History of Namibia
Namibia is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. The country shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. Although it does not border Zimbabwe, less than 200 meters of riverbed (essentially the Zambia/Botswana border) separates them at their closest points. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March 1990, following the Namibian War of Independence. The capital and largest city is Windhoek.
The dry lands of Namibia were inhabited since early times by San, Damara, and Namaqua, and since about the 14th century AD by immigrating Bantu who came with the Bantu expansion. Most of the territory became a German Imperial protectorate in 1884 and remained a German colony until the end of World War I. In 1920, the League of Nations mandated the country to South Africa, which imposed its laws and, from 1948, its apartheid policy. The port of Walvis Bay and the offshore Penguin Islands had been annexed by the Cape Colony under the British crown by 1878 and had become an integral part of the new Union of South Africa at its creation in 1910.
Uprisings and demands by African leaders led the UN to assume direct responsibility over the territory. It recognized the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) as the official representative of the Namibian people in 1973. Namibia, however, remained under South African administration during this time as South-West Africa. Following internal violence, South Africa installed an interim administration in Namibia in 1985. Namibia obtained full independence from South Africa in 1990, with the exception of Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands, which remained under South African control until 1994.
Namibia has a population of 2.1 million people and a stable multi-party parliamentary democracy. Agriculture, herding, tourism and the mining industry including mining for gem diamonds, uranium, gold, silver, and base metals form the basis of Namibia's economy. Given the presence of the arid Namib Desert, it is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. Namibia enjoys high political, economic and social stability.
Island groups of Namibia
|Namibia Map - Click for larger view|
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 is the country with the least rainfall 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, thiamin, 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 meters (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 to many hundreds of kilometers in width. Areas within the Namib include the Skeleton Coast and the Kaokoveld in the north and the extensive Namib Sand Sea along the central coast.
The Great Escarpment swiftly rises to over 2,000 meters (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.
The Kalahari Desert, an arid region shared with 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 localized environments, including some verdant and technically non-desert areas. One of these, known as 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 there is often extremely dense fog. Near the coast there are areas where the dunes are vegetated with hammocks. Namibia has rich coastal and marine resources that remain largely unexplored.
People & Culture
Namibia is truly unique, influenced by various cultures during colonization and now reborn from the shadows of Apartheid in 1990. What has emerged is a true sense of unity in diversity, the coming together of at least 11 major ethnic groups, each celebrating their past while working together toward the future. You will notice this in dress, language, art, music, sport, food and religion. There exists a wonderful collage, but first and foremost, Namibians are proud to be Namibian. And for good reason.
The country's largest ethnic group is the Ovambo (accounting for around half the population), with the Kavango, Herero, Damara, and Caprivian peoples all having significant populations. Some of the countries smaller groups of peoples like the San (or Bushmen) in the east and the Himba in the north still keep to their age-old nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyles.
Among the San, men still hunt with bows and poison arrows, while women forage for edible plants, roots, wild fruits and berries across the Kalahari. Himba men herd cattle and goats across the dry Kaokoveld region. In clothing and decoration, the Himba are very distinctive. They often wear animal-skins and the women adorn their hair and bodies with an ochre powder. As well as giving a striking red appearance, this helps protect the skin from the sun and insects.
About half of the population depends on agriculture (largely subsistence agriculture) for its livelihood, but Namibia must still import some of its food. Although per capita GDP is five times the per capita GDP of Africa's poorest countries, the majority of Namibia's people lives in rural areas and exists on a subsistence way of life. Namibia has one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world, due in part to the fact that there is an urban economy and more rural cash-less economy. The inequality figures thus take into account people who do not actually rely on the formal economy for their survival. Although arable land accounts for only 1% of Namibia, nearly half of the population is employed in agriculture. About 4,000, mostly white, commercial farmers own almost half of Namibia's arable land. The governments of Germany and Britain will finance Namibia's land reform process, as Namibia plans to start expropriating land from white farmers to resettle landless black Namibians.
Since 1991 English is the only official language, though only about 3% of the population speaks it as a home language. Its implementation is focused on the civil service, education and the broadcasting system. Up to 1990, German and Afrikaans were also official languages. Long before Namibia's independence from South Africa, SWAPO was of the opinion that the country should become officially monolingual, choosing this approach in contrast to that of its neighbor South Africa (which granted all 11 of its major languages official status), which was seen by them as "a deliberate policy of ethno linguistic fragmentation." Consequently, SWAPO instituted English as the sole official language of Namibia. Some other languages have received semi-official recognition by being allowed as medium of instruction in primary schools. It is expected of private schools to follow the same policy as state schools, and "English language" is a compulsory subject.
The most popular sport in Namibia is association football. The Namibia national football team qualified for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations but has yet to qualify for any World Cups. The most successful national team is the Namibian rugby team, having competed in four separate World Cups. Namibia were participants in the 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups. Cricket is also popular, with the national side having played in the 2003 Cricket World Cup. Inline hockey was first played in 1995 and has also become more and more popular in the last years.
The Women's inline hockey National Team participated in the 2008 FIRS World Championships. Namibia is the home for one of the toughest footraces in the world, the Namibian ultra-marathon. The most famous athlete from Namibia is certainly Frankie Fredericks, sprinter (100 and 200 m). He won four Olympic silver medals (1992, 1996) and also has medals from several World Athletics Championships. He is also known for humanitarian activities in Namibia and further. The Swakopmund Skydiving Club in Swakopmund was founded in 1974, and operates still today from Swakopmund Airport.
Weather and Climate
Namibia extends from 17°S to 25°S: climatically the range of the sub-Tropical High Pressure Belt, arid is the overall climate description 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 however 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 with sand deposits in the Atlantic Ocean visible on satellite images.
The Central Plateau and Kalahari areas have wide diurnal temperature ranges of up to 30 °C. Efundja, the annual 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.
Namibia Public Holidays
|New Year’s Day||January 01|
|Independence Day||March 21|
|Good Friday||April 03|
|Easter Monday||April 06|
|Workers' Day||May 01|
|Cassinga Day||May 04|
|Ascension Day||May 14|
|Africa Day||May 25|
|Heroes' Day||August 26|
|International Human Rights Day||December 10|
|Christmas Day||December 25|
|Family Day||December 26|
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Namibia, exercise normal security precautions.