibia are at the primary level. Formal primary education in Namibia consists of seven years (grades 1 through 7); three years of junior secondary school (grades 8 through 10); and two years of senior secondary school (grades 11 through 12).

Namibian children attend school year-round, with breaks in May, September, and December through January. Most schools board students in hostels and provide all meals. Expensive school boarding fees prohibit the attendance of the poorer members of the population. Relatively few students have books in Namibia. According to the Ministry of Education, in 1994, of 1,553 schools only 262 had book collections, let alone libraries. In the densely populated north, many schools have neither books nor electricity. These schools are often known as "tree schools," with classes held in the shade of the village trees because there are no communal buildings.

Secondary Education

Slightly more than 25 percent of the school-going population is at the secondary level. In 1991 a new junior secondary curriculum was introduced throughout the country that unified the 11 separate educational authorities and introduced English as the common medium of instruction. About 20 percent of weekly class time is devoted to pre-vocational subjects. The syllabus thus prepares students either for higher education or the workforce. In grades 11 to 12 in senior secondary schools, pupils are prepared for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) of the Cambridge Examinations Syndicate. Subjects examined for the IGCSE are agriculture, commerce, technology, domestic science and health education, natural sciences and mathematics, and humanities. Physical education, religious and moral education, and guidance are compulsory subjects in all schools, but they are not tested through the IGCSE.

In Namibia, literacy is defined as referring to those who, age 15 or older, can read and write. According to this definition, 38 percent of the total population is literate: 45 percent of males and 31 percent of females.

As in many African countries, HIV/AIDS affects the lives of countless numbers of children and therefore also education practices. Namibia has one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the world. Since 1999, between 20 and 26 percent of all people between the ages of 15 and 49 live with the disease. The spread of this disease is bound to continue to affect education as children are often left in dire poverty, either as orphans or with a single parent.

Higher Education

Prior to 1979, higher education in Namibia was only available to students who were able to go to South Africa or other countries abroad. In 1980 the Academy for Tertiary Education was established by the South African government, and classes in teacher training and secretarial courses started. In 1985 another academy, consisting of a university component (the present University of Namibia), a Technikon, and a College for Out of School Training (COST), was established. Not long after independence, Namibia's president, Sam Nujoma, established a special commission on higher education. Local and international scholars analyzed and made recommendations concerning Namibia's higher educational needs. The Academy for Tertiary Education was dissolved, and its three components were transformed into two independent higher education institutions, a university and a polytechnic. In 1992 the University of Namibia (UNAM) was established in Windhoek, and in 1994 the Technikon Namibia and COST merged to become the Polytechnic of Namibia.

The University of Namibia's motto is "Education to Serve Development." The first class of students arrived in early 1993. As of the early 2000s, it had a second campus, the northern campus at Oshakati. UNAM offers bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as diplomas in the faculties of agriculture and natural resources, economics and management services, education, humanities and social sciences, law, medical and health sciences, and science. It has also set up a center for visual and performing arts, a human rights documentation center, an interactive multimedia-services center, a justice-training center, and a language center. The university's library contains a fairly well-developed archive and houses the documents of the United Nations Institute for Namibia (UNIN), including the key documents that decided the country's language policy, the Tjitendero Collection, and publications by UNAM or UNAM staff members.

General admission to the University of Namibia is based on an evaluation scale that adds together the points obtained for the subjects passed either for the IGCSE, or for equivalent examinations. English is a prerequisite for admission. In order to accommodate students over the age of 25 who have not been educated in the post-independence education system, the university has a mature age entry scheme that grants admission to students who successfully complete the mature age entry test.

In 1993 the university set up a Center for External Studies. This center incorporated the earlier Department of Distance Education and created the Department of Continuing Education. The Department of Distance Education provides opportunities for off-campus students to take degrees and diplomas as external students. The Department of Continuing Education offers primarily short non-qualification courses meeting the immediate needs of various groups in the community. Since 1995 the Center for External Studies has been phasing out the previous primary teacher education certificates and diplomas and replacing these with external degrees. Distance learning programs offered by the university include the degrees of bachelor's of science, nursing (advanced practice), bachelor's of education, diploma in education, African languages, and bachelor's of business administration.

In 1994 the Namibian Public Service Commission sanctioned the creation of the Namibian College of Open Learning (NAMCOL) within the Ministry of Basic Education and Culture. Based in Katutura, NAMCOL now offers all the Continuing and Distance Education programs formerly run by the Directorate of Distance Education and Educational Broadcasting. Its main role is to enroll Namibians who have been unable to gain admission in the formal school system. NAMCOL has several face-to-face centers. Subjects offered vary depending upon the availability of tutors and the size of the enrollment. In these centers grade 12 IGCSE subjects are replacing the standard 10 National Senior Certificate subjects once administered under the South African regime. NAMCOL also offers several grade 12 IGCSE subjects through distance education. The third major program offered by NAMCOL is the Certificate in Education for Development, designed to meet the staff development needs of district literacy organizers, agricultural and health extension workers, and community development workers in various ministries and NGOs. The certificate includes three modules: contextual studies, adult learning, and managing projects and practicum. In 1997 a total of 16,463 learners enrolled with the college, and in 1998 the number increased to 17,730.

According to a report by the Commission on Higher Education, the Polytechnic of Namibia is regarded as being as important as the University of Namibia. It provides an education for those members of the community who need more advanced technical skills. The polytechnic, established in 1994, became an autonomous institution in 1996. It links with all other major educational institutions and cooperates with the Namibian College of Distance Education to offer technical subjects throughout the country. It also works closely with the University of Namibia, with technical and vocational institutions, with public schools, and with local industries. In 1996 the polytechnic established its own Distance Education Center to cater to external students following polytechnic courses. The polytechnic offers instruction in technical education and teacher training; accounting, business, and information systems; graphic arts, printing, and design; library studies; management and administration; hotel and catering; engineering; and applied science. The following schools are part of the Polytechnic of Namibia: business and management; communication, legal, media and secretarial studies, engineering and information technology; and natural resources and tourism.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Namibian Constitution enumerated children's rights, including those of education and health. In order to improve literacy, which is 80 percent at present, the government allocates 31 percent of the national budget to education and an additional 15 to 20 percent towards health. However, due to outmoded policies and laws, and an untrained teacher workforce, there is inadequate attention to child welfare. Consequently many children, especially those belonging to the San group, do not attend school, and it is difficult for the government to offer basic protections to children below the age of 14 (the minimum age for employment), who live and work on family and commercial farms and in the informal sector. The 1991 census estimated that of the 13,800 children under 15 years of age in the labor force, 41 percent were working as unpaid laborers. Approximately 2 percent of farm workers, mainly from the San ethnic group, were children.

Nonformal Education

As in most African countries, large land areas, long distances between cities, and the remoteness of large numbers of the population make it necessary for many people to obtain higher education through distance education. In distance education there is, thus, not always a clear distinction between nonformal and formal education in these countries. While Namibian education was under the jurisdiction of the South African authorities, distance education was undertaken primarily by the University of South Africa (UNISA) in Pretoria. Recognized internationally as a pioneer in distance education, as well as for the quality of its education, UNISA conferred bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees in most fields. University faculty corresponded with students by mail, occasionally by telephone, and, whenever possible, through annual meetings in designated areas. In 1981, at the height of the political struggle when large numbers of Namibians fled across the border into Angola or Zambia, international assistance given to host countries to deal with refugees was used to establish the Namibian Extension Unit. This unit provided distance education to adults deprived of the opportunity of a formal education in their own country. Literacy skills and basic education courses designed for primary and junior secondary education refugees were offered mainly through printed correspondence texts and audiocassettes.

After 1990, when refugees began returning home, the Namibia Extension Unit was reorganized to provide traditional formal education by means of distance education. Sponsored by the United Nations Fund for Namibia, the Ford Foundation, OXFAM (UK), and the Swedish International Development Agency, the unit now provides practical skills in literacy and basic education, as well as professional education and training for adults who have at least four years of primary education. Instruction is via printed correspondence texts and audiocassettes. Others involved in distance teaching are the University of Namibia; the distance education program for teachers implemented under the former Department of National Education, which focuses mainly on primary teacher training, postsecondary university level courses, and university level diplomas for police science and public administration; and the Department of National Education Distance Education College.

As access to televisions, videos, films, and computers is beyond the reach of many in the developing world, educational technology transfer becomes problematic. Consequently, most developing countries start with radio, tape recorders, telephone, filmstrips, and slide transparenciesmedia that is less costly to install and maintain than television, films, and computers. Namibia is no exception. During the 1990s the Commonwealth of Learning instituted a number of pilot projects in different African countries designed to provide teleconferencing support services to students involved in distance education. One such project was to link the Namibian Distance Education College, based in Windhoek, with regional teacher resource centers spread across the country. The main objectives of the college are the in-service training and certification of primary and secondary school teachers; the training and certification of nurses, community health and nutrition counselors, agriculture extension agents, and organizers of adult and nonformal education programs; English courses; and the training of vocational and technical trainers. The college is examining ways to best use Namibia's relatively well-developed telecommunications infrastructure and, in cooperation with the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation, is developing Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI), a program that has proved effective in teaching English to teachers and in primary schools in Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Swaziland, and Belize.

In 1980 several African countries mainly comprising the so-called front-line statescountries most economically dependant on South Africa and most affected by the political struggle there (Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe)joined together to form the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC). In 1992 they were joined by Namibia. In 1994 South Africa became the eleventh member of the organization, which was renamed the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The role of the organization was to encourage economic independence for its members through the improvement of national and intercountry communication infrastructures, as well as the growth of intercountry trade and cultural ties, including the coordination and development of education. By organizing joint training facilities and training sessions, the Southern African Transport and Communications Commission (SATCC), one arm of the SADCC, promoted cooperation in human resource development. SATCC also promoted cooperation among the telecommunications administrations of the region via the Pan African Telecommunications (Panaftel) microwave network and satellite links, international gateway exchanges, and earth stations. These projects undertaken by Penaftel are vital for the furthering of distance education, teleconferencing, and eventual Internet access in Namibia and the region as a whole.

By the end of 1999, all African countries except Eritrea, Somalia, and Libya had local Internet access, with South Africa leading in the number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and the number of computers connected to the Internet. In the other countries, Internet access is limited to the capital cities. In Namibia, however, some Points of Presence (POPs) have been established in locations outside the capital city. While Internet access presents African academic and research institutions with access to libraries and research institutions worldwide, there is growing concern that there is very little African content available on the Internet. The global information infrastructure is dominated not only by the English language, but its content almost exclusively targets the needs of users in the United States and the United Kingdom. A 1999 survey of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has shown that Africa generates only 0.4 percent of global content. If the South African contribution is excluded, the figure is merely 0.02 percent. While a great deal of research has been done on the African continent, this is unfortunately only available in the sponsoring institutions. Foreign languages spoken in Africa (English, Portuguese, and French) are well represented on the Internet, but little has been done to advance African indigenous languages through this medium.

As of the early 2000s, the University of Namibia's Human Rights and Documentation Center, which has as its central mission the creating and cultivating of human rights and democracy in Namibia, has a searchable database that gives access to the work done at conferences and workshops. The National Archives of Namibia also provide access to a number of searchable databases. While still rather limited in scope, there is great potential.

Teaching Profession

The changing needs of an independent Namibia require that all teachers be appropriately qualified. For several years the Swedish International Development Agency, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UNESCO, and UNICEF have been working on pre-service teacher training programs. In 1993 the Basic Education Teacher Diploma (BETD) introduced a uniform three-year pre-service teacher education program for primary and junior secondary teachers. This program prepares teachers for basic education in grades 1 through 10. The concept of learner-centered education is emphasized and graduates have a broad competence to teach in grades 1 through 7, or grades 5 through 10 and, with a specialization in lower primary education or specific subject areas, in either the upper primary or junior primary phases.

A four-year program leads to the Senior Secondary Teachers' Certificate. The Technical and Vocational Education Instructor Certificate prepares teachers for instruction in pre-vocational skills and at vocational and technical institutions. In the period from 1993 to 1998, the number of teacher educators increased more than 20 percent. A number of teacher educators have gone through master's degree programs outside Namibia, and more than 30 percent have participated in postgraduate staff development courses organized by the Teacher Education Reform Project (TERP) administered by Sweden's Umeå University.

In-service training has become a priority in Namibia, to meet not only the country's need for better qualified teachers, but to enable teachers to respond creatively to the many new demands made on them. Through in-service training, teachers are helped to make the transition from rote learning techniques to learner-centered teaching methods, to participate in curriculum design initiatives, and to become nationally accredited. The In-Service Training and Assistance for Namibian Teachers project (INSTANT), supported by IBIS, a Danish donor, helps teachers improve subject mastery in the physical sciences and mathematics.

Apart from the National Institute for Education Development in Okahandja, four educational institutions serve student teachers in Namibia. The largest of these is the Ongwediva College of Education in northwestern Namibia, which accommodates about 900 student teachers and which offers the Basic Education Teacher Diploma. The other educational institutions are the Windhoek College of Education, the Rundu College of Education, and the Caprivi College of Education in Katima Mulilo.


"Education for All" has been the watchword for the people of Namibia since independence in March 1990, and the country has made remarkable strides in moving towards a goal of universal literacy. This progress has been all the more remarkable as it has been furthered through the medium of English, a foreign language to all but 0.8 percent of the population. International involvement and international aid have done much to make this development possible. It is, however, precisely this development that threatens all that Namibians hoped to gain through independence. African thinkers, writers, and philosophers, such as Julius Nyerere and Ngugi wa Thiongo, have pointed out that traditional African education had none of the formal characteristics associated with a western-style education, but that this was an indication that the education of African children, which was extremely important in their society, was more relevant to the society of which the child was a member than western education is. Both have warned that abandoning the traditional language for the language of the economically or militarily dominant group, and not generating standards in the language of the people's choice, may seem expedient, but will ultimately lead to even greater marginalization, exploitation, and even annihilation of all that has been important in the culture, development, identity, and struggle of the African people. Paulo Freire points out that this process of cultural invasion, which persuades the ones being controlled that they are inferior and that in order to prosper they need to adopt the norms and values of those whose superiority is evident in their commercial and technological dominance, leads to dependency and a destruction of a people's creativity and self-expression. By adopting the British IGCSE curriculum and the use of University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate for the validation of its examinations, secondary and higher education in particular has taken on the British educational structure, logic, and framework. Whereas learning African Namibian history was once essential in the education of the people in their struggle for liberation from South African domination, Namibian history has now been relegated to a small part of an optional subject within the curriculum. By ignoring African culture, languages, ideas, and values, the population, which has paid such a high price for its political liberation, may be forced into a narrow mold of technically skilled competitiveness designed for a western-dominated capitalist market system.

Namibia's struggle for independence has been characterized by an amazing striving for self-fulfillment and freedom from foreign dominationand an equally astounding compromise of its own cultural identity in favor of an uncritical incorporation of donor organization and donor nation expectations, many of whom stand to benefit greatly from an educated labor force dependant on foreign technology. Anthropologists, linguists, and educators have argued that few, if any, countries have ever achieved high levels of economic and cultural development where a large number of citizens were compelled to communicate and study through the medium of a second or third language. In Namibia "international" is defined as referring to the Anglophone world that has its basis in Britain and the United States. The need for transnational communication is also defined in terms of Europe and the United States, never in terms of Asia or the African continent. There is no way of going back on decisions that have already been made and implemented, and perhaps the new road to personal and national freedom does not necessarily involve a total rejection of all that has been. However, if the motto "Education for All" is to be truly relevant to every citizen of Namibia, African philosophy, languages, culture, and values need to be given a central place in the education system.


Brock-Utne, Birgit. "The Language Question in Namibian Schools." International Review of Education 43 No. 2/3 (1997): 241-60.

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. U.S. Department of State. 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 25 February 2000. Available from

Chisenga, Justin. "Global Information Infrastructure and the Question of African Content." IFLA Council and General Conference, Conference Programme and Proceedings, Bankok, Thailand, August 20-28, 1999. Available from

Harber, Clive. "Lessons in Black and White: a Hundred Years of Political Education in Namibia." History of Education 22 No. 4. (1993): 415-24.

Zeichner, Ken, and Lars Dahlström, eds. Democratic Teacher Education Reform in Africa: The Case of Namibia. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999.

Karin I. Paasche

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Republic of Namibia



The Republic of Namibia lies across the Tropic of Capricorn in the south of Africa and covers an area of 824,292 square kilometers (318,259 square miles), making it slightly more than half the size of Alaska. It is bordered by South Africa to the south and southeast, Botswana and Zimbabwe on the east, Angola on the north, and the South Atlantic Ocean on the west. The Caprivi Strip, a narrow extension of land in the extreme northeast, connects it to Zambia and Zimbabwe. The country is divided into 3 broad zones: the Namib desert to the west; the Kalahari desert to the east; and the Central Plateau. The plateaumade up of mountains, rocky outcrops, sand-filled valleys, and undulating upland plainscovers over 50 percent of the land area. The plateau includes Windhoek, the capital, and slopes eastwards to the Kalahari basin and northward to the Etosha pan, the largest of Namibia's saline lakes.


Namibia's population was estimated to be 1.771 million in 2000, with a birth rate of 35.23 per 1,000 people in 2000 (down from 43 in 1970). The average annual growth rate was about 2.7 percent between 1970-90, falling to 2.5 percent between 1990-97. Population density is extremely low overall, at about 2 people per square kilometer (5.18 per square mile), and 35 percent of the population lives in urban areas. The urban growth rate averaged 5.7 percent annually between 1980-96. Life expectancy in 1997 was estimated at 56 years (up from 48 years in 1970). The population was young, with 43 percent below the age of 15 and just 4 percent above the age of 65.

The Ovambo and Kavango people together constitute over 60 percent of the population. Other groups are the Herero, Damara, Nama and the Caprivians. The San (Bushmen)who are among the world's oldest surviving hunter-gatherershave lived in this territory for over 11,000 years. The Basters who settled in Rehoboth in 1870 stem from marriages between white farmers and Khoi mothers in the Cape area. The "Cape Coloreds," immigrants from South Africa, tend to live in urban areas. Of the white group of approximately 90,000, about 50 percent are of South African and 25 percent of German ancestry, about 20 percent of the latter Boer "sudwesters" (longer established immigrants) with a small minority of British ancestry. The population is mostly Christian. English is the official language but is first or second language to only about 20 percent of the population.


With a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of US$1,940 in 1998 ( purchasing power parity of US$4,300 in 1999), Namibia is relatively prosperous in the African context, where the average is US$480 per head. This comparative wealth reflects a large and fairly diversified mining sector. Namibia's economy is export-driven, focussing mainly on mining and fish processing. Since independence, exports of diamonds, uranium, zinc, and fish products have grown significantly.

Rural people, however, remain largely unaffected by the growth of modern economic activities in their country and generally support themselves through subsistence agricultural activities and herding. According to UN reports, Namibia has one of the most uneven distributions of income in the world, meaning that the average income for the white minority is significantly higher than that for the majority black population. The reason for this imbalance lies in the economic structure that was imposed by colonial history. Ranches were established as white settlers displaced Africans on two-thirds of the viable farmland, an outcome that is beginning to concern the government following the land-issues explosion in Zimbabwe. The government's current objectives are to raise per capita income, to develop the private sector , and to encourage manufacturing activities and tourism. It is also committed to restraining growth in public spending.

The economy remains narrowly based, growth being determined largely by mining and agriculture, especially fishing. The mining sector generates high incomes but is not well integrated with the rest of the economy. About 90 percent of the goods produced in Namibia are exported, and about 90 percent of the goods used in the country, including about one-half of the food, are imported. Despite frequent drought, large ranches generally provide significant exports of beef and sheepskins.

During the early 1980s, Namibia experienced a deep economic recession , intensified by war, severe drought, and low world prices for the country's mineral products and for sheepskins. In real terms, output declined by more than 20 percent over the period 1977-84, representing a fall of about one-third in real purchasing power. From the mid-1980s there was a modest economic recovery. The GDP increased by 3 percent in 1986 compared with a decline of 0.8 percent in 1995, and there were further increases in the following year until 1989 when it declined by 0.6 percent. This sluggish rate of growth was due to a number of factors, including depressed international prices for the country's mineral products, a corresponding decline in mining production, and poor performance of the South African economy, to which the Namibian economy is closely linked.

The 1990s have been better. The real GDP increased by 5.1 percent in 1991 and 3.5 percent in 1992 owing primarily to higher diamond output and increases in the output of the fishing and construction sectors. The GDP grew by 6.6 percent in 1994 after a decline of 2.0 percent in 1993, by 3.3 percent in 1995, and 2.9 percent in 1996. It slowed down to 1.8 percent in 1997 largely due to the impact of adverse climatic conditions on agriculture and fishing. The government estimated the GDP growth of 2.6 percent in 1998, with considerable advancement in the fishing and manufacturing sectors partially offset by the adverse impact of the Asian economic crisis on the mining sector.


At the end of World War II South Africa set out to make Namibia into a South African province, initiating a decades long struggle on the part of people living in Namibia to claim independence. The fight for independence was led by the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO). In 1977, a UN contact group comprising the 5 western members of the security councilthe United Kingdom, France, the United States, Canada, and West Germanybegan to negotiate for Namibia's independence directly with South Africa and SWAPO. In 1978, South Africa announced its acceptance of the contact group's settlement proposal. However, in May of that year, South African forces attacked SWAPO's refugee transit camp at Cassing in South Angola, leaving 600 dead, and the settlement was abandoned.

Independence discussions continued for 10 years and, during this period, South Africa began to ease its grip on Namibia, allowing a transitional government of national unity (a coalition of 6 parties) to take control of internal affairs from June 1985. In November 1989, UN-supervised elections were held, and Dr. Sam Nujoma was elected and inaugurated as the president of Namibia in February 1990. One month later, on 21 March 1990, Namibia attained independence. Nujoma has been reelected in 1995 and 1999. SWAPO has continued to have an overall majority of seats in National Assembly, with 55 seats in 1999 compared to the opposition's 17. The largest opposition party is the Congress of Democrats (COD) with 7 seats. In the National Council SWAPO has 21 seats, and 6 seats are held by the 2 opposition parties. The largest opposition party in the National Council is the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance of Namibia (DTA) with 5 seats.

The constitution provides for a multiparty democracy in a unitary state. The president is head of state and government and commander-in-chief of the defence forces. Elected by direct universal adult suffrage at intervals of not more than 5 years, the president must receive more than 50 percent of the votes cast.

The president appoints the government, the armed forces chief of staff, and members of a public service commission, but the National Assembly may revoke any appointment. The president may dissolve the National Assembly and may also proclaim a state of emergency and rule by decree, subject to the approval of the National Assembly.

There is a bi-cameral legislature. The National Council with 26 members is chosen from the elected regional councils. The National Assembly has 72 elected members and up to 6 nominated but non-voting members serving for a maximum of 5 years. The National Assembly can remove the president from office by passing an impeachment motion with a two-thirds majority. The prime minister is leader of government business in the National Assembly.

The constitution includes 25 entrenched clauses regarding fundamental human rights and freedoms. There is no death sentence nor detention without trial, and the practice and ideology of apartheid is expressly forbidden. Private property rights are guaranteed. Amendments to the constitution can only be made by two-thirds majorities in both houses.

Namibia raises most of its government revenue from trade taxes (customs duties and export levies ), and 30 percent of the public income came from these sources in 1993. Sales taxes and taxes on incomes each raised 29 percent of the total, and the remaining government revenue (12 percent of the total) came from surpluses on government-owned enterprises (10 percent) and other taxes (1 percent).


Namibia has an immense network of 64,800 kilometers (40,267 miles) of roads but only 7,800 kilometers (4,847 miles) are paved. A 4,600 kilometer (2,858 mile) tarred highway network links most of the economically-significant areas and neighboring countries. The Trans Caprivi Highway and the Trans Kalahari Highway were 2 long-haul road projects completed in the late 1990s to run through Botswana to South Africa. These arteries enable Namibia to provide land-locked central African countries with an outlet to the sea, as well as reducing journey times to Johannesburg, South Africa.

The 2,382-kilometer (1,480-mile) railway network was established under German colonial rule and much-needed upgrading was underway by the mid-1990s. A total of 1.8 million tons of freight were transported by rail in 1996-97, of which 70 percent was national traffic. Rail passenger numbers dropped from 159,000 in 1992 to 82,000 in 1994 but recovered to 124,000 in 1996 as a result of more investment and better services.

Namibia Shipping Lines was established in 1992 under the transport holding company Trans-Namb in a joint venture with South Africa's Unicorn line. The Namibia Port Authority in 1996 launched a 4-year (US$77 million) plan to modernize and extend the facilities at Walvis Bay and Lüderitz. Walvis Bay, the nation's only deep-water port, is the main export outlet, handling around 2 million tons of cargo a year, 20 percent of which is containerized. Petroleum products constitute the largest import category, salt the largest export category. Use of Lüderitz, Namibia's second operating port, has also increased, due to a rise in fishing activities. A third harbor is planned for Mowe Bay, north of Walvis. This would also serve the fishing fleet.

Air transport is important because of Namibia's size. Air Namibia, the national carrier, is another subsidiary of Trans-Namib. Since independence, a regional and international flight network has been set up, in addition to already established domestic routes. There are more than 135 airports, 22 of which have paved runways, including the international airport outside Windhoek.

Namibia in 1999 was a net energy importer, obtaining half its electricity from South Africa. It produced 1.198 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 1999, about 98 percent of which came from hydroelectric plants, but the country had to import over 600 million kWhs of electricity to supply its needs. Mining is a heavy energy consumer but most households still have no access to commercial energy supplies. Commercial energy is mainly obtained from imported oil and South African coal. The larger population centers in the north and northeast are being connected to the national electricity grid.

Drilling by Shell in the offshore Kudu gas field confirmed the presence of very significant reserves that would make the country a net exporter of energy. Development of the field began in 1998 with the first gas scheduled for production in the early 2000s.

Namibia maintains a free press. There were 19 newspapers, including the pro-government, but independent, daily newspaper in 1996. There are 9 radio stations which cover 80 percent of the population, and the 1 television network covers 45 percent of the population, all under the control of the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation. There is growing competition from South Africa. TV broadcasts are in local languages as well as English. There were 143 radios, 32 TV sets, and 19 PCs per 1,000 people in mid-1998.

There is an efficient postal service. The telephone system was upgraded and extended under a US$31 million investment program in 1993-97. There were some 80,000 telephone and 5,000 fax subscribers in 1997. A fully automated digital network was in operation by 1997.

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Namibia 19 144 37 N/A 12 N/A 18.6 11.73 6
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
South Africa 32 317 125 N/A 56 3.5 47.4 33.36 1,820
Angola 11 54 14 N/A 1 N/A 0.8 0.00 10
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Telecom Namibia has set up a GSM standard cellular telephone network, in conjunction with 2 Swedish companies. There were 58 main telephone lines and 8 mobile phones per 1,000 people in 1997.


The economy remains narrowly-based, growth being determined largely by mining and agriculture, with the fishing sub-sector of agriculture being particularly important. Agriculture accounted for 12 percent of the GDP and 47 percent of employment in 1998, industry 30 percent of the GDP (of which mining was 13 percent) and 25 percent of employment, with services providing 58 percent of the GDP and 28 percent of employment.


Agricultural output (including fishing) grew by 1.8 percent a year in the 1980s and by 4.0 percent a year between 1990 and 1997. Agriculture and fishing together contributed 12 percent of the GDP in 1998, but animals and meat products contribute 16 percent of export earnings (1998), and around 70 percent of the population are directly or indirectly dependent on farming for their livelihood. In 1997, about 227,000 cattle and 954,000 sheep and goats were produced. The food crops are millet, sorghum, maize and some wheat. Namibia imports up to 50 percent of its food needs.

Since independence, the government has planned to combat the inequitable system of land ownership, with huge ranches co-existing with marginal communal subsistence farming . A commercial land reform act passed in 1994 allows the buying-up of empty or underused commercial farms for redistribution to communal farmers. The droughts of 1991-92 and 1994-95 severely affected cattle grazing and cereal production, necessitating widespread food relief.

Fishing contributed 4 percent of the GDP in 1998 while fish and fish products comprised over 30 percent of Namibia's export earnings. The main fish species are pilchard, mackerel, and hake. A 370-kilometer (230-mile) exclusive economic zone has been established, halting over-fishing of deep-water species by foreign trawlers. Despite the growth in fish export value, the fish catch declined after 1993's record 784,000-tonne haul to 488,000 tonnes in 1997.


Overall, the industrial sectorwhich includes mining, manufacturing, construction, electricity, water, and gasgenerated 34 percent of the GDP in 1998.

Mining contributed 13 percent of the GDP and is the largest source of export earnings. Namibia has great mineral wealth including diamonds, uranium, copper, zinc, gold, and silver. Diamond production was about 1.4 million carats in 1998, contributing more than a third of foreign exchange earnings.

Before the country's independence in 1990 large areas of Namibia were opened to oil and gas prospecting, but as yet there have not proved to be major reserves of either fuel source. On-shore reserves are becoming depleted but off-shore output has risen quickly, helped by new mining technology.

Uranium production grew by 45 percent in 5 years to 1998, with 3,257 tons of uranium oxide mined in 1998. It is estimated that the large Rossing uranium mine has deposits to last until 2020. Copper production fell from 30,000 tons in 1994 to 8,000 tons in 1998, but a new copper mine at Haib started production in 1999 with a projected output of 115,000 tons annually. Moreover, sea salt is produced from coastal brine pans at Walvis Bay and Swakopund.

Although large zinc deposits were discovered in 1976, the technique needed to extract the metal from the ore has only recently been developed. Zinc production has been rising from the mid-1990s. It was confirmed in November 1998 that the Skorpion mine and refinery were to be developed with a projected output of 150,000 tons of refined zinc and an expected contribution to the GDP of 5 percent.

In 1998, manufacturing generated 17 percent of the GDP, and it was mostly located in the capital, Windhoek, and in some of the coastal towns. The sector comprises mainly processing of agricultural products for export and for domestic consumption. Fish processing is particularly important, and it makes up a quarter of the output of the manufacturing sector. Other important activities include the processing of meat and dairy products, beer and soft-drink production, metal fabrication (particularly the production of cans for fish), wood products, chemicals (particularly paints and plastics), and garment and leather goods manufacture.

Electricity is generated from a hydroelectric installation at Ruacana and from a coal fired station in Wind-hoek. When Ruacana water levels are high, electricity is exported to South Africa, and when the water levels are low, electricity is imported. There are some off-shore gas reserves at Kudu, and it is hoped these can be developed to diversify Namibia's sources of electricity generation


This sector contributed up to 58 percent of the GDP in 1998. The sector comprises business services and financial services, government services, community and personal services, and other services.

The financial sector includes the central bank, the Bank of Namibia, whose role is to issue notes and coins, act as banker for the commercial banks and the government, hold the country's reserves of gold and foreign exchange, regulate the financial sector, and act as lender of last resort to the banks when they run short of cash. Bank Windhoek, Commercial Bank of Namibia, First National Bank of Namibia, City Savings and Investment Bank, Namibia Post Savings Bank, and Standard Bank of Namibia are commercial banks, taking deposits from the public and lending to individuals and businesses. The Agricultural Bank of Namibia specializes in lending to the farm sector. Electronic and automatic banking are very advanced, and Namibia has benefitted from South African expertise in these areas in the period prior to independence.

Wholesaling and retailing and personal services depend on the general growth of the economy and have grown steadily in recent years. One feature is the prevalence and efficiency of large-scale supermarkets and department stores, all of which are managed by South African companies. Such stores only exist in the very largest of the cities, however.

Tourism has grown strongly during the 1990s, generating receipts of US$210 million in 1997 (12 percent of exports of goods and services) from 410,000 visitors, mainly from South Africa and Germany. Tourist attractions include wildlife parks and nature reserves (comprising in all 102,000 square kilometers or 12 percent of the land area in 1994), such as the famous Etosha Park, and spectacular desert scenery.


Namibia's economy is export-driven. Exports comprise 45 percent of the GDP by value and totaled US$1.4 billion in 1999. Exports of goods and services grew at 2.5 percent annually between 1965 and 1997. The main exports are diamonds, uranium, copper, zinc, gold, fish, fish products, cattle, sheep, goat and meat products. The principle destinations of exports are the United Kingdom (43 percent), South Africa (26 percent), Spain (14 percent), France (8 percent), and Japan (3 percent).

Namibia relies heavily upon imports to meet its needs, with 48 percent of the GDP being spent on goods produced outside Namibia and imports totaling US$1.5 billion in 1999. The principle imports are beverages, food, tobacco, fuel, vehicles, transport equipments, machinery, electrical goods, clothing, footwear and industrial raw materials. Imports are sourced primarily from South Africa (84 percent), with some goods coming from Germany (3 percent), the United States (2 percent), and Japan (2 percent).

The trade balance is continually in deficit, by somewhere between US$270 million in 1997 to US$100 million in 1999. There is also a deficit on the services account on the balance of payments , and these 2 deficits combined equal between US$60 million and US$140 million a year. These 2 deficits are covered by receipts from foreign investment in Namibia and from aid, the latter equivalent to about 5 percent of the GDP, or about US$155 million in 1997.

Exchange rates: Namibia
Namibian dollars per US$1
Jan 2001 7.78307
2000 6.93983
1999 6.10948
1998 5.52828
1997 4.60796
1996 4.29935
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].


The Namibian dollar (NAD) is at par with the South African rand and has been affected by the rand's decline in value on the world currency exchanges. The rand was approximately at par with (equal in value to) the U.S. dollar in 1982, but by 2001 the rand (and the Namibian dollar) had depreciated to NAD8.224=US$1. The Namibian dollar is part of a de facto rand area of countries which peg the value of their currencies to the rand; this rand area includes Swaziland and Botswana. The inflation rate has been showing gradual improvement as the country settles into independence, with the rate falling steadily from 10 percent a year in 1995 to around 5 percent in 2000.

Namibia had a stock exchange founded in the early 1900s, in the southern town Lüderitz. It quoted companies that were established in the great diamond rush, reached a peak in 1910, but closed when the diamond rush was over. During the period of administration by South Africa, companies in Namibia were quoted on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. At independence in 1990, it was decided to establish a stock exchange, and it finally opened in 1992, growing from 4 listed companies and 1 stockbroker at inception, to 36 listed companies and 7 stockbrokers in 2000.


The GDP per capita (according to the purchasing power parity conversion which allows for the low price

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Namibia N/A 2,384 2,034 1,948 2,133
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
South Africa 4,574 4,620 4,229 4,113 3,918
Angola N/A 698 655 667 527
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

of many basic commodities in Namibia) stood at $4,300 in 1999, which places Namibia near the top of the lower middle-income countries in the world ranking. In the mid-1990s surveys indicated that 35 percent of the population were below the US$1 per day poverty line. About 49 percent of the labor force is employed in agriculture, most of which is subsistence farming, and the greatest incidence of poverty is in the rural areas. The high incidence of poverty, despite the relatively high levels of income per head, is an indication of the considerable inequality between the (mostly white) workers in the mining sectors and the rest of the workforce.

The rural poor work by tending family cattle or caring for small family-owned farms under harsh living conditions. They live in wood frame houses with mud walls and hard dirt floors. Mostly they eat cooked cereals and drink milk from their livestock, and rarely, if ever, eat meat. Their clothes are secondhand pieces which came from Europe and were bought in local markets. Water comes from wells, with some piped water in villages; cooking is done over wood fires and lighting is from small kerosene wick lamps, although there is electricity in the larger villages. Sanitation is provided by pit latrines. Still, there is primary education for 90 percent of the children, and dispensaries in villages provide basic health care.

In the towns, for those with employment, conditions tend to be better. Lower middle-class people may live in cement block houses with tin roofs and concrete floors. They have electricity some of the time, and water. Schools and hospitals are nearby. The poor live in slums where they have created rude shelters out of throw-away cloth, cardboard, or plastic. They use pit latrines and communal water taps.


The labor force comprised around 500,000 people in 1997, of which 41 percent were female and 20 percent were aged 10-14 (34 percent in 1980). The labor force grew at 2.4 percent a year between 1980 and 1997. Around 16,500 people enter the labor market each year. A high proportion of the workforce remains illiterate and unskilled. Agriculture provides employment for nearly half the workforce. Excluding subsistence farmers, the government is the biggest employer, accounting for over 70,000 jobs (18 percent of the workforce). There were 8,000 employed in the armed forces in 1995 (1.3 percent of the labor force).

In the colonial period a stream of African migrant workers came from the rural areas of Namibia and nearby countries such as Angola, Botswana, and Zambia. The development of the early mines and ranches depended on these sources of cheap labor. In the diamond and uranium mines, where profits have been high and the wage bill a small proportion of costs, the situation has changed, and these enterprises now pay the highest wages in the country. Elsewhere, particularly on the ranches, wages remain extremely low.

Unemployment figures have little significance in Namibia. There are very few with no work at all. Estimates in 1977 indicated that those who are unemployed or underemployed make up between 30 percent to 40 percent of the workforce, but this is almost all underemployment. There is no unemployment benefit, and those who do not work rely on support from charities or their families. Many people would like a modern sector job, but eke out an existence on family farms or in casual informal sector activities (such as hawking , portering, and scavenging) in the urban areas.


1884. South West Africa (SWA) is declared a German protectorate.

1915. South African troops defeat Germans and occupy SWA during World War I (1914-18).

1920. SWA is mandated to South Africa by the League of Nations.

1925. South Africa grants limit self-government to the territory's white inhabitants.

1945. The United Nations (UN) calls for Namibia to become a UN Trusteeship but is rebuffed by South Africa.

1950. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) rules that SWA remain under an international mandate.

1957. The Ovamboland People's Congress (OPC) is formed, with its main objective being the securing of independence for Namibia.

1958. OPC is renamed Ovamboland's People's Organization (OPO) and in 1960 becomes the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) under the leadership of Sam Nujoma.

1966. The UN General Assembly terminates South Africa's mandate over SWA, placing it under UN control. South Africa ignores this and extends its apartheid laws to SWA. SWAPO launches an armed struggle against the South African regime in Namibia.

1968. The United Nations renames the country Namibia.

1971. The ICJ rules that South Africa's claims to Namibia are invalid.

1973. The UN General Assembly recognizes SWAPO as the sole legitimate representative of the Namibian people.

1978. The Democratic Turnhalle Alliance of Namibia (DTA) wins elections boycotted by SWAPO and a South African-backed internal government is established. The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 435, which calls for Namibia's independence.

1988. The terms of Resolution 435 are finally set in motion as part of a tripartite agreement formally signed by Angola, Cuba, and South Africa.

1989. In UN-supervised elections held in November SWAPO wins 41 seats in a 72-member Constituent Assembly; the DTA wins 21 seats. In December the Constituent Assembly introduces proposals for a draft constitution.

1990. On 9 February, the constitution is formally adopted. Sam Nujoma is elected as the country's first president, and SWAPO forms a government. On 21 March, Namibia becomes independent, the Constituent Assembly becomes the National Assembly, and the president assumes executive powers. In March, Namibia becomes a full member of the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), the UN, Organization of African Unity, and the Commonwealth.

1995. Sam Nujoma is elected president for a second term, and SWAPO forms government.

1999. Sam Nujoma elected president for a third term, and SWAPO forms government.


Namibia's economic fortunes will continue to be dominated by neighboring South Africa for the foreseeable future. It is part of the Common Monetary Area (CMA) with Lesotho, South Africa, and Swaziland, and a member (with Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, and Swaziland) of the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU). CMA membership provides stability of exchange rates between the member countries and encourages trade between them, and SACU, by abolishing tariffs and other trade restrictions between members, also encourages trade. Its abundant mineral reserves and rich fisheries are expected to form the basis for Namibia's future economic prosperity.

The economy is expected to expand in the coming years owing to factors such as expanded output of offshore diamond mining, resumption of copper mining, and increased fish catches. Economic advancement has hitherto been accomplished primarily by the extractive (the withdrawal of natural resources by extraction with no provision for replenishment) industries and these benefits have yet to filter to the wider economy in terms of increased employment and more equitable income distribution.

Namibia has moved from colonial rule to independence with relatively little economic or social upheaval and has introduced public economic policies and physical infrastructure that should lead to long-term development and growth. The democratic process is well established, the government is secure, and the stability of the political process and the business environment is well established.


Namibia has no territories or colonies.


"Countries: Namibia." Africa South of the Sahara. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Namibia. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Hodd, Michael. "Namibia." The Economies of Africa. Aldershot:Dartmouth, 1991.

"Namibia." The Commonwealth Yearbook 2000. Birmingham:The Stationery Office, 2000.

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Namibia to the UN. <>.Accessed September 2001.

The Republic of Namibia. <>.Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: Namibia, April 1995. <>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Namibia. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Allan C. K. Mukungu




Namibian dollar (NAD). One dollar equals 100 cents. There are coins of 1 and 5 dollars, and bills of 10, 50, 100, and 200 dollars. The Namibian dollar is linked on an equal basis to the South African rand, which is also accepted as currency in Namibia.


Diamonds, copper, gold, zinc, lead, uranium, cattle, fish products, karakul skins.


Foodstuffs, petroleum products and fuel, machinery and equipment, chemicals.


US$7.1 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$1.4 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.). Imports: US$1.5 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name Republic of Namibia
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 1,797,677
Language(s): English (official),Afrikaans,German
Literacy rate: 38.0%
Area: 825,418 sq km
GDP: 3,479 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 8
Number of Television Sets: 60,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 33.4
Number of Radio Stations: 41
Number of Radio Receivers: 232,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 129.1
Number of Individuals with Computers: 60,000
Computers per 1,000: 33.4
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 30,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 16.7

Background & General Characteristics

Namibia, formerly called South West Africa, is a mostly desert or semi-desert country just off the Atlantic Ocean in the southern part of Africa. It is a vast country that is sparsely populated with about 1.79 million people, but its population is expected to reach 2.30 million by 2025 and 3.75 million by 2050. Namibia is bordered by Angola and Zambia (north), the Atlantic Ocean (west), South Africa (south and southeast) and Botswana (east). Walvis Bay, which covers 434 square miles, is Namibia's main port for imports and exports. At one time, South Africa tried to take over Walvis Bay and make it a part of South Africa.

Most of Namibia's adult population is made up of indigenous Africans, mostly from the Ovambo, Damara, and Herero groups. There are also more than 50,000 Coloureds (people of mixed racial descent), more than 40,000 Afrikaners (people of South African descent), and more than 25,000 people of German descent.

Namibia had a troubled history. Initially, Hottentots (a short, racially mixed, brown-skinned people) invaded the country from South Africa; since they had guns, they conquered Herero and Damara territory. They were followed, in 1883, by the Germans who laid claim to what came to be called South West Africa. When Europeans met for what was called the "Scramble for Africa," Namibia was ceded to German control. With their superior firepower, German merchants, soldiers, and missionaries, established forts and settlements. They conquered or took over everything in their path, except for Walvis Bay, which the British had occupied and annexed to Cape Colony, one of the four provinces of South Africa. Using brute force, the Germans took land and cattle from the indigenous people. It is estimated that 65,000 Hereros were killed by the Germans, but German occupation did not last long.


During World War I, South Africa invaded German West Africa, intending to make the large country a part of South Africa. The League of Nations blocked that move, instead giving South Africa a mandate to look after the territory. However, South Africa ignored the League of Nation's wishes and, from 1920 to 1946, treated Namibia as if it were a part of South Africa. When World War II ended and the United Nations (UN) emerged as a successor to the League of Nations, South Africa refused to acknowledge that the UN had jurisdiction over Namibia. Instead it tried to engage in creeping annexation, treating Namibia as one of its provinces (states) and actually allowing legislators from the future Namibia to be chosen to represent their country in the South African Parliament.

Under increasing pressure from newly independent African countries and other countries that wanted to end colonialism, the UN took South Africa to the International Court of Justice, which issued unclear verdicts in 1962 and 1966. However, in 1972 the court finally declared that South African occupation of Namibia was illegal. Two years later, the UN Security Council nullified South Africa's attempts to annex Walvis Bay, the main Namibian port. Despite the court ruling and the Security Council's actions, the apartheid governmenta system of legalized racial segregation that left control of the country in the hands of the white minority while the black majority was voteless and powerlessin South Africa continued to act as if nothing had changed. The situation indeed was changing; black South Africans were organizing themselves in an effort to end South African rule and to stop the creeping annexation that saw apartheid being exported to Namibia.

In 1960 the South West African People's Organization (SWAPO) was born as a black nationalist movement to agitate for change in Namibia, including majority rule and independence. These ideas were anathema to South Africa's rulers who were doing their best to suppress the African National Congress and the Pan-Africanist Congress, the country's domestic black nationalist movements. South African pressure forced African nationalist leaders to flee Namibia and flee into exile in Zambia and Tanzania. By 1966 SWAPO had turned to guerrilla war as the only way to drive South Africans out of Namibia. South Africa responded by escalating its efforts to suppress SWAPO and its allies. SWAPO leaders in the country were arrested and some were detained or jailed in South Africa proper, away from their supporters.

As SWAPO increased military pressure against South Africa, the United Nations continued to insist that Namibia was a trust territory being temporarily controlled by South Africa until one day its people would exercise their right to self-determination and independence. South Africa tried numerous strategies and subterfuges to remain in control over Namibia.

After neighboring Angola won independence from Portuguese rule on November 11, 1975, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) decided to support its SWAPO allies by providing them with bases for guerrilla training and weapons with which to fight South African occupiers. South Africa chose to support the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). As South African soldiers and their UNITA allies tried to take over Angola, the MPLA appealed for support from its socialist allies. Cuba's Fidel Castro sent in soldiers to support the MPLA government, leading to a decisive defeat for South Africa and the expulsion of its soldiers from Angolan soil. That forced South Africa to return to the negotiating table again, where she insisted that her troops would not leave Namibia until Cuban troops left Angola.

South Africa finally agreed to Namibian independence, giving up her dreams of absorbing Namibia and using it as a buffer zone to keep Africans from the north outside Pretoria's boundaries. When South Africa agreed to end its illegal occupation of Namibia, the SWAPO returned home to contest the country's elections. SWAPO won a majority in the 75-member National Assembly in the 1990 elections, dashing South Africa's hopes that a government more friendly to South Africa would emerge. On March 21, 1990, the country became independent and officially changed its name from South West Africa to Namibia. Sam Nujoma, who was born in 1929 and became SWAPO leader in 1962, became Namibia's first democratically elected president in 1990.

Media History

The Namibian constitution guarantees and protects press freedom. Generally, the media in Namibia is freer than in many other African countries, although clashes have increased between the SWAPO government and the Fourth Estate. Namibia boasts four daily newspapers: The Namibian, an independent English and Ovambo newspaper based in Windhoek, with a circulation between 10,000 and 25,000, whose editor, Gwen Lister, is also active in press freedom issues in Southern Africa; the Namibian News, a government newspaper published by the Ministry of Finance in Windhoek; the Namibia Economist ; and the Allgemeine Zeitung, a German newspaper published in Windhoek, established in 1916 (Editor-in-Chief Eberhard Hofmann).

Other Namibian newspapers include Die Republikein (The Republican), a daily Afrikaans, English, and German language newspaper, established in 1977 in Windhoek (Proprietor Democratic Media Holdings), with a circulation between 10,000 and 25,000; Tempo, a German and English language newspaper, established in 1992, published in Windhoek on Sundays (Proprietor Democratic Media Holdings, Editor Des Erasmus), with a circulation in the 10,000 to 25,000 range; and the Windoek Advertiser, a daily English language newspaper established in 1919 in Windhoek (Proprietor John Meinert (Pty.) Ltd. with some Democratic Media Holdings shareholding), with a circulation of less than 10,000. The privately owned Allgemeine Zeitung and the government-owned Namibian News are the country's most influential newspapers.

Other publications include Namibia Review, a monthly English magazine published by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, with a circulation of 10,000; and Abacus, a weekly, free English newspaper with a circulation of 30,000.

A major player in the country's print media is Democratic Media Holdings, a business enterprise run by the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), the country's official opposition party. DTA is a grouping of whites and others opposed to SWAPO. South Africa would have preferred to see the DTA win Namibian's independence elections because DTA was more compliant and more willing to do Pretoria's bidding.

The government-owned Namibia Press Agency (NAMPA) is the country's leading domestic news agency. It also works with the Pan African News Agency for receiving and distributing news and information within the country.

Press Laws

The print media in Namibia is far freer in the 2000s than it has been in the past. During the days of South African control, all forms of media were restricted. Various laws, including those governing defense, prisons, the police, the ubiquitous Internal Security Act, as well as emergency regulations, severely restricted what journalists could report, publish, photograph, or record. They could not report prison, police, or military stories or anything about unrest or guerrilla activities or SWAPO. Anything considered likely to undermine the Pretoria regime was also untouchable as far as journalists were concerned. The Pretoria regime deliberately tried to use the print media, just as it did with radio and television, as part of a total onslaught campaign against SWAPO. The media was ruthlessly muzzled.

Everything changed with Namibia's independence. Its constitution guaranteed press freedom, including the ownership and publication of privately owned newspapers. There is an explicit guarantee, under Article 21, that freedom of speech and expression includes the press and other media. However, the government has the power to restrict these freedoms in the interests of public order, decency, morality, national security, contempt of court, or defamation. Generally, Namibians have had far more press freedom than many of their neighbors, although there have been some clashes between the government and the private media.

Economic Framework

By African and Third World standards, Namibia is relatively well off. Its gross national product (GNP) per capita was U.S. $2,030 in 1994. The national currency is the Namibian dollar. The national languages are English, used for all official purposes and business, Afrikaans, Damara, Herero, German, Ovambo, and Kavango. Wind-hoek, with a population of about 150,000 people, is Namibia's capital and largest city.

Namibia is a semi-arid and semi-desert country, with rainfall ranging from 2 inches to 19.8 inches per year. The agricultural basis of its economy depends on cattle, fish, sheep, corn, millet, fruit, and sorghum. Mining also anchors the economy. Namibia has diamonds, uranium, lead, gold, copper, zinc, tin, silver, tantalite, pyrites, vanadium, cadmium, tungsten, and germanium.

Life expectancy in Namibia is 60 years for women and 58 years for men, which is higher than normal for most Africans. However, this relatively high longevity is now under attack by HIV/AIDS, which is also decimating other African countries.

Another serious problem facing Namibia is illiteracy. Although education has been free, universal, and compulsory to age 16 since 1990, illiteracy is still high because South Africa neglected the education of black children. Illiteracy is 38 percent, most of it among the indigenous people, thus affecting their ability to read and understand newspapers. In 1998 Namibia had 400,325 students in primary schools, 115,147 students in secondary schools, and 90 students in vocational institutions. Newspaper readership will likely increase as literacy rises.

State-Press Relations

Although it has not always been happy with how the written media has covered it, the Namibian government has generally been tolerant. There have been few restrictions, although libel laws can be used to deter the media. The constitution protects press freedom, so there have been no arrests or torture of journalists. When it comes to radio and television, however, the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) is the sole provider of all electronic media services, a state-owned national broadcaster. Owners of radio or television sets are required to buy an annual listeners' license. These fees go to the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation, which is subsidized by the government.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

When it was under South African control, foreign media was not allowed into South Africa. The only media given access was South African newspapers, especially the pro-apartheid publications. The media that operated in Namibia was subjected to the same restrictions and obstacles faced by their counterparts in South Africa. At that time, being found in possession of foreign publications, especially those from communist countries, could result in a prison sentence.

Since independence, the media in Namibia has enjoyed much more freedom. Foreign publications and journalists are now welcome, as are media and journalists from neighboring countries. The government, however, discourages foreign ownership of the media. The Voice of America, South Africa radio, and the British Broadcasting Corporation are among listeners' favorites.

Broadcast Media

When it comes to electronic media, the Namibian government has been tighter. According to the latest figures, there were 215,000 radio receivers in 1995 and 232,000 in 1997. During the same period, television receivers went up from 39,000 to 60,000. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is responsible for formulating guidelines on how the media should act. It also runs the NBC, the successor to the South African Broadcasting Corporation; the NBC is responsible for radio and television services. Desert TV is a privately owned station in Windhoek.

Although NBC is also the national radio broadcaster, the government has allowed the emergence of privately-run stations such as Radio Kudu, which specializes in music; Radio Wave, a private contemporary music station; Radio Energy, another music outlet; Radio 99, another private music station; Channel 7, a private religious station based in Windhoek; and Katutura Community Radio, also based in Windhoek, which rebroadcasts some British Broadcasting Corporation programs.

The pre-independence media in Namibia was used to propagate and prop up the apartheid policies of the Pretoria regime. News was used to demonize those seeking to bring about a more democratic society, and penalties were in place to punish those who violated the minefield of laws designed to protect those in power and to shield them from the spotlight of relentless media scrutiny. Under the new political dispensation, the media has become a major player in institution building and in the dissemination of news and information. The press has taken on more of a watchdog role. Perhaps the change in the new order of things was best summed up by Hidipo Hamutenya, then Namibia's minister of information and broadcasting, when he said: "Our media must also provide a feedback channel to the government by timely and adequately reporting on development countrywide. They must closely monitor the implementation of the various economic development projects and programs throughout the country." His call was for the media to become a partner in development, to be the Fourth Estate, and to hold the government accountable to its peoplea role too few African media outlets are permitted or encouraged to play.

Education & Training

Before independence, journalists were trained in various African countries, especially Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Tanzania. There were no domestic training opportunities during the days of minority rule. Now such opportunities exist, as well as courses instituted by Britons and Canadians. Short courses, training seminars, and workshops are also regularly offered in Namibia and in the surrounding countries for the common training of Southern African journalists. Other Namibians go overseas or to South Africa for advanced training, some of which has been underwritten by UNESCO and the United States Information Agency.


Under apartheid, on all issues concerning prisons or national security, the media deferred to the government. No stories could be reported on those issues without first getting a government comment or denial. This is no longer the case; the media reports freely, for the most part. The future looks bright for Namibian journalists, except those in the electronic media who remain under government control. It's common throughout most of Africa that radio and television remains under strict government control. Namibia is not yet an exception.


"Africa." Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, 7th edition. Worldmark Press, 1988.

Africa South of the Sahara, 31st edition. Europa Publications, 2002.

British Broadcasting Corporation. "Country Profile: Namibia." Encyclopedia of Africa South of the Sahara, 2002.

Merrill, John C., ed. Global Journalism: Survey of International Communication, 2nd edition, New York & London: Longman, 1991.

Shivute, Mocks. "The Media in Post-Independent Namibia." In Communication & The Transformation of Society, eds. Peter Nwosu, Chuka Onwumechili, and Ritchard M'Bayo. Lanham, New York: University Press of America, Inc., 1997.

Tendayi S. Kumbula

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Official name: Republic of Namibia

Area: 825,418 square kilometers (318,696 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Konigstein (2,606 meters/8,550 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Southern and Eastern

Time zone: 2 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 1,498 kilometers (931 miles) from south-southeast to north-northwest; 880 kilometers (547 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest (excluding the Caprivi Strip)

Land boundaries: 3,824 kilometers (2,376 miles) total boundary length; Angola 1,376 kilometers (855 miles); Botswana 1,360 kilometers (845 miles); South Africa 855 kilometers (531 miles); Zambia 233 kilometers (145 miles)

Coastline: 1,572 kilometers (977 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Namibia is located on the southwest Atlantic coast of Africa, bordering Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east, and South Africa to the southeast. With a total area of about 825,418 square kilometers (318,696 square miles), the country is slightly more than half the size of Alaska. Namibia is administratively divided into thirteen regions.


Namibia has no outside territories or dependencies.


Along the coast, the average temperature ranges from 23°C (73°F) in summer to 13°C (55°F) in winter. Inland, the temperatures may be somewhat higher, except at the higher elevations, where temperatures are lower.

There is little rainfall in Namibia. The rainy season is from November to March, with most of the rainfall occurring from January to March. Rain typically occurs during widely scattered, brief thunderstorms. Average annual rainfall along the Atlantic Coast is less than 5 centimeters (2 inches). About 35 centimeters (14 inches) of rain fall in the central highlands, while 70 centimeters (28 inches) of rain is the yearly average in the northeast. Because of the erratic rainfall, droughts are frequent; some areas of the country may go years without receiving any rain. The country's highest rainfall occurs in the northeast, where there is woodland savannah featuring dense vegetation covering the plains.


Namibia is primarily a large desert and semi-desert plateau with an average elevation of 1,080 meters (3,543 feet). There are four distinct topographical regions in Namibia: the coastal Namib Desert, the central plateau, the southeastern Kalahari Desert, and the northeastern woodland savannah. Extending from the northeast corner of the country is the Caprivi Strip, a narrow panhandle extending between Angola and Zambia on the north and Botswana on the south. Namibia lies on the African Tectonic Plate.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

Namibia has a western coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. The cold Benguela ocean current, which flows from Antarctica north along the west coast of Africa, contributes to the overall climate of Namibia and causes the dense fog that almost always hangs over much of the coast, especially in the north.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Sandwich Harbor, the coastal area around Sandwich Bay, is a wetland fed both by salt water flowing with the tides and by fresh water seeping up from aquifers. It attracts a wide variety of wading birds and serves as a breeding ground for marine life.

Islands and Archipelagos

Namibia has only twelve small, rocky islands off of its coast. The islands are uninhabited except for colonies of penguins and the scientists who are researching them.

Coastal Features

The 500-kilometer (300-mile) stretch of Atlantic Coast, from roughly the Cunene River on the Angola border to the Ugab River, is known as the Skeleton Coast. Dramatic sand dunes, deep canyons, and mountains line this remote, foggy shore. It marks the extreme western edge of the Namib Desert. The Skeleton Coast got its name from the many shipwrecks that occurred there. A park covering about 16,000 square kilometers (6,200 square miles) is maintained in the area south of Cape Fria.

Just north of the city of Swakopmund is Cape Cross, home to Africa's largest colony of cape fur seals, numbering between one hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. In 1486, the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cao became the first European to visit Namibia; he erected a cross to honor the Portuguese king, and that is how the cape got its name.

Access to the coast south of Lüderitz to the South African border is restricted, since it is an area rich in diamonds.


The Etosha Pan in northwestern Namibia is known both as the "Great White Place," because of the appearance of its dry, saline, clay soil, and also as the "Land of Dry Water," because it is a dry lake for much of the year. It has been protected as a nature preserve since 1907. The intermittent Ekuma and Oshigambo Rivers feed the Etosha Pan, periodically creating a large, shallow lake where flamingoes congregate. There are no other major lakes in Namibia.


The only permanent rivers lie on or near the country's borders. The Cunene River forms the northwestern border with Angola, and the Okavango River forms the northeastern border. The Zambezi River, though one of the longest rivers in Africa with a total length of 2,650 kilometers (1,650 miles), touches Namibia only where it forms the far eastern border of the Caprivi Strip with Zambia. The system of the Kwando, Linyanti, and Chobe Rivers forms the easternmost border between the Caprivi Strip and Botswana. The Orange River forms the southern border with South Africa.

Along the northern border with Angola, the Cunene River courses to the Atlantic Ocean. Two dramatic waterfalls lie on the Cunene. Epupa Falls is actually a series of cascades created by the river dropping almost 60 meters (200 feet) over the short distance of just 1.5 kilometers (1 mile). At full flood stage, the Ruacana Falls swell to 120 meters (400 feet) high and 700 meters (2,300 feet) wide.

During the rainy season (generally from November to March), the intermittent rivers may be filled with water and may even pose flash-flood hazards, while at other times they are dry riverbeds, sometimes dotted with pools filled with fish. Intermittent rivers that flow west to the Atlantic Ocean include the Kuiseb, Swakop, Omaruru, Hoarusib, Hoanib, Ugab, and Khumib. The Nossob, a tributary of the Orange River, flows along the Kalahari Desert into Botswana. Another Orange River tributary, the Fish, flows throughout south-central Namibia. Intermittent rivers that flow north include the Marienfluss, the Omatako, and the Cuvelai, which flows from its source in Angola to the Etosha Pan.


The Namib Desert follows the full length of the Atlantic coastline and varies in width from 50 to 140 kilometers (30 to 88 miles). The terrain features dramatic stretches of dunes, dry riverbeds, and deep canyons, sometimes lined with majestic rock formations. From Swakopmund to Lüderitz, some of the highest sand dunes found anywhere in the world extend inland about 70 kilometers (44 miles). Remains of shipwrecks also dot the beach.

The Kalahari Desert lies in the east-central portion of the country and straddles the border with Botswana. The Kalahari features relatively flat expanses of red sand covered in some areas with sparse vegetation.


African savannah (grassland) dotted by solitary shrubs and trees are common in vast areas of the country, except for the desert on the western coast.


The elephant herds that roam northwest Namibia dwell in the desert. They seem to have adapted to the dry, sandy conditions by having larger feet and smaller bodies than other elephants. There are only two countries in the world where elephants live in desert conditions: Namibia and Mali. Most elephants inhabit savannah (grassland) or forest regions.


Konigstein, the highest mountain in Namibia, reaches 2,606 meters (8,550 feet). It belongs to a range known as the Brandberg Massif. In 1917, the White Lady rock painting was discovered in a ravine called Maack's Shelter, which is at the base of the Konigstein. West of the Brandberg rise the Gobobose Mountains, which contain an extinct volcano, the Messum Crater. Just south of the Brandberg Massif, in the region northeast of Swakopmund, are the sharp peaks of Groot Spitzkoppe (1,728 meters/5,702 feet) and Klein Spitzkoppe (1,584 meters/5,227 feet). The Kaokoveld Mountains are located about 60 kilometers (40 miles) north of the Brandberg. They run along the Namib Desert parallel to the coast. At their northern extent they run into the Jou-bert Mountains. Twyfelfontein is a west-facing mountain slope located in the Kaokoveld Mountains that is covered with more than two thousand rock engravings (where the designs have been chipped into the rock). Some of the carvings date from about 3,300 b.c.

The Khomas Highlands run east to west from Windhoek toward the sea and include the flat-topped Gamsberg (2,347 meters/7,745 feet). In the north-central region there are two mountain ranges: the Erongo Mountains, which are about 150 kilometers (94 miles) from the Brandberg with maximum elevations of about 2,319 meters (7,653 feet), and the Otavi Mountains, which are even further north. Northeast of Windhoek are the Eros Mountains, which reach a maximum elevation of 1,900 meters (6,270 feet).

In the south, there are two main mountain ranges. The Schwarz Mountains run north to south along the western bank of the Fish River. The highest peak of the Schwarz is Mount Brukkaros at 1,603 meters (5,259 feet). The Great Karas Mountains run southwest to northeast across the southeastern corner of the country, beginning to the east of Fish River Canyon. The highest point in this range is Karas Mountain, which reaches an altitude of 2,202 meters (7,267 feet). The country's second-highest peak, Von Moltkeblick (2,480 meters/8,184 feet), rises among the Auas Mountains in southeastern Namibia.


Fish River Canyon lies in the dry, stone-covered plain in south-central Namibia. With an estimated length of 160 kilometers (100 miles), a maximum width of 27 kilometers (17 miles), and a depth of 550 meters (1,815 feet), it is the second-largest natural gorge in Africa.


Namibia is the first country in the world to include protection of the environment and sustainable utilization of wildlife in its government's constitution. About 15.5 percent of the country's land has been set aside as national parks.


The central plateau has elevations between 1,000 and 2,000 meters (3,300 and 6,600 feet). The terrain features mountain peaks, rock formations, and broad sweeping plains or savannah. In the northwest, the plateau runs into the Kaokoveld, a remote and desolate area of high elevation, home to many rare species of African animals. Further east toward the center of the country, just south of Grootfontein in an area known as the Kaukauveld, the red sandstone Waterberg Plateau rises about 200 meters (660 feet) above the savannah and extends for more than 50 kilometers (30 miles). It is the centerpiece of a large area that was designated as parkland in 1972 to protect the habitat of rare and endangered species. The southwestern corner of the country sits on the Huib-Hoch Plateau.

North of the Ugab River are two interesting geological features: Burnt Mountain, a hill displaying outcroppings of purple, black, and gray rock; and a dramatic mass of perpendicular volcanic rock called the Organ Pipes.


There are at least ten dams built along Namibia's rivers for the sole purpose of containing river and rainwater for drinking and irrigation. These include the Von Boch and Swakopport Dams on the Swakop River, the Hardop Dam on the Fish River, and the Frienenau Dam on the Kuiseb River. Unfortunately, these catchment areas do not always provide an adequate amount of water for the surrounding areas, since the rivers are occasionally dry and much of the rainfall waters can evaporate soon after a rain. Boreholes (a type of well) have been dug in many areas to access underground water sources. Water is then distributed to villages and settlements by pumps. Nearly 73 percent of the country's water supply comes from these boreholes. This water is not always filtered or completely suitable for drinking, however, and lack of rainfall can make even these sources run dry. During drought seasons, village water supplies may be damaged or destroyed by elephants and other animals in search of fresh water.


Namibia is one of the world's leading producers of gem-quality diamonds. The most significant diamond mine areas are in the southwest and belong jointly to the De Beers Consolidated Diamond Mines and the Namibian government. Under the name Namdeb, they mine about half of the world's diamonds. In the Oranjemund Mine, located on the southern coast of the country, diamond deposits are found under the beachfront soils and under the coastal sea floor.



Allen, Benedict. The Skeleton Coast: A Journey through the Namib Desert. London: BBC Books, 1997.

Ballard, Sebastian. Namibia Handbook. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1999.

Bannister, Anthony. Namibia: Africa's Harsh Paradise. London: New Holland, 1990.

Grotpeter, John J. Historical Dictionary of Namibia. Meutchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1994.

Lauré, J. Namibia. Chicago: Children's Press, 1993.

Web Sites

Cardboard Box Travel Shop: Namibian Geography. (accessed April 11, 2003).

E-Tourism: Namibia. (accessed April 11, 2003).

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Namibia (nämĬb´ēə), officially Republic of Namibia, republic (2005 est. pop. 2,031,000), c.318,000 sq mi (823,620 sq km), SW Africa. It is bordered by Angola in the north, by Zambia in the northeast, by Botswana in the east, by South Africa in the southeast and south, and by the Atlantic Ocean in the west. The Orange River forms the southern boundary, and the Kunene, Cubango, and Zambezi rivers form parts of the northern and northeastern borders. The country includes the Caprivi Strip in the northeast; there have been clashes there between government forces and separatists. The capital and largest city of Namibia is Windhoek.

Land and People

The country has four main geographical regions: the arid and barren Namib Desert, which runs along the entire Atlantic coast with widths of from 50 to 80 mi (80–130 km); an extensive central plateau that averages c.3,600 ft (1,100 m) in elevation; the western fringes of the Kalahari Desert in the east; and an alluvial plain in the north that includes the Etosha Pan, a large salt marsh. The highest point is Brandberg Mt. (8,402 ft/2,561 m), situated in the western part of the central plateau. In addition to the capital, other towns include Keetmanshoop, Tsumeb, Lüderitz, Gobabis, and Otjiwarongo.

Namibia has an ethnically diverse population that includes the Bantu-speaking Ovambo (about 50% of the population), Kavango, and Herero; various Nama (see Khoikhoi) groups; the Damara; San (Bushmen); and whites of South African, German, and British descent. English is the official language, but most of the population speaks Afrikaans. About 80% of the population is Christian, and the rest follow traditional beliefs.


Because of inadequate rainfall, crops are not widely raised and pastoralism forms the backbone of the agricultural sector. Goats and sheep are raised mainly in the south, and cattle are herded chiefly in the north. About half the people make their living by agriculture, mainly from Karakul pelts, livestock, and dairy goods. Millet, peanuts, sorghum, and grapes are grown. Unemployment is high, and much of the agricultural land remains in the hands of several thousand white farmers; this has led to pressure for land redistribution, and the government has gradually transferred ownership to black Namibians through land purchases, some of which have involved expropriation.

The country's few manufactures are made up mostly of processed food. There is an extensive mining industry, run principally by foreign-owned companies. Namibia is a major producer of gem-quality diamonds, the country's principal export; the most significant diamond deposits are offshore. Other important minerals are uranium, lead, zinc, tin, silver, tungsten, and copper. There are significant but yet unexploited natural gas deposits offshore and iron deposits in NW Namibia. Fishing fleets operate in the Atlantic. Unrestricted fishing by commercial companies severely depleted the country's supply of certain types of fish, but stocks are being replenished.

The central part of the country is served by roads and rail lines that are linked with those of South Africa, its largest trading partner. The main exports are diamonds, copper, gold, zinc, lead, uranium, cattle, fish, and Karakul pelts. Foodstuffs, petroleum products, machinery and equipment, and chemicals are imported.


Namibia is governed under the constitution of 1990. The president, who is head of state, is popularly elected for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The government is headed by a prime minister, who is appointed by the president. There is a bicameral legislature. The National Council has 26 seats, with two members chosen from each regional council to serve six-year terms. Members of the 72-seat National Assembly are popularly elected for five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 13 regions.


Early History and Colonialism

The earliest inhabitants of Namibia were San hunters and gatherers, who lived there as early as 2,000 years ago. By c.AD 500, Nama herders had entered the region; they have left early records of their activities in the form of cave paintings. The Herero people settled in the western and northern areas of Namibia around 1600. The Ovambo migrated into Namibia after about 1800.

Diogo Cam and Bartolomeu Dias, both Portuguese navigators, landed on the coast in the early 15th cent. Portuguese and Dutch expeditions explored the coastal regions, and in the late 18th cent. Dutch and British captains laid claim to parts of the coast. These claims, however, were disallowed by their governments. In the 18th cent., English missionaries arrived, and they were followed by German missionaries in the 1840s. Britain annexed Walvis Bay in 1878. The Bremen trading firm of F. A. E. Lüderitz gained a cession of land at Angra Pequeña (now Lüderitz) in 1883, and in 1884 the German government under Otto von Bismarck proclaimed a protectorate over this area, to which the rest of South West Africa (Ger. Süd-West Afrika) was soon added.

Conflicts between the indigenous population and the Europeans, mainly over control of land, led to outbreaks of violence in the 1890s, which worsened in the 1900s. In 1903 the Nama began a revolt, joined by the Herero in 1904. The Germans pursued an uncompromising military campaign that by 1908 had resulted in the death of about 54,000 Herero (out of a total Herero population of about 70,000), many of whom were driven into the Kalahari Desert, where they perished; 30,000 others also died in the revolt. In 1908 diamonds were discovered near Lüderitz, and a large influx of Europeans began.

During World War I the country was occupied (1915) by South African forces, and after the war South Africa began (1920) to administer it as a C-type mandate under the League of Nations. In 1921–22 the Bondelzwarts, a small Nama group, revolted against South African rule, but they were crushed by South African forces employing airpower. After the founding of the United Nations in 1945, South Africa, unlike the other League of Nations mandatories, refused to surrender its mandate and place South West Africa under the UN trusteeship system.

The Struggle for Independence

In 1960, Ethiopia and Liberia (both of which had been members of the League of Nations) initiated proceedings in the International Court of Justice to have the mandate declared as being in force and to have South Africa charged with failing to fulfill the terms of the mandate. The court ruled in 1966 that Ethiopia and Liberia had not established a legal right or interest entitling them to bring the case. In frustration at this decision, the South West African People's Organization (SWAPO), operating in exile, undertook small-scale guerrilla warfare in South West Africa.

The UN General Assembly in 1966 passed a resolution terminating the mandate, and in 1968 it resolved that the country be known as Namibia. The International Court of Justice reaffirmed (1971) the General Assembly's resolution, but the South African government maintained that the United Nations had no authority over South West Africa, and it proceeded with plans for establishing ten African homelands (bantustans) in the country and for tying it more closely to South Africa.

South Africa's attempt to repress political opposition was met with SWAPO's extensive boycott of the bantustan elections in Ovamboland in 1973. South Africa held a constitutional conference (the Turnhalle Conference) in 1975 and delayed deciding Namibia's status. Responding to threats from the world community, the government promised Namibian independence by the end of 1978.

In 1977, the government adopted a new constitution that upheld apartheid policies, restricted SWAPO participation in politics, and sought to continue South African control over foreign affairs after independence. SWAPO and other opposition groups effectively waged guerrilla warfare, gaining control of areas in the north. A UN resolution in 1978 called for a cease-fire and UN-monitored elections. South Africa balked at elections, fearing a SWAPO-led Namibian government.

Under a 1988 agreement brokered by the United States, the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola was linked with the implementation of the UN plan in Namibia. UN-supervised elections were held in 1989; SWAPO won a majority of the parliamentary seats, and party leader Sam Nujoma was elected president. A constitution was adopted in Feb., 1990, and Namibia became independent on Mar. 21, 1990. The important deepwater port of Walvis Bay, to which South Africa had continued to lay claim, was yielded to Namibia in 1994. In the 1994 elections, SWAPO again won a majority and Nujoma was reelected. A land reform program began in 1996 but proceeded slowly; in 2004 the government began expropriating white-owned farms to accelerate the process of resettlement. In the late 1990s Namibia supplied military aid to President Laurent Kabila of the Congo, who was fighting rebel forces seeking to overthrow him.

President Nujoma was reelected again in 1999, following a constitutional change that permitted him to run for a third term. Suggestions in 2004 that another amendment be made to permit a fourth term proved potentially polarizing within both the ruling party and the nation, but in Apr., 2004, Nujoma announced that he would step down at the end of his third term. In Nov., 2004, Hifikepunye Pohamba, the SWAPO candidate and Nujoma's handpicked successor, was elected president in a landslide, and succeeded him in the post in Mar., 2005. SWAPO also retained a two-thirds majority of the seats in the parliament.

An outbreak of polio in 2006 that resulted in more than 100 cases led to a mass immunization program throughout the country in June and July. Namibia has a significant AIDS problem, with more than 40% of the population infected in some northern areas. In Sept., 2006, the government declared the revived United Democratic party, a group advocating independence for the Caprivi Strip through peaceful means, illegal for secessionist activities. Pohamba was reelected by a large margin in Dec., 2009, and SWAPO again dominated the parliamentary elections. SWAPO remained in power after the Nov., 2014, elections, again easily winning control of parliament and the presidency; Hage Geingob, the prime minister, was elected to succeed Pohamba.


See H. Bley, South West Africa under German Rule, 1894–1914 (tr. 1971); I. Goldblatt, History of South West Africa from the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century (1971); D. Soggot, Namibia: The Violent Heritage (1986); P. H. Katjavivi, A History of Resistance in Namibia (1988); D. L. Sparks and D. Green, Namibia: The Nation after Independence (1991).

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Namibia (formerly South West Africa)

Country statistics


825,414sq km (318,694 sq mi) 1,826,854

capital (population):

Windhoek (194,300)


Multi-party republic

ethnic groups:

Ovambo 50%, Kavango 9%, Herero 7%, Damara 7%, White 6%, Nama 5%


English (official)


Lutheran 51%, Roman Catholic 20%


Namibian dollar = 100 cents

Republic in sw Africa.

Land and climate

Namibia broadly has four geographical regions. The arid Namib Desert runs along the Atlantic coast. Inland, a central plateau, mostly between 900 and 2000m (2950–6560ft), includes the capital, Windhoek. The highest point is Brandberg Mountain, at 2606m (8550ft). In the n lies an alluvial plain, which includes the marshlands of the Caprivi Strip. To the e is the w fringe of the Kalahari. The Orange River forms Namibia's s border. It is a warm, arid country. Grassland and shrub cover much of the interior.


The nomadic San inhabited the region c.2000 years ago. They were gradually displaced by Bantu-speakers, such as the Ovambo, Kavango and Herero. Portuguese navigators arrived in the early 15th century. Colonization began in earnest in the 19th century. In 1884 Germany claimed the region as a protectorate and subsumed it into the territory of South West Africa. Germany brutally local rebellions. The discovery of diamonds in 1908 increased European settlement. During World War 1 it was occupied (1915) by South African troops. In 1920, South Africa gained a mandate. After World War 2, South Africa refused to relinquish control. In 1966, the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) began a guerrilla war against South Africa. In 1968, the United Nations called on South Africa to withdraw. In 1971, the International Court of Justice declared that South Africa's rule over Namibia was illegal. South Africa refused to comply. International pressure forced South Africa to promise Namibia independence, but South Africa then qualified the terms. Civil war raged from 1977. A UN security council peace settlement was finally implemented in 1989. SWAPO won multi-party elections in November 1989. In March 1990, Namibia became an independent republic within the British Commonwealth. In 1990, Sam Nujoma became president. He was re-elected in 1994 and 1999. In 1994 South Africa renounced its claim to Walvis Bay and it was incorporated into Namibia. In 2003, the Namibia Farmworkers Union announced it would start forcibly taking white-owned farms.


Namibia is the world's seventh largest producer of diamonds and ninth largest producer of uranium (2000 GDP per capita, US$4300). Minerals make up 90% of exports. Farming employs c.40% of the workforce. The main activity is cattle and sheep farming. The chief food products are maize, millet and vegetables. Atlantic fishing is also important.

Political map

Physical map


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NAMIBIA. A country of southern Africa and member of the Commonwealth. Languages: English (official), Afrikaans, Damara, German, Herero, Kavango, Ovambo, Nama, etc. Because of the Namib Desert, British and Dutch missionaries did not penetrate the region until the late 18c. The Germans colonized it as German West Africa in 1892–3, but lost it during the First World War to South Africa, which governed it from 1920 as South West Africa, under a League of Nations mandate. The United Nations sought to make it a trusteeship after 1946, but South Africa refused to co-operate. In 1966, the UN mandate was withdrawn. In 1968, the territory's name became Namibia. South Africa governed the territory without international recognition until independence in 1990. English, Afrikaans, and German were all official until independence, when English was declared the sole official language.

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Culture Name



Identification. Namibia was colonized by Germany and South Africa and was named Südwestafrika or South West Africa. Those who opposed colonial rule preferred Namibia, from a Nama/Damara word meaning "shield" used for the coastal desert, the Namib, which long protected the interior from access by sea. During the colonial period, many indigenous peoples were dispossessed of their lands and relegated to reserves established for each ethnic group. The emphasis on ethnicity was opposed by growing nationalist sentiment, and Namibia became a unitary nation-state when it gained independence in 1990.

Location and Geography. Covering 318,500 square miles (825,000 square kilometers) on the southwest coast of Africa, Namibia is bordered by Angola and Zambia (north), Botswana (east), South Africa (south), and the Atlantic Ocean (west). The coast, with its productive fishing grounds and the deep water harbor of Walvis Bay, is edged by the dunes and gravel plains of the Namib desert. Inland, the hills and plains of the central plateau are predominantly scrub savannah, gradually transforming into the Kalahari semi-desert to the east. The flat north-central and northeastern regions have extensive flood plains and areas of dense vegetation. The driest country in sub-Saharan Africa, Namibia only has permanent rivers on its northern and southern borders.

Demography. With large expanses of arid and semi-arid land, Namibia has a small population about 1.7 millionfor its size. The population is youthful, with 44 percent aged fourteen and under and only 4 percent older than 65. About 60 percent live in the far north, where rainfall is sufficient for grain farming. In 1996 Namibia's capital city, Windhoek, had a population of 183,000.

Linguistic Affiliation. Despite the small population, there is great linguistic variety. Most Namibians speak Bantu languages like Oshiwambo and Otjiherero as their first language. Others speak Khoisan languages (Nama/Damara and various Bushman languages), while a smaller percentage are native speakers of Indo-European languages like Afrikaans and English. Afrikaans was promoted as a language of wider communication before independence and is still widely spoken in southern and central Namibia. At independence, English was chosen as the primary language for government and education because it was not associated with any particular ethnicity and could facilitate interaction with the outside world. Urban dwellers, young people, and northerners are more likely to have learned it.

Symbolism. The colors on the national flag symbolize important natural and human characteristics of Namibia: sunlight and the desert (yellow), rain and the ocean (blue), crops and vegetation (green), the blood shed in war (red), and peace and reconciliation (white). Schoolchildren sing the national anthem daily; it is also heard on the radio and at national celebrations.

History and Ethnic Relations

Namibia was originally inhabited by nomadic hunters, gatherers, and pastoralists (livestock herders), the ancestors of today's Bushman and Khoispeaking people. Agriculturalists and pastoralists speaking Bantu languages, such as the Owambo and Herero, arrived in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries and settled throughout northern and central Namibia. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Nama- and Afrikaans-speaking pastoralists, under pressure from white settlers in South Africa, moved into southern and central Namibia. The different groups came into conflict over access to land and other resources, but they were linked by trade relationships.

European traders, missionaries, and settlers began arriving in significant numbers in the mid-1800s. Increasing expropriations of land and cattle by German settlers led Herero and Nama communities to rebel. In a series of genocidal wars from 1904 to 1907, the German military killed three-quarters of the Herero population and nearly one-half the Namas. The survivors were settled on barren reserves and forced to work in mines and on commercial farms. Since labor was short, large numbers of men from the far north, a densely-populated area not subject to white settlement, were brought south as contract laborers. This pattern of eviction from the land and migrant labor continued when South Africa assumed control after World War I. In the 1960s and 1970s, South Africa formally extended its apartheid system to Namibia, creating ethnic homelands with their own administrations for each ethnic group. Movement outside one's own homeland was strictly controlled.

Emergence of the Nation. The boundaries defining present-day Namibia were European creations, and there was no prior sense of common identity among the many different groups inhabiting the area. Their common experience of oppression under colonialism, however, led to shared nationalist sentiment, first expressed in the 1940s during a letter-writing campaign by traditional leaders to the United Nations protesting South African rule. Initiated by the Herero Chiefs Council, the campaign grew throughout the 1950s to include leaders from other ethnic groups. In 1959, thirteen protestors were killed in Windhoek by South African forces as they demonstrated against the planned relocation of their community. The Windhoek Massacre and ensuing government repression stimulated the rise of new nationalist organizations. The most successful of these, the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), was initially based among Owambo contract workers, but soon attracted broader support, took up armed struggle, and gained UN recognition as the "sole and authentic" representative of the Namibian people. The strongest and most enduring element of SWAPO ideology has been nationalism, seen as a necessary counter to the ethnic divisions perpetuated by apartheid. At independence on 21 March 1990, SWAPO became the first democratically elected ruling party of the new nation, a position it has held through two subsequent elections. The country was divided into thirteen new administrative regions, cross-cutting the boundaries of the former ethnic homelands.

National Identity. Despite significant cultural differences and considerable ethnic stereotyping, there is a widely shared orientation to the nation, particularly among young people, who are more likely to travel through the country for economic and educational reasons. Urban areas, large workplaces such as mines and fisheries, and secondary and tertiary schools are multi-ethnic sites where people are creating new ways of interacting across ethnic boundaries. Soccer is extremely popular among men of all ethnicities, and the national team is followed closely and is widely discussed.

Ethnic Relations. Despite the emphasis on nationalism, ethnicity is still a force in Namibian society. Some groups have restored kings to power and made land claims since independence, and the official opposition party, the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), is an alliance of ethnically-based organizations. Some members of smaller groups fear domination by the Owambos, who comprise about half the population of the country and provide most of SWAPO's electoral support.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Most of central and southern Namibia, an area formerly known as the Police Zone, was appropriated for white settlement. Today it consists of large commercial farms and widely scattered towns with Western-style buildings, some distinctly German. In the rural communal areas (former ethnic homelands), there are a variety of architectural styles in addition to Western buildings. Construction materials include sticks and logs, earth, and thatch. Houses may be round, square, or beehive-shaped; in some areas, clusters of huts are enclosed in wooden palisades. Some dwellings and shops are also made of metal sheets or concrete blocks with metal roofs, a style also seen in some urban neighborhoods.

In urban areas under apartheid, whites lived in the town centers, while blacks and mixed-race people were clustered in outlying "locations," sometimes divided into sections by ethnicity. Although legislation enforcing this racial segregation was abolished in the late 1970s and 1980s, attitudes and economic barriers have changed more slowly and this pattern has persisted. Urbanization increased greatly after independence, especially in Windhoek, as the last restrictions on population movement were removed and exiles returned from abroad. The rapidity of urban growth has led to problems in the provision of basic services as well as higher unemployment and increased crime.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. For agriculturalists, the staple foods are millet and sorghum; for pastoralists, dairy products. Beans and greens are eaten with millet in the north, but otherwise few vegetables are grown or consumed. Hunting and gathering, more important in the past, still provides a dietary supplement for some. Meat is highly desired and eaten as often as it is feasibledaily for some, on special occasions for others. Fish consumption is slowly increasing with government promotion of Namibian fish products.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Important occasions are marked by the slaughter of cattle or goats, and the consumption of meat, home-brewed beer, purchased beverages, and other foods. In some cultures, leftover meat is sent home with the guests.

Basic Economy. The Namibian economy is divided between capital-intensive industry, which accounts for most of the gross domestic product, and labor-intensive subsistence agriculture, which employs over half of the population. With little access to financial or technical assistance, most subsistence farmers rely on small-scale commercial activity and/or family members who earn wages or pensions to make ends meet.

Land Tenure and Property. Land tenure in central and southern Namibia is based on private property. In the rural communal areas, land is not bought or sold; families have heritable rights to use specific plots or pay fees to traditional leaders for use rights. In pastoral communities, all members generally have access to grazing and water in the community's area. Recent sources of controversy include the illegal fencing of communal land for private use by the wealthy and the extensive ownership of land by whites.

Commercial Activities. Alongside Namibian retail stores and South African chains, informal, small-scale commercial activity is widespread. Home-brewed alcohol, freshly butchered meat, prepared foods, and crafts are the major products sold. Others buy small quantities of soap, fruit, watches, and other goods to resell along the roadside or in small shops.

Major Industries. Mining (diamonds and other gemstones, uranium), fishing and fish processing, and commercial agriculture (cattle and sheep) have long been the economic mainstays in terms of value produced. Earnings fluctuate greatly depending on world market prices and weather conditions. The manufacturing sector is growing with government promotion and incentives, although the small size of the skilled labor force and domestic market are limiting factors. Tourism has grown substantially since independence.

Trade. Diamonds and other minerals are the most important exports, followed by processed and unprocessed fish, other food products, and live animals. The main export destinations include the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Spain. Most imports are purchased from South Africa, and include food and beverages as well as a wide variety of manufactured goods. Imports slightly exceed exports.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Namibia is characterized by great economic inequality; the wealthiest 1 percent consume more than the poorest half of the population combined. Segregation has continued since the end of apartheid, although more non-whites have joined the upper classes. Whites, only 7 percent of the population, own and manage most large businesses and commercial farms; in the civil service, the races are on more equal terms. In the rural communal areas, teachers, health care workers, government employees, and successful business people form a local elite, though they are still closely integrated into their communities through kinship ties and obligations.

Symbols of Social Stratification. The wealthier classes of all races are distinguished by expensive cars, large homes in exclusive neighborhoods, a command of English, attendance at private schools, and extensive travel.

Political Life

Government. Namibia has a parliamentary government with two houses (National Assembly and National Council), a president, prime minister, and cabinet. There is a clear separation of judicial, legislative, and executive powers, and the constitution is internationally acclaimed for its guarantees of fundamental rights and freedoms. Elections since independence have been judged "free and fair" by outside observers.

Leadership and Political Officials. Voters elect parties, rather than candidates, and the parties select representatives to fill the seats they win.

Social Problems and Control. Although crime levels are relatively low, recent years have seen an increase in violent crime and theft, along with complaints that the police lack the manpower and equipment to combat crime properly.

Military Activity. The major post-independence military accomplishment was merging the previously opposed People's Liberation Army of Namibia and the South West Africa Territorial Force into a single national army. Namibia's recent involvement in a civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been controversial.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

During a wave of grassroots organizing in the 1980s, dozens of community-based organizations (CBOs) were formed to deal with worsening social problems and to complement the political struggle for independence. Today numerous CBOs, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), cooperatives, and religious groups provide housing assistance, legal advice, education, community media outlets, and self-help projects. The government has created a favorable climate for these groups, seeing them as valuable partners in the task of developing Namibia.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. In the rural communal areas, men and boys generally care for livestock, build and maintain homesteads, plow fields, and contribute some agricultural labor, while women and girls do most of the agricultural labor, food preparation, childcare, and household work.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Women married to migrant laborers have taken on some traditionally male responsibilities, and women who fled the country to participate in the liberation struggle took on new roles as combatants, students, and refugee camp workers. They pushed SWAPO to support gender equality and helped ensure that the Constitution guarantees equal rights for men and women, however the process of changing discriminatory legislation is slow and ongoing. Women still have fewer economic opportunities than men, and the incidence of rape and domestic violence is extremely high.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Weddings are extremely important social events in Namibia, bringing family and friends together to sing, dance, and feast. Most weddings combine old and new elements. Many Owambo couples, for example, say their vows in a church ceremony accompanied by identically-dressed bridesmaids and groomsmen, then exit to a crowd of guests shouting praises, dancing, and waving horsetail whisks.

Domestic Unit. Most households are not nuclear families, but contain other kin as well. The head of the household manages domestic finances, makes important decisions, and organizes productive activities.

Kin Groups. Corporate kin groups are formed by ties traced through women (matrilineal), men (patrilineal), or both (bilateral), depending on ethnicity. These kin groups provide a support network for their members and control joint property, especially livestock; in the past, they also played significant roles in political and religious affairs. There has been a general shift from matrilinealism to patrilinealism. For example, wives and children in matrilineal communities can now assert rights to the property of deceased husbands and fathers, which has been traditionally inherited by the man's matrilineal relatives (his siblings and sisters' children).


Infant Care. Babies are breast-fed and carried on the mother's back until about the age of two. Most sleep with their mothers, and children usually share a bed or room with siblings.

Child Rearing and Education. Parents receive substantial help with child rearing from other family members. It is not unusual for children to live with other relatives if the parents have work obligations, the child needs to be closer to school, or a relative needs a child's help. Most boys and girls attend primary school, although sometimes they stay at home to help with the livestock or crops.

Higher Education. Education is highly valued, but the limited availability of places in secondary and tertiary schools, as well as the expense involved, hinders many students from continuing beyond primary school.


Extended greetings and handshakes are very important in most Namibian cultures. When food and drink is offered, it is polite to accept. There is a general emphasis on emotional restraint in public, and public displays of affection between spouses or lovers are frowned upon, especially in rural areas.


Although a small percentage of the population practices traditional religions, the vast majority are Christian. The Lutheran Church is the largest; other major denominations include the Catholic, Dutch Reformed, and Anglican churches. Easter and Christmas are public holidays and especially popular times for travel so families can gather together.

Medicine and Health Care

The health care system ranges from state-of-the-art private hospitals in Windhoek to small state- or church-run clinics in the rural areas. Traditional healers are sometimes consulted instead of or in addition to the biomedical system, particularly when biomedicine has been unsuccessful.

Although malaria is fairly common in the north and 10 percent of the population suffers from chronic malnutrition, the most serious health problem is HIV-AIDS20 to 25 percent of the adult population is estimated to be infected, and the number is still rising. Life expectancy has dropped significantly, and analysts predict a major loss of economic productivity as most of those infected are young people. The number of AIDS orphans is already testing the ability of kinship networks to cope.

Secular Celebrations

Celebrations with national or political significance include Cassinga Day (4 May) which commemorates the deaths of hundreds of Namibian refugees in a 1978 attack, Independence Day (21 May), and Heroes Day (26 August). These occasions are marked by singing, dancing, and speeches by public officials. Other secular holidays include New Year's Day (1 January), Workers' Day (1 May), and Africa Day (25 May).

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Before independence, European-influenced arts were relatively well-funded by private and governmental sources. Since independence, research on and promotion of indigenous music, dance oral literature, and other artistic forms has increased greatly with government support.

Literature. The literary community in Namibia is relatively small. Most literature in the indigenous languages consists of traditional tales, short stories, and novels written for schoolchildren. Published fiction, poetry, and autobiographical writings appear in both the English and Afrikaans languages.

Graphic Arts. Many craftspeople produce objects for local use and the tourist trade; wood carvings (containers, furniture, animals) from the Kavango and basketry from Owambo are the best known examples. Some craftspeople have formed organizations to assist each other with production and marketing.

Performance Arts. The National Theatre of Namibia serves as a venue for both Namibian and foreign musicians and stage actors, in addition to assisting community-based drama groups. School and church groups create and stage less formal productions. Traditional dance troupes representing the various ethnic groups of Namibia perform at local and national festivals and holiday celebrations, and also participate in competitions.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The only university, the University of Namibia (UNAM), was founded in 1992. The largely foreign faculty is slowly being replaced as qualified Namibian candidates become available. Applied sciences are emphasized over theoretical sciences in an effort to meet Namibia's human resource needs. Agricultural, environmental, and health sciences are prominent, and numerous socioeconomic research reports have been produced by UNAM's Social Sciences Division and several independent social science research organizations.


Bauer, Gretchen. Labor and Democracy in Namibia, 19711996, 1998.

Becker, Heike. Namibian Women's Movement, 1980 to 1992: From Anti-Colonial Resistance to Reconstruction, 1995.

Emmett, Tony. Popular Resistance and the Roots of Nationalism in Namibia, 19151966, 1999.

Gordon, Robert J. The Bushman Myth: The Making of a Namibian Underclass, 1992.

Hayes, Patricia, Jeremy Silvester, Marion Wallace, and Wolfram Hartmann, eds. Namibia Under South African Rule: Mobility and Containment, 19151946, 1998.

Katjavivi, Peter H. A History of Resistance in Namibia, 1988.

Leys, Colin, and John S. Saul. Namibia's Liberation Struggle: The Two-Edged Sword, 1995.

The Namibian.

Pendleton, Wade C. Katutura, A Place Where We Stay: Life in a Post-Apartheid Township in Namibia, 1996.

Sparks, Donald L., and December Green. Namibia: The Nation After Independence, 1992.

Tapscott, Chris. "National Reconciliation, Social Equity and Class Formation in Independent Namibia." Journal of Southern African Studies 19 (1): 2939, 1993.

YaOtto, John. Battlefront Namibia: An Autobiography, 1981.

Wendi A. Haugh

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Namibia. After much missionary activity, South West Africa was annexed by Germany in 1884. After the First World War, the territory was administered as a mandate by South Africa. In 1966 the United Nations ended the mandate but South Africa retained control in the face of an increasing guerrilla war, waged by the South West Africa People's Organization. In 1990 the territory became independent and a SWAPO government was established. Much of the area is barren and the population is sparse. The main economic activity is the extraction of diamonds, uranium, and copper.

J. A. Cannon

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"Namibia." The Oxford Companion to British History. . 19 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Namibia." The Oxford Companion to British History. . (July 19, 2018).

"Namibia." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved July 19, 2018 from

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The people of Namibia are called Namibians. The largest ethnic group is the Ovambo, who live in northen Namibia and number about 665,000. The majority of whites, called Afrikaners, are of Dutch descent. The Coloureds (people of mixed descent) numbered 48,000, and there are about 32,000 San (Bushmen).

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"Namibia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . 19 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Namibia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . (July 19, 2018).

"Namibia." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved July 19, 2018 from

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NamibiaGambia, ZambiaArabia, labia, SwabiaLibya, Namibia, tibia •euphorbia •agoraphobia, claustrophobia, homophobia, hydrophobia, phobia, technophobia, xenophobia, Zenobia •Nubia • rootbeer • cumbia •Colombia, Columbia •exurbia, Serbia, suburbia •Wiltshire • Flintshire •gaillardia, Nadia, tachycardia •steadier • compendia •Acadia, Arcadia, nadir, stadia •reindeer •acedia, encyclopedia, media, multimedia •Lydia, Numidia •India • belvedere • Claudia •Cambodia, odea, plasmodia, podia, roe-deer •Mafia, raffia, tafia •Philadelphia • hemisphere •planisphere • Montgolfier • Sofia •ecosphere • biosphere • atmosphere •thermosphere • ionosphere •stratosphere • headgear • switchgear •logia • nemesia • menhir

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"Namibia." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 19 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Namibia." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . (July 19, 2018).

"Namibia." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved July 19, 2018 from

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  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.