Namibia Map

Namibia    Introduction Back to Top

Namibia, formerly South West Africa, republic in south-western Africa, bounded on the north by Angola and Zambia, on the east by Botswana and South Africa, on the south by South Africa, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The total land area is 824,268 sq km (318,252 sq mi). The capital of Namibia is Windhoek.

Official Name- The Republic of Namibia
Capital City- Windhoek
Languages- English, German, local languages
Official Currency- South African Rand
Religions -Christian, traditional beliefs
Population- 1,670,000
Land Area- 824,290 sq km (318,260 sq miles)
Namibia    Provinces Back to Top

13 regions; Caprivi, Erongo, Hardap, Karas, Khomas, Kunene, Ohangwena, Okavango, Omaheke, Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto, Otjozondjupa

Namibia    People Back to Top

About 85 percent of Namibians are black, 5 percent of European ancestry, and 10 percent, in South African terminology, Coloured (Cape Coloured, Nama, and Rehobother). Of the black majority, about two-thirds are Ovambo, with the Kavango, the Herero, the Damara, and the Caprivian peoples following in population size. Other ethnic groups have much smaller populations. Afrikaners and Germans constitute two-thirds and one-fifth of the European population, respectively. Most ethnic Europeans are Namibian citizens, though some have retained South African citizenship.

English is the national language, though it is the home language of only about 3 percent of the population. Ovambo languages are spoken by more than 80 percent of the population, followed by Nama-Damara with about 6 percent. Kavango and Caprivian languages and Herero, as well as Afrikaans, constitute about 4 percent of home languages. Many Namibians speak two or more indigenous languages and at least a little of two of the three European languages (English, Afrikaans, German) in common use.

Namibia    History Back to Top

Cave paintings that may be more than 25,000 years old attest to the presence of hunter-gatherer groups in the country during the late Pleistocene Period, but the earliest identifiable inhabitants are the San, who were here by the beginning of the 1st century ad. The Nama-speaking Khoikhoi arrived about ad 500. The Ovambo and the Herero migrated to the area much later. Between a landing by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1488 and the creation of German South-West Africa in 1884, most of the few Europeans who visited the territory were explorers, missionaries, and hunters. The next three decades of German rule were marked by bloody suppression of the rebellious black Africans, notably the once dominant Herero, whose revolt in 1904 was not finally crushed until four years later at the cost of perhaps 60,000 lives.

The first conquerors in southern Namibia were the Nama (of a people often—though not in Namibia—pejoratively called Hottentots). They had a larger clan system, with interclan alliances, and a pastoral economy. Closely linked (usually in a dependent role) were the Damara, a people from central Africa whose culture combined pastoralism, hunting, and copper smelting. In northeastern and central Namibia the Herero (a pastoral people from central Africa) built up interlocked clan systems eventually headed by a paramount chief. The unity of the Herero nation, however, was always subject to splintering. In the north the Ovambo people developed several kingdoms on both sides of the Kunene River. They were mixed farmers (largely because of a more hospitable environment for crops) and also smelted and worked copper. To the east the related Kavango peoples had a somewhat similar but weaker state system. On the margins of Namibia—i.e., the Caprivi Strip in the far east and on the margins of the Kalahari—the local peoples and groupings were spillovers from southern Zambia (Barotse) and Botswana (Tswana).

In 1915, during World War I, the German colony was conquered by military forces of the Union (now Republic) of South Africa. Germany renounced sovereignty over the region in the Treaty of Versailles, and in 1920 the League of Nations granted South Africa mandate over the territory. In 1946 the United Nations (UN) General Assembly requested South Africa to submit a trusteeship agreement to the UN to replace the mandate of the defunct League of Nations; South Africa refused to do so. In 1949 a South African constitutional amendment extended parliamentary representation to South-West Africa. The International Court of Justice, however, ruled in 1950 that the status of the mandate could be changed only with the consent of the UN. South Africa agreed to discuss the trusteeship question with a special committee of the General Assembly, but the negotiations ended in failure in 1951. South Africa subsequently refused to accede to UN demands concerning a trusteeship arrangement, but it permitted a UN committee to enter Namibia in 1962 in order to investigate charges of atrocities committed against the native peoples. The committee found the charges against South Africa to be baseless.

Namibia    Culture Back to Top

Namibian cultures are diverse. Just as the culture of the Afrikaners differs significantly from that of the German-speaking community and as both of those cultures differ from that of the more varied technical-assistance community, so do African and Creole cultures differ. The Rehobothers closely resemble the rural Afrikaner culture of the mid-20th century, while the Nama have more in common with the other pastoral black communities, and the “Cape Coloured” have a distinct urban culture with both black and European elements. The northern black cultures—while distinctive as to language and forms of music and dance—formed out of a mixed farming context unlike that of the Damara and Herero. The San are a tragic case. Their culture was ruined by ranch serfdom and wartime exploitation as trackers, and efforts to rebuild from the fragments have been limited by lack of knowledge, resources, and space as well as by the paternalism of many of their self-appointed “guardians.”

With the exception of the San, Namibian cultures appear to be alive and evolving, not least in the urban areas. However, rising unemployment may lead to the breakdown of neighbourhood and other social groupings and to the anomie and lawlessness that characterize the townships of many southern African cities, notably in both Zambia and South Africa. The black cultures are not well supported by formal institutions or the government, owing both to doubts as to what would enable rather than smother their development and to a lack of fiscal resources.

A number of holidays and festivals are observed, most of which are religious or historic in significance, albeit not necessarily of specific current content. Sports are popular among both spectators and participants. A wide variety of sports are followed by the white communities, but the black communities concentrate on football (soccer). Radio and television broadcasting services are government-owned, as is one daily newspaper. All appear to have substantial intellectual and programmatic freedom. A fluctuating band of party, semiparty, and (in one case) independent newspapers exist and are not subject to censorship, but the survival of most is in doubt for economic reasons. They are supplemented by an array of religious, trade union, and other specialized papers that also have complete freedom of expression.

Namibia    Life Back to Top

The population of Namibia at the 1981 census was 1,033,196. The 2001 estimated population was 1,797,677, giving the country an overall population density of 2 persons per sq km (6 per sq mi). The only city of significant size is Windhoek (population, 1997 estimate, 169,000). Only 40 percent of the people were classified as urban residents in 1999. The population is estimated to be growing at 1.4 percent a year. Life expectancy at birth is 41 years.

Namibia    Land Back to Top

Namibia is divided from west to east into three main topographic zones: the coastal Namib desert, the Central Plateau, and the Kalahari. The Namib is partly rocky and partly (in the central stretch) dunes. While having complex flora and fauna, it is a fragile and sparsely covered environment unsuitable for pastoral or agricultural activities. Diamonds (probably washed down from the Basotho highlands by the Orange River) and uranium are found at Oranjemund in the south and Arandis in the centre. The Namib, 50 to 80 miles wide over most of its length, is constricted in the north where the Kaokoveld, the western mountain scarp of the Central Plateau, abuts on the sea.

Namibia    Plants and Animal Back to Top

Through the 1970s Namibia’s wildlife was vulnerable to high levels of poaching by the country’s rural inhabitants, who needed both the food that wild animals provided and the money from their skins. In the 1980s the government hit upon a creative solution for the problem. The administration began employing people from local communities to scout for and report poachers and, later, to act as guides for tourists all within close range of their homes.

Namibia    Economy Back to Top

The principal occupations are livestock raising (primarily cattle, Karakul sheep, and goats), and subsistence agriculture, which, because of scanty rainfall, is largely confined to the north. Gross domestic product (GDP) in 1999 was $3.1 billion, or $1,810 per person. Industry, principally mining, contributes the largest portion of the GDP, 33 percent in 1999. Namibia has some of the richest diamond fields in the world. Nearly all diamonds extracted are of gem quality. Gem-quality diamond output in 1999 was 2 million carats. Other important mineral products include uranium, copper, tin, lead, silver, vanadium, tungsten, and salt. The waters off Namibia’s coast are rich in marine life, which thrives in the cold waters of the Benguela Current. Because of overfishing, the catch has dropped since the early 1970s; the catch in 1997 was 291,164 metric tons. Mackerel, pilchard, hakes, and anchovies were the principal species caught.

Nominally Namibia is a lower-middle-income economy with a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) that is significantly above average for countries in sub-Saharan Africa. But that summary is misleading. Only one-quarter of all Namibians and only one-sixth of black Namibians have adequate incomes; up to two-thirds live in abject poverty with limited access to public services. Economic growth remains problematic because of a shrinking productive sector, lack of capital stock, and severe world market problems for base metals and uranium oxide. Furthermore, the prudent fiscal policy instituted by the government after independence means that, unless foreign assistance commitments rapidly turn into large actual inflows and private external investment in mining, manufacturing, and fishing emerges, the one segment of the GDP that grew rapidly in the 1980s will decline. Superimposed on these factors are near-stagnant wage employment and the collapse of the local economy that arose owing to the presence of South African troops and, later, UNTAG units in the northern towns.

The economy is heavily dependent on the extraction and processing of minerals for export. Mining accounts for 20% of GDP. Namibia is the fourth-largest exporter of nonfuel minerals in Africa and the world's fifth-largest producer of uranium. Rich alluvial diamond deposits make Namibia a primary source for gem-quality diamonds. Namibia also produces large quantities of lead, zinc, tin, silver, and tungsten. Half of the population depends on agriculture (largely subsistence agriculture) for its livelihood. Namibia must import some of its food. Although per capita GDP is four times the per capita GDP of Africa's poorer countries, the majority of Namibia's people live in pronounced poverty because of large-scale unemployment, the great inequality of income distribution, and the large amount of wealth going to foreigners. The Namibian economy has close links to South Africa. GDP growth in 2000 was led by gains in the diamond and fish sectors. Agreement has been reached on the privatization of several more enterprises in coming years, which should stimulate long-run foreign investment. Growth in 2001 could be 5.5% provided the world economy remains stable.

Namibia    Communications Back to Top

good system; about 6 telephones for each 100 persons domestic: good urban services; fair rural service; microwave radio relay links major towns; connections to other populated places are by open wire; 100% digital international: fiber-optic cable to South Africa, microwave radio relay link to Botswana, direct links to other neighboring countries; connected to Africa ONE and South African Far East (SAFE) submarine cables through South Africa; satellite earth stations - 4 Intelsat

Namibia    Languages Back to Top

Black Africans constitute about 86 percent of the population of Namibia; whites, about 6.6 percent; and people of mixed descent, about 7.4 percent. The principal nonwhite group is the Ovambo, an agricultural people who live primarily in the north and make up about one-half of the population. The Ovambo speak a Bantu language. Other nonwhite groups include the Kavango, the Herero, the Damara, the Khoikhoi, and the San. English is the official language, but Afrikaans and German are widely spoken. In addition, each African ethnic group has its own language. The white population and a majority of the black population are Christian; the remainder mostly adheres to traditional faiths.

Namibia    Politics Back to Top

Congress of Democrats or COD [Ben ULENGA]; Democratic Turnhalle Alliance of Namibia or DTA [Katuutire KAURA, president]; Monitor Action Group or MAG [Kosie PRETORIUS]; South West Africa People's Organization or SWAPO [Sam NUJOMA]; United Democratic Front or UDF [Justus GAROEB]

Namibia    Government Back to Top

Before 1990, South Africa controlled Namibia’s defense and foreign affairs, and could veto its legislation. The constitution of 1990 established Namibia as an independent republic. According to the constitution, Namibia’s president is the executive and is elected by the voters. The president may serve a maximum of two terms of five years, although a constitutional amendment approved in 1998 granted an exception to the current president, Sam Nujoma, allowing him to run for and win a third term in 1999. Legislative authority is vested in the National Assembly, a body made up of 72 elected members and up to 6 appointed representatives. The National Council, made up of two representatives from each of Namibia’s 13 regional councils, acts as an advisory body.

Namibia    organization Back to Top
International organization Member


Namibia    Education Back to Top

Education is officially compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. The government has initiated programs to improve adult literacy, which stands at only 92 percent. In 1998 some 400,300 students attended primary schools and 115,200 attended secondary schools.

Namibia    Defence Back to Top

Military branches: National Defense Force (Army), Police
Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 427,067 (2001 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service: males age 15-49: 255,016 (2001 est.)

Namibia    International Disputes Back to Top


Time and Date in Windhoek