Republic of Namibia
Area: 823,145 sq. km. (320,827 sq. mi.); the size of Texas and Louisiana combined.
Cities: Capital--Windhoek (2001 census) pop. 233,529. Other cities--Grootfontein, Katima Mulilo, Keetmanshoop, Luderitz, Ondangwa, Oranjemund, Oshakati, Otjiwarongo, Swakopmund, Tsumeb, Walvis Bay.
Terrain: Varies from coastal desert to semiarid mountains and plateau.
Climate: Semidesert and high plateau.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Namibian(s).
Population (2007): 2 million.
Annual growth rate (2001 Namibia Population and Housing Census est.): 2.6%. The population growth rate is depressed by an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate estimated to be 19.7%.
Ethnic groups: Black 87%; white 6%; mixed race 7%. About 50% of the population belong to Ovambo ethnic group, and 9% to the Kavango ethnic group. Other ethnic groups are: Herero 7%, Damara 7%, Nama 5%, Caprivian 4%, San 3%, Baster 2%, and Tswana 0.5%.
Religions: Predominantly Christian; also indigenous beliefs.
Languages: English (official); Afrikaans, German, Oshivambo, Herero, Nama/Damara, other indigenous languages.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 16. Attendance (2001)--82%. Literacy (adults, 2004)--85%.
Work force (2004 Namibia Labor Force Survey): 493,448.
Independence: March 21, 1990.
Branches: Executive--president (elected for 5-year term), prime minister. Legislative--bicameral Parliament: National Assembly and National Council. Judicial--Supreme Court, the High Court, and lower courts.
Subdivisions: 13 administrative regions.
Major political parties: South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), United Democratic Front of Namibia (UDF), Congress of Democrats (COD), Republican Party (RP), National Unity Democratic Organization (NUDO), Monitor Action Group (MAG).
Suffrage: Universal adult.
GDP (2006): $6.3 billion.
Annual growth rate (2006): 4.6%.
Per capita GNI (2005): $2,990.
Inflation rate (2007): 7.0%.
Natural resources: Diamonds, uranium, zinc, gold, copper, lead, tin, fluorspar, salt, fisheries, and wildlife.
Agriculture (5.7% of GDP, 2006): Products--livestock and meat products, fish and fish products, grapes.
Mining (8.3% of GDP, 2006): Gem-quality diamonds, uranium, zinc, copper, other.
Trade: Exports (2006)--$3.53 billion: diamonds, uranium, copper, lead, beef, cattle, fish, karakul pelts, grapes. Imports (2006)--$3.58 billion: foodstuffs, construction material, manufactured goods. Major partners--South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Germany, U.K., U.S.
Sources: Namibia National Accounts; Namibia Central Bureau of Statistics; Bank of Namibia; World Bank.
Namibians are of diverse ethnic origins. The principal groups are the Ovambo, Kavango, Herero/Himba, Damara, mixed race ("colored" and Rehoboth Baster), white (Afrikaner, German, and Portuguese), Nama, Caprivian, San, and Tswana.
The Ovambo make up about half of Namibia's people. The Ovambo, Kavango, and East Caprivian peoples, who occupy the relatively well-watered and wooded northern part of the country, are settled farmers and herders. Historically, these groups had little contact with the Nama, Damara, and Herero, who roamed the central part of the country vying for control of sparse pastureland. German colonial rule destroyed the war-making ability of the tribes but did not erase their identities or traditional organization. People from the more populous north have settled throughout the country in recent decades as a result of urbanization, industrialization, and the demand for labor.
Missionary work during the 1800s drew many Namibians to Christianity. While most Namibian Christians are Lutheran, there also are Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Jewish, African Methodist Episcopal, and Dutch Reformed Christians represented.
Education and services have been extended in varying degrees to most rural areas in recent years. The estimated adult literacy rate of Namibians was relatively high at 85% as of 2004. However, although the national literacy rate is estimated to be 85%, it is important to note that the number of Namibians who are functionally literate and have the skills that the labor market needs is significantly fewer.
The San are generally assumed to have been the earliest inhabitants of the region. Later inhabitants include the Nama and the Damara or Berg Dama. The Bantu-speaking Ovambo and Herero migrated from the north in about the 14th century A.D.
The inhospitable Namib Desert constituted a formidable barrier to European exploration until the late 18th century, when successions of travelers, traders, hunters, and missionaries explored the area. In 1878, the United Kingdom annexed Walvis Bay on behalf of Cape Colony, and the area was incorporated into the Cape of Good Hope in 1884. In 1883, a German trader, Adolf Luderitz, claimed the rest of the coastal region after negotiations with a local chief. Negotiations between the United Kingdom and Germany resulted in Germany's annexation of the coastal region, excluding Walvis Bay. The following year, the United Kingdom recognized the hinterland up to 20 degrees east longitude as a German sphere of influence. A region later known as the Caprivi Strip became a part of South West Africa after an agreement on July 1, 1890, between the United Kingdom and Germany. The British recognized that the strip would fall under German administration to provide access to the Zambezi River and German colonies in East Africa. In exchange, the British received the islands of Zanzibar and Heligoland.
German colonial power was consolidated, and prime grazing land passed to white control as a result of the Herero and Nama wars of 1904-08. German administration ended during World War I following South African occupation in 1915.
On December 17, 1920, South Africa undertook administration of South West Africa under the terms of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations and a mandate agreement by the League Council. The mandate agreement gave South Africa full power of administration and legislation over the territory. It required that South Africa promote the material and moral well-being and social progress of the people.
When the League of Nations was dissolved in 1946, the newly formed United Nations inherited its supervisory authority for the territory. South Africa refused UN requests to place the territory under a trusteeship agreement. During the 1960s, as the European powers granted independence to their colonies and trust territories in Africa, pressure mounted on South Africa to do so in Namibia, which was then known as South West Africa. In 1966, the UN General Assembly revoked South Africa's mandate.
Also in 1966, the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) began its armed struggle to liberate Namibia, in part from bases abroad. After Angola became independent in 1975, SWAPO established bases in the southern part of that country. Hostilities intensified over the years, particularly in the north.
In a 1971 advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice upheld UN authority over Namibia, determining that the South African presence in Namibia was illegal and that South Africa therefore was obligated to withdraw its administration from Namibia immediately. The Court also advised UN member states to refrain from implying legal recognition or assistance to the South African presence.