What Should I Know About Namibia?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 September 2019
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The Republic of Namibia is a country on the Atlantic coast of Africa, just north of South Africa. It is bordered by Angola and Zambia to the north and by Botswana to the East. Namibia gained its independence in 1990.

The indigenous people of Namibia are the Damara, the Nama, and the San. By the 14th century, Bantu had immigrated to the region. In 1884, modern-day Namibia came under German control and was named German South West Africa.

South Africa, then a British territory, took occupation of the South West Africa colony during World War I, in 1915. The League of Nations granted South Africa official administrative and legislative power over South West Africa as a mandate territory in 1920. When the United Nations (UN) superseded the League of Nations in 1946, former mandate territories were reestablished as trusteeships, with closer monitoring performed by the United Nations. South Africa did not comply with the United Nations, however, and annexed South West Africa without the support of the international community.


A war for independence began in 1966, initiated by the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO). South Africa continued its control over the region despite the UN's refusal to recognize the country's claim to South West Africa. Independence was not easily won. The UN Security Council entered into negotiations with South Africa for Namibian independence in 1977, but South Africa did not relinquish control of Namibia to the UN until December 1988. After a transition period of about a year, Namibia became an independent nation.

Namibia is a representative democracy with executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The capital city of Namibia is Windhoek. The president, elected to a five-year term, is both head of government and head of state. Namibia is a member of the UN, the Southern African Development Community, the African Union, and the Commonwealth of Nations.

The geography of Namibia is diverse and attracts ecotourists. The Kalahari Desert is perhaps its best known feature. The climate is very dry and only one percent of the land is arable, but half the population depends on subsistence agriculture.

The population density of Namibia is very low compared to other countries, while the income inequality is very high. The economy is largely based on mining and manufacturing. Unemployment is a significant problem in Namibia, along with the AIDS epidemic and malaria.

While the majority of Namibians are of African descent, five percent are White and eight percent are of mixed race. The White population is of British, French, Dutch, German, and Portuguese descent. English is the official language, but Afrikaans and Oshiwambo are most widely spoken. German and Portuguese are also important languages in Namibia. Most Namibians are Lutheran or Roman Catholic, while three percent are Muslim.

Wildlife conservancies are a growing industry in Namibia. They receive financial support from the United States Agency of International Development and the World Wildlife Fund, among others. Namibia is the only country to address conservation in its constitution.


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