Namibia

Introduction

Introduction

Namibia officially the Republic of Namibia, is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. Although it does not border Zimbabwe, a part of less than 200 metres of the Zambezi River (essentially a small bulge in Botswana to achieve a Botswana/Zambia micro-border) separates it from that country. Namibia gained independence from South Africa on 21 March 1990, following the Namibian War of Independence. Its capital and largest city is Windhoek, and it is a member state of the United Nations (UN), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU), and the Commonwealth of Nations.

The dry lands of Namibia were inhabited since early times by the San, Damara, and Nama peoples. Since about the 14th century, immigrating Bantu peoplesarrived as part of the Bantu expansion. Since then the Bantu groups in total, known as the Ovambo people, have dominated the population of the country and since the late 19th century, have constituted a large majority.

In the late 19th century during European colonization, the German Empire established rule over most of the territory as a protectorate in 1884. It began to develop infrastructure and farming, and maintained this German colony until 1915, when South African forces defeated its military. After the end of World War I, in 1920 the League of Nations mandated the country to the United Kingdom, under administration by South Africa. It imposed its laws, including racial classifications and rules. From 1948, with the National Partyelected to power, South Africa applied apartheid also to what was known as South West Africa. In 1878 the Cape Colony had annexed the port of Walvis Bay and the offshore Penguin Islands; these became an integral part of the new Union of South Africa at its creation in 1910.

In the later 20th century, uprisings and demands for political representation by native African political activists seeking independence resulted in the UN assuming direct responsibility over the territory in 1966, but South Africa maintained de facto rule. In 1973 the UN recognised the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) as the official representative of the Namibian people; the party is dominated by the Ovambo, who are a large majority in the territory. Following continued guerrilla warfare, South Africa installed an interim administration in Namibia in 1985. Namibia obtained full independence from South Africa in 1990. But Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands remained under South African control until 1994.

Namibia has a population of 2.1 million people and a stable multi-partyparliamentary democracy. Agriculture, herding, tourism and the mining industry– including mining for gem diamonds, uranium, gold, silver, and base metals – form the basis of its economy. The large, arid Namib Desert has resulted in Namibia being overall one of the least densely populated countries in the world. Namibia enjoys high political, economic and social stability.


Understand

Formerly a colony of Germany, Namibia was administered by South Africa under a League of Nations mandate after WWI, and annexed as a province of South Africa after WWII. The South-West African People's Organization (SWAPO) launched a guerrilla war for independence in 1966 and gained independence in 1990. Namibia is in many ways quite similar to South Africa. Since it was ruled under the apartheid system, Namibia also has many of the problems resulting from that system.

It is important to be aware that race is a common part of Namibian discourse. That is to say, Namibians will refer to the race of others more frequently than travellers from places where race is typically not an issue, would expect. Because of apartheid, race is an issue in many spheres of life, so it comes up a lot. In spite of this, the various races do get along well in Namibia, and it is fairly uncommon to find racial tensions flaring.

Namibia is similar to South Africa, and if you're used to travelling in one country, travelling in the other country is quite easy. There are some subtle differences. For example, in South Africa a non-white person may choose to speak English rather than Afrikaans (as a political choice) whereas among Namibia's mixed-race population (who call themselves 'colored' in Namibia and South Africa) Afrikaans is a proud part of their culture, and many people still speak German. Overlooking these differences isn't going to cause offense, but they're handy to know.


Tourism

Tourism is a major contributor (14.5%) to Namibia's GDP, creating tens of thousands of jobs (18.2% of all employment) directly or indirectly and servicing over a million tourists per year. The country is a prime destination in Africa and is known for ecotourism which features Namibia's extensive wildlife.

There are many lodges and reserves to accommodate eco-tourists. Sport hunting is also a large, and growing component of the Namibian economy, accounting for 14% of total tourism in the year 2000, or $19.6 million US dollars, with Namibia boasting numerous species sought after by international sport hunters. In addition, extreme sports such as sandboarding, skydiving and 4x4ing have become popular, and many cities have companies that provide tours. The most visited places include the capital city of Windhoek, Caprivi Strip, Fish River Canyon, Sossusvlei, the Skeleton Coast Park, Sesriem, Etosha Pan and the coastal towns of Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Lüderitz.

The capital city of Windhoek plays a very important role in Namibia's tourism due to its central location and close proximity to Hosea Kutako International Airport. According to The Namibia Tourism Exit Survey, which was produced by the Millennium Challenge Corporation for the Namibian Directorate of Tourism, 56% of all tourists visiting Namibia during the time period, 2012 – 2013, visited Windhoek. Many of Namibia's tourism related parastatals and governing bodies such as Namibia Wildlife Resorts, Air Namibia and the Namibia Tourism Board as well as Namibia's tourism related trade associations such as the Hospitality Association of Namibia are also all headquartered in Windhoek. There are also a number of notable hotels in Windhoek such as Windhoek Country Club Resort and some international hotel chains also operate in Windhoek, such as Avani Hotels and Resorts and Hilton Hotels and Resorts.

Namibia's primary tourism related governing body, the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB), was established by an Act of Parliament: the Namibia Tourism Board Act, 2000 (Act 21 of 2000). Its primary objectives are to regulate the tourism industry and to market Namibia as a tourist destination. There are also a number of trade associationsthat represent the tourism sector in Namibia, such as the Federation of Namibia Tourism Associations (the umbrella body for all tourism associations in Namibia), the Hospitality Association of Namibia, the Association of Namibian Travel Agents, Car Rental Association of Namibia and the Tour and Safari Association of Namibia.


Demographics

Namibia has the second-lowest population density of any sovereign country, after Mongolia. The majority of the Namibian population is of Bantu-speaking origin – mostly of the Ovambo ethnicity, which forms about half of the population – residing mainly in the north of the country, although many are now resident in towns throughout Namibia. Other ethnic groups are the Herero and Himba people, who speak a similar language, and the Damara, who speak the same "click" language as the Nama.

In addition to the Bantu majority, there are large groups of Khoisan (such as Nama and San), who are descendants of the original inhabitants of Southern Africa. The country also contains some descendants of refugees from Angola. There are also two smaller groups of people with mixed racial origins, called "Coloureds" and "Basters", who together make up 8.0% (with the Coloureds outnumbering the Basters two to one). There is a large Chinese minority in Namibia.

Whites (mainly of Afrikaner, German, British and Portuguese origin) make up between 4.0 and 7.0% of the population. Although their percentage of population is decreasing due to emigration and lower birth rates they still form the second-largest population of European ancestry, both in terms of percentage and actual numbers, in Sub-Saharan Africa(after South Africa). The majority of Namibian whites and nearly all those who are mixed race speak Afrikaans and share similar origins, culture, and religion as the white and coloured populations of South Africa. A large minority of whites (around 30,000) trace their family origins back to the German settlers who colonized Namibia prior to the British confiscation of German lands after World War One, and they maintain German cultural and educational institutions. Nearly all Portuguese settlers came to the country from the former Portuguese colony of Angola. The 1960 census reported 526,004 persons in what was then South-West Africa, including 73,464 whites (14%).

Namibia conducts a census every ten years. After independence the first Population and Housing Census was carried out in 1991, further rounds followed in 2001 and 2011. The data collection method is to count every person resident in Namibia on the census reference night, wherever they happen to be. This is called the de factomethod. For enumeration purposes the country is demarcated into 4,042 enumeration areas. These areas do not overlap with constituency boundaries to get reliable data for election purposes as well.

The 2011 Population and Housing Census counted 2,113,077 inhabitants of Namibia. Between 2001 and 2011 the annual population growth was 1.4%, down from 2.6% in the previous ten–year period.

Religion

The Christian community makes up 80%–90% of the population of Namibia, with at least 75% being Protestant, and at least 50% Lutheran. It is the largest religious group – a legacy of the German and Finnish missionary work during the country's colonial times. 10%–20% of the population hold indigenous beliefs.

Missionary activities during the second half of the 19th century resulted in many Namibians converting to Christianity. Today most Christians are Lutheran, but there also are Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, African Methodist Episcopal, Dutch Reformed and Mormons (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints).

Namibia is home to a small Jewish community of about 100 members.


Geography

At 825,615 km2 (318,772 sq mi), Namibia is the world's thirty-fourth largest country (after Venezuela). It lies mostly between latitudes 17° and 29°S (a small area is north of 17°), and longitudes 11° and 26°E.

Being situated between the Namib and the Kalahari deserts, Namibia has the least rainfall of any country in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Namibian landscape consists generally of five geographical areas, each with characteristic abiotic conditions and vegetation, with some variation within and overlap between them: the Central Plateau, the Namib Desert, the Great Escarpment, the Bushveld, and the Kalahari Desert.

The Central Plateau runs from north to south, bordered by the Skeleton Coast to the northwest, the Namib Desert and its coastal plains to the southwest, the Orange River to the south, and the Kalahari Desert to the east. The Central Plateau is home to the highest point in Namibia at Königstein elevation 2,606 metres (8,550 ft).

The Namib Desert is a broad expanse of hyper-arid gravel plains and dunes that stretches along Namibia's entire coastline. It varies between 100 and many hundreds of kilometres in width. Areas within the Namib include the Skeleton Coast and the Kaokoveldin the north and the extensive Namib Sand Sea along the central coast.

The Great Escarpment swiftly rises to over 2,000 metres (6,562 ft). Average temperatures and temperature ranges increase further inland from the cold Atlantic waters, while the lingering coastal fogs slowly diminish. Although the area is rocky with poorly developed soils, it is significantly more productive than the Namib Desert. As summer winds are forced over the Escarpment, moisture is extracted as precipitation.

The Bushveld is found in north-eastern Namibia along the Angolan border and in the Caprivi Strip. The area receives a significantly greater amount of precipitation than the rest of the country, averaging around 400 mm (15.7 in) per year. The area is generally flat and the soils sandy, limiting their ability to retain water and support agriculture.

The Kalahari Desert, an arid region that extends into South Africa and Botswana, is one of Namibia's well-known geographical features. The Kalahari, while popularly known as a desert, has a variety of localised environments, including some verdant and technically non-desert areas. The Succulent Karoo is home to over 5,000 species of plants, nearly half of them endemic; approximately 10 percent of the world's succulents are found in the Karoo. The reason behind this high productivity and endemism may be the relatively stable nature of precipitation.

Namibia's Coastal Desert is one of the oldest deserts in the world. Its sand dunes, created by the strong onshore winds, are the highest in the world. Because of the location of the shoreline, at the point where the Atlantic's cold water reaches Africa's hot climate, often extremely dense fog forms along the coast. Near the coast there are areas where the dunes are vegetated with hammocks. Namibia has rich coastal and marine resources that remain largely unexplored.

Climate

Namibia extends from 17°S to 25°S: climatically the range of the sub-Tropical High Pressure Belt. Its overall climate description is arid, descending from the Sub-Humid (mean rain above 500 mm) through Semi-Arid between 300 and 500 mm (embracing most of the waterless Kalahari) and Arid from 150 to 300 mm (these three regions are inland from the western escarpment) to the Hyper-Arid coastal plain with less than a 100 mm mean. Temperature maxima are limited by the overall elevation of the entire region: only in the far south, Warmbad for instance, are mid-40 °C maxima recorded.

Typically the sub-Tropical High Pressure Belt, with frequent clear skies, provides more than 300 days of sunshine per year. It is situated at the southern edge of the tropics; the Tropic of Capricorn cuts the country about in half. The winter (June – August) is generally dry. Both rainy seasons occur in summer: the small rainy season between September and November, the big one between February and April. Humidity is low, and average rainfall varies from almost zero in the coastal desert to more than 600 mm in the Caprivi Strip. Rainfall is highly variable, and droughts are common. The last bad rainy season with rainfall far below the annual average occurred in summer 2006/07.

Weather and climate in the coastal area are dominated by the cold, north-flowing Benguela current of the Atlantic Ocean, which accounts for very low precipitation(50 mm per year or less), frequent dense fog, and overall lower temperatures than in the rest of the country. In Winter, occasionally a condition known as Bergwind(German: Mountain breeze) or Oosweer (Afrikaans: East weather) occurs, a hot dry wind blowing from the inland to the coast. As the area behind the coast is a desert, these winds can develop into sand storms, leaving sand deposits in the Atlantic Ocean that are visible on satellite images.

The Central Plateau and Kalahari areas have wide diurnal temperature ranges of up to 30 °C.

Efundja, the annual seasonal flooding of the northern parts of the country, often causes not only damage to infrastructure but loss of life. The rains that cause these floods originate in Angola, flow into Namibia's Cuvelai basin, and fill the oshanas (Oshiwambo: flood plains) there. The worst floods so far occurred in March 2011 and displaced 21,000 people.

Water sources

Namibia is the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa and depends largely on groundwater. With an average rainfall of about 350 mm per annum, the highest rainfall occurs in the Caprivi in the northeast (about 600 mm per annum) and decreases in a westerly and southwesterly direction to as little as 50 mm and less per annum at the coast. The only perennial rivers are found on the national borders with South Africa, Angola, Zambia, and the short border with Botswana in the Caprivi. In the interior of the country, surface water is available only in the summer months when rivers are in flood after exceptional rainfalls. Otherwise, surface water is restricted to a few large storage dams retaining and damming up these seasonal floods and their runoff. Where people do not live near perennial rivers or make use of the storage dams, they are dependent on groundwater. Even isolated communities and those economic activities located far from good surface water sources, such as mining, agriculture, and tourism, can be supplied from groundwater over nearly 80% of the country.

More than 100,000 boreholes have been drilled in Namibia over the past century. One third of these boreholes have been drilled dry.


Economy

Namibia's economy is tied closely to South Africa's due to their shared history. The largest economic sectors are mining (10.4% of the gross domestic product in 2009), agriculture (5.0%), manufacturing (13.5%), and tourism.

Namibia has a highly developed banking sector with modern infrastructure, such as online banking and cellphone banking. The Bank of Namibia (BoN) is the central bank of Namibia responsible for performing all other functions ordinarily performed by a central bank. There are four BoN authorised commercial banks in Namibia: Bank Windhoek, First National Bank, Nedbank and Standard Bank.

According to the Namibia Labour Force Survey Report 2012, conducted by the Namibia Statistics Agency, the country's unemployment rate is 27.4%. "Strict unemployment" (people actively seeking a full-time job) stood at 20.2% in 2000, 21.9% in 2004 and spiraled to 29.4% in 2008. Under a broader definition (including people that have given up searching for employment) unemployment rose to 36.7% in 2004. This estimate considers people in the informal economy as employed. Labour and Social Welfare Minister Immanuel Ngatjizekopraised the 2008 study as "by far superior in scope and quality to any that has been available previously", but its methodology has also received criticism.

In 2004 a labour act was passed to protect people from job discrimination stemming from pregnancy and HIV/AIDS status. In early 2010 the Government tender boardannounced that "henceforth 100 per cent of all unskilled and semi-skilled labour must be sourced, without exception, from within Namibia".

In 2013, global business and financial news provider, Bloomberg, named Namibia the top emerging market economy in Africa and the 13th best in the world. Only four African countries made the Top 20 Emerging Markets list in the March 2013 issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine, and Namibia was rated ahead of Morocco (19th), South Africa (15th) and Zambia (14th). Worldwide, Namibia also fared better than Hungary, Brazil and Mexico. Bloomberg Markets magazine ranked the top 20 based on more than a dozen criteria. The data came from Bloomberg's own financial-market statistics, IMF forecasts and the World Bank. The countries were also rated on areas of particular interest to foreign investors: the ease of doing business, the perceived level of corruption and economic freedom. In order to attract foreign investment, the government has made improvement in reducing red tape resulted from excessive government regulations making the country one of the least bureaucratic places to do business in the region. However, facilitation payments are occasionally demanded by customs due to cumbersome and costly customs procedures. Namibia is also classified as an Upper Middle Income country by the World Bank, and ranks 87th out of 185 economies in terms of ease of doing business.

The cost of living in Namibia is relatively high because most of the goods including cereals need to be imported. Business monopoly in some sectors causes higher profit bookings and further raising of prices. Its capital city, Windhoek is currently ranked as the 150th most expensive place in the world for expatriates to live.

Taxation in Namibia includes personal income tax, which is applicable to total taxable income of an individual and all individuals are taxed at progressive marginal rates over a series of income brackets. The value added tax (VAT) is applicable to most of the commodities and services.

Despite the remote nature of much of the country, Namibia has seaports, airports, highways, and railways (narrow-gauge). The country seeks to become a regional transportation hub; it has an important seaport and several landlocked neighbours. The Central Plateau already serves as a transportation corridor from the more densely populated north to South Africa, the source of four-fifths of Namibia's imports.

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Namibia - Travel guide

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