For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
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 (2010 est.): 2.3 million.
Average annual population growth rate (2001 est.): 2.6%. The population growth rate is depressed by an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate estimated to be 17.8%. (Source: UNAIDS Namibia 2010 Country Progress Report)
Ethnic groups: 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 Muslim, Jewish, Baha’i, and indigenous beliefs.
Languages: English (official); Oshivambo, Afrikaans, German, Herero, Nama/Damara, other indigenous languages.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 16. Primary school attendance (2005-2009)--89%. Adult literacy rate (2005-2008)--88%. (UNICEF)
Work force (2008): 678,681.
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.
Registered 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), Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), South West African National Union (SWANU), All People’s Party (APP), Democratic Party of Namibia (DPN), Namibia Democratic Movement for Change (NDMC).
Suffrage: Universal adult.
GDP (2009): $9.4 billion. (World Bank)
Annual growth rate (2009): 1%. (World Bank)
Per capita GNI (2009): $4,338. (World Bank)
Average annual inflation rate (2010): 4.5%. (Namibia Central Bureau of Statistics)
Natural resources: Diamonds, uranium, zinc, gold, copper, lead, tin, fluorspar, salt, fisheries, and wildlife.
Agriculture (5.1% of GDP, 2009): Products--livestock and meat products, crop farming and forestry. (Namibia Central Bureau of Statistics)
Mining (10% of GDP, 2009): Gem-quality diamonds, uranium, zinc, copper, other. (Namibia Central Bureau of Statistics)
Fishing and fish processing on board (3.6% of GDP, 2009): Hake, horse mackerel, lobster, other. (Namibia Central Bureau of Statistics)
Trade: Exports (2010)--$5.71 billion: diamonds, uranium, zinc, copper, lead, beef, cattle, fish, karakul pelts, grapes. Imports (2010)--$5.14 billion: foodstuffs, construction material, manufactured goods. Major partners--South Africa, Angola, European Union (EU), U.S., Canada, China, India. (World Trade Organization)
Namibians are of diverse ethnic origins. The principal groups are the Ovambo, Kavango, Herero/Himba, Damara, Colored (including Rehoboth Baster), White (Afrikaner, German, English, 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. Although the national literacy rate is quite high (estimated to be 88%), it is important to note that the number of Namibians that are functionally literate and have the skills that the labor market needs is significantly lower.
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.
International Pressure for Independence
In 1977, Western members of the UN Security Council, including Canada, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States (known as the Western Contact Group), launched a joint diplomatic effort to bring an internationally acceptable transition to independence for Namibia. Their efforts led to the presentation in April 1978 of Security Council Resolution 435 for settling the Namibian problem. The proposal, known as the UN Plan, was worked out after lengthy consultations with South Africa, the front-line states (Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe), SWAPO, UN officials, and the Western Contact Group. It called for the holding of elections in Namibia under UN supervision and control, the cessation of all hostile acts by all parties, and restrictions on the activities of South African and Namibian military, paramilitary, and police.
South Africa agreed to cooperate in achieving the implementation of Resolution 435. Nonetheless, in December 1978, in defiance of the UN proposal, it unilaterally held elections in Namibia that were boycotted by SWAPO and a few other political parties. South Africa continued to administer Namibia through its installed multiracial coalitions. Negotiations after 1978 focused on issues such as supervision of elections connected with the implementation of the UN Plan.
Negotiations and Transition
Intense discussions between the concerned parties continued during the 1978-88 period, with the UN Secretary General's Special Representative, Martti Ahtisaari, playing a key role. The 1982 Constitutional Principles, agreed upon by the front-line states, SWAPO, and the Western Contact Group created the framework for Namibia's democratic constitution.
In May 1988, a U.S. mediation team, headed by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Chester A. Crocker, brought negotiators from Angola, Cuba, and South Africa, and observers from the Soviet Union together in London. Intense diplomatic maneuvering characterized the next 7 months, as the parties worked out agreements to bring peace to the region and make implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 435 possible. On December 13, Cuba, South Africa, and the People's Republic of Angola agreed to a total Cuban troop withdrawal from Angola. The protocol also established a Joint Commission, consisting of the parties with the United States and the Soviet Union as observers, to oversee implementation of the accords. A bilateral agreement between Cuba and the People's Republic of Angola was signed in New York on December 22, 1988. On the same day a tripartite agreement, in which the parties recommended initiation of the UN Plan on April 1 and the Republic of South Africa agreed to withdraw its troops, was signed. Implementation of Resolution 435 officially began on April 1, 1989, when South African-appointed Administrator Gen. Louis Pienaar officially began administrating the territory's transition to independence. Special Representative Martti Ahtisaari arrived in Windhoek to begin performing his duties as head of the UN Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG).
The transition got off to a shaky start on April 1 because, in contravention to SWAPO President Sam Nujoma's written assurances to the UN Secretary General to abide by a cease-fire and repatriate only unarmed insurgents, about 2,000 armed members of the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), SWAPO's military wing, crossed the border from Angola. The Special Representative authorized a limited contingent of South African troops to aid the South West African police in restoring order. A period of intense fighting followed, during which 375 PLAN fighters were killed. At Mt. Etjo, a game park outside Windhoek, in a special meeting of the Joint Commission on April 9, a plan was put in place to confine the South African forces to base and return PLAN elements to Angola. While the problem was solved, minor disturbances in the north continued throughout the transition period. In October, under order of the UN Security Council, Pretoria demobilized members of the disbanded counterinsurgency unit, Koevoet (Afrikaans for "crowbar"), who had been incorporated into the South West African police.
The 11-month transition period went relatively smoothly. Political prisoners were granted amnesty, discriminatory legislation was repealed, South Africa withdrew all its forces from Namibia, and some 42,000 refugees returned safely and voluntarily under the auspices of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Almost 98% of registered voters turned out to elect members of the Constituent Assembly. The elections were held in November 1989 and were certified as free and fair by the Special Representative, with SWAPO taking 57% of the vote, just short of the two-thirds necessary to have a free hand in drafting the constitution. The Democratic Turnhalle Alliance, the opposition party, received 29% of the vote. The Constituent Assembly held its first meeting on November 21 and its first act unanimously resolved to use the 1982 Constitutional Principles as the framework for Namibia's new constitution.
By February 9, 1990, the Constituent Assembly had drafted and adopted a constitution. March 21, independence day, was attended by Secretary of State James A. Baker III, who represented President George H.W. Bush. On that same day, he inaugurated the U.S. Embassy in Windhoek in recognition of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
On March 1, 1994, the coastal enclave of Walvis Bay and 12 offshore islands were transferred to Namibia by South Africa. This followed 3 years of bilateral negotiations between the two governments and the establishment of a transitional Joint Administrative Authority (JAA) in November 1992 to administer the 300-square mile territory. The peaceful resolution of this territorial dispute, which dated back to 1878, was praised by the United States and the international community, as it fulfilled the provisions of UN Security Council 432 (1978) which declared Walvis Bay to be an integral part of Namibia.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Namibia is a multiparty, multiracial democracy, with a president who is elected for 5-year term. The constitution establishes a bicameral Parliament and provides for general elections every 5 years and regional elections every 6 years. Members of the 72-seat National Assembly are elected on a party list system on a proportional basis. Members of the 26-seat National Council are elected from within popularly elected Regional Councils. The three branches of government are subject to checks and balances, and provision is made for judicial review. The judicial structure in Namibia comprises a Supreme Court, the High Court, and lower courts. Roman-Dutch law has been the common law of the territory since 1919. Namibia's unitary government is currently in the process of decentralization.
The constitution provides for the private ownership of property and for human rights protections, and states that Namibia should have a mixed economy and encourage foreign investment.
Sam Nujoma, leader of the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), was President from Namibia's independence in 1990 until 2005. In November 2004, citizens elected Minister of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Hifikepunye Pohamba to be the next President. Pohamba was re-elected in November 2009 for his second and final term in office. The inauguration was held in March 2010, in conjunction with celebrations marking the country's 20th anniversary.
Namibia's 2009 presidential and parliamentary elections were held on November 27-28. The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) released the official results on December 4. The ruling SWAPO party and incumbent President Pohamba won with 75% and 76% respectively. The Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) won 11 % of the vote, the most by a single opposition party. While some procedural irregularities were observed, international and domestic observers pronounced the elections to be generally free and fair. The RDP, along with eight other opposition parties, however, claimed that ECN manipulated the election results and challenged the results in the High Court. On March 4, 2010, the High Court dismissed the petition on a technicality, but the opposition parties appealed to the Supreme Court. On September 6, 2010, the Supreme Court unanimously decided to return the case to the High Court, where its merits were heard. On February 14, 2011, the High Court ruled that the opposition did not show enough evidence that the elections had been fraudulent. However, the court criticized the Electoral Commission of Namibia for conducting elections in a manner that could arouse suspicion. The opposition parties announced in February that they will appeal the High Court’s ruling to the Supreme Court.
With 54 seats, SWAPO retained its two-thirds majority in the new Parliament, which was sworn in March 21, 2010. The RDP, which won eight seats; the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), which won two seats; and the Republican Party, which won one seat, boycotted the swearing-in ceremony and remain outside Parliament while the appeal is unresolved. The Congress of Democrats (CoD), the United Democratic Front (UDF), Namibian Unity Democratic Organization (NUDO), All Peoples Party (APP), and South West Africa National Union (SWANU) are represented in the National Assembly.
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--Nahas Angula
Deputy Prime Minister--Marco Hausiku
National Assembly Speaker--Theo-Ben Gurirab
National Council Chairperson--Asser Kapere
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Utoni Nujoma
Minister for Presidential Affairs--Albert Kawana
Minister of Defense--Major General Charles Namoloh
National Planning Commission Director--Tom Alweendo
Namibia Central Intelligence Service Director--Lukas Hangula
Minister of Education--Abraham Iyambo
Minister of Finance--Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila
Minister of Safety and Security--Nangolo Mbumba
Minister of Trade and Industry--Hage Geingob
Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration--Rosalia Nghindinwa
Minister of Information and Communication Technology--Joel Kaapanda
Minister of Justice--Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana
Minster of Mines and Energy--Isak Katali
Minister of Labor and Social Welfare--Immanuel Ngatjizeko
Minister of Health and Social Service--Richard Kamwi
Minister of Agriculture, Water, and Forestry--John Mutorwa
Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources--Bernard Esau
Minister of Environment and Tourism--Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah
Minister of Lands and Resettlement--Alpheus Naruseb
Minister of Regional and Local Government and Housing--Jerry Ekandjo
Minister of Works and Transport--Erkki Nghimtina
Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare--Doreen Sioka
Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport, and Culture--Kazenambo Kazenambo
Ambassador to UN--Wilfred Emvula
Ambassador to U.S.--Martin Andjaba
Namibia maintains an embassy in the United States at 1605 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Washington DC 20009 (tel: (202) 986-0540; fax: (202) 986-0443).
The Namibian economy has a modern market sector, which produces most of the country's wealth, and a traditional subsistence sector. Namibia's gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is relatively high among developing countries but obscures one of the most unequal income distributions on the African continent. Although the majority of the population depends on subsistence agriculture and herding, Namibia has more than 200,000 skilled workers, as well as a small, well-trained professional and managerial class.
The country's sophisticated formal economy is based on capital-intensive industry and farming. However, Namibia's economy is heavily dependent on the earnings generated from primary commodity exports in a few vital sectors, including minerals, livestock, and fish. Furthermore, the Namibian economy remains integrated with the economy of South Africa, as the bulk of Namibia's imports originate there.
Since independence, the Namibian Government has pursued free-market economic principles designed to promote commercial development and job creation to bring disadvantaged Namibians into the economic mainstream. To facilitate this goal, the government has actively courted donor assistance and foreign investment. The liberal Foreign Investment Act of 1990 provides for freedom from nationalization, freedom to remit capital and profits, currency convertibility, and a process for settling disputes equitably.
Namibia is part of the Common Monetary Area (CMA) comprising Lesotho, Swaziland, and South Africa. Both the South African rand and the Namibian dollar are legal tender in Namibia, but the Namibian dollar is not accepted in South Africa. As a result of the CMA agreement, the scope for independent monetary policy in Namibia is limited. The Bank of Namibia regularly follows actions taken by the South African central bank.
Given its small domestic market but favorable location and a superb transport and communications base, Namibia is a leading advocate of regional economic integration. In addition to its membership in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Namibia presently belongs to the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) with South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Within SACU, no tariffs exist on goods produced in and moving among the member states. In July 2008, SACU signed a Trade, Investment and Development Cooperation Agreement (TIDCA) with the United States. SACU also has plans to negotiate free trade agreements with China, India, Kenya, and Nigeria. The SACU Secretariat is located in Windhoek.
Over 80% of Namibia's imports originate in South Africa, and many Namibian exports are destined for the South African market or transit that country. Outside of South Africa, the EU (primarily the U.K.) is the chief market for Namibian exports. Namibia's exports consist mainly of diamonds and other minerals, fish products, beef and meat products, grapes and light manufactures.
Namibia is seeking to diversify its trading relationships away from its heavy dependence on South African goods and services. Europe has become a leading market for Namibian fish and meat, while mining concerns in Namibia have purchased heavy equipment and machinery from Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. Namibia is an eligible country under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), but has had limited success with exports under this program.
In 1993, Namibia became a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) signatory, and the Minister of Trade and Industry represented Namibia at the Marrakech signing of the Uruguay Round Agreement in April 1994. Namibia has been a member of the World Trade Organization since its creation in 1995 and is a strong proponent of the Doha Development Agenda announced at the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001. Namibia also is a member of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In December 2007 Namibia initialed an interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union, but has not yet signed the interim agreement. The EPA provides duty- and limited quota-free access to European markets for Namibian exports, thereby continuing many of the expiring trade benefits from the Cotonou Agreement. Negotiations continue over the new EPA.
State-owned enterprises operate in many key sectors of the Namibian economy. The government has stakes (often 100% ownership) in companies in the following sectors: telecommunications (fixed and mobile voice and data services), energy, water, transport (air, rail, and road), postal services, fishing, mining, and tourism.
Mining and Energy
As was the case for many countries, Namibia’s extractive industries, particularly the diamond industry, experienced a significant decline due to the recent global economic downturn, although uranium was an exception. Mining contributed approximately 10% of GDP in 2009. While Namibia recovered over 2 million carats of diamonds in 2008, it mined only 929,000 carats in 2009, a 58% drop in production. Diamond mining rebounded in 2010, with close to 1.5 million carats recovered. Namibia is the world’s fourth-largest producer of uranium oxide, representing approximately 10% of global uranium production. Namibia has two operational uranium mines. Two or three new uranium mines may open over the next 5 years. Other important mineral resources are zinc, copper, lead, gold, fluorspar, and salt. The country also is a source of natural stones such as granite and marble. Semiprecious stones are mined on a smaller scale.
During the pre-independence period, large areas of Namibia, including offshore, were leased for oil prospecting. Natural gas was discovered in 1974 in the Kudu Field off the mouth of the Orange River. The field is thought to contain reserves of over 1.3 trillion cubic feet. In 2009, the government announced changes to the ownership structure of the Kudu project. Tullow Oil Plc, which had owned 70% of the Kudu gas field, saw its stake drop to 31%. Japanese firm Itochu Corporation, which owned 20% in the project, now owns 15%. The Namibian Government through state petroleum firm NAMCOR has partnered with the Russian firm Gazprom to take a 54% stake in Kudu. NAMCOR had previously held a 10% interest. Plans are also underway to build the country's first combined cycle power station near Oranjemund. With power shortages facing the Southern African region, the government has stated its commitment to develop the Kudu gas field. However, supply of electricity in the short to medium term remains a challenge.
Namibia has a well-developed legislative framework governing the upstream and downstream oil business. Currently there are eight companies exploring for oil and gas.
Although Namibian agriculture--excluding fishing--contributed between 5% and 6% of Namibia's GDP for the past 5 years, a large percentage of the Namibian population depends on agricultural activities for livelihood, mostly in the subsistence sector. Animal products, live animals, and crop exports constituted roughly 10.7% of total Namibian exports. The government encourages local sourcing of agriculture products. Retailers of fruits, vegetables, and other crop products must purchase 27.5% of their stock from local farmers.
In the largely white-dominated commercial sector, agriculture consists primarily of livestock ranching. Cattle raising is predominant in the central and northern regions, while karakul sheep and goat farming are concentrated in the more arid southern regions. Subsistence farming is mainly confined to the "communal lands" of the country's populous north, where roaming cattle herds are prevalent and the main crops are millet, sorghum, corn, and peanuts. Table grapes, grown mostly along the Orange River in the country's arid south, are becoming an increasingly important commercial crop and a significant employer of seasonal labor.
The government's land reform policy is shaped by two key pieces of legislation: the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act 6 of 1995 and the Communal Land Reform Act 5 of 2002. The government remains committed to a "willing seller, willing buyer" approach to land reform and to providing just compensation as directed by the Namibian constitution. As the government addresses the vital land and range management questions, water use issues and availability are considered.
The clean, cold South Atlantic waters off the coast of Namibia are home to some of the richest fishing grounds in the world, with the potential for sustainable yields of up to 1.5 million metric tons per year. Commercial fishing and fish processing is one of the significant sectors of the Namibian economy in terms of employment, export earnings, and contribution to GDP. In 2009, fishing contributed almost 3.6% of GDP, while on-shore processing of fish products contributed another 1.4%. The Namibian Government has actively pursued value-addition policies aimed at increasing on-shore processing of fish products.
The main species found in abundance off Namibia are pilchards (sardines), anchovy, hake, and horse mackerel. There also are smaller but significant quantities of sole, squid, deep-sea crab, rock lobster, and tuna. However, at the time of independence, fish stocks had fallen to dangerously low levels due to the lack of protection and conservation of the fisheries and the overexploitation of these resources. This trend appears to have been halted and reversed since independence, as the Namibian Government is now pursuing a conservative resource management policy along with an aggressive fisheries enforcement campaign. Namibia is a signatory to the Convention on Conservation and Management of Fisheries Resources in the South-East Atlantic (Seafo Convention). The country is also part of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME) program, which is designed to help the Governments of Namibia, Angola, and South Africa manage their shared marine resources in an integrated and sustainable way.
Manufacturing and Infrastructure
In 2009, Namibia's manufacturing sector (including meat and fish processing) contributed about 13.5% of GDP. Namibian manufacturing has historically been inhibited by a small domestic market, dependence on imported goods, limited supply of local capital, widely dispersed population, small skilled labor force and high relative wage rates, and subsidized competition from South Africa.
Walvis Bay has a well-developed, deepwater port, considered by many one of the best in Western Africa, and Namibia's fishing infrastructure is most heavily concentrated there. The Namibian Government expects Walvis Bay to become an important commercial gateway to the Southern African region. However, government officials acknowledge that many segments of Namibia’s more than 2,300 kilometers of rail infrastructure require urgent rehabilitation. Upgrades to Namibia’s rail infrastructure are considered a critical element in the government’s plan to expand the port of Walvis Bay.
Namibia also boasts modern civil aviation facilities and an extensive, well-maintained land transportation network. Construction continues to expand two major arteries--the Trans-Caprivi and Trans-Kalahari Highways--which will further open up the region's access to Walvis Bay.
Tourism is a rapidly growing sector of the Namibian economy and a significant generator of employment. It is the third-largest source of foreign exchange after mining and fisheries. Although the majority of Namibia's international visitors originate in the region, other international travelers are increasingly attracted by the country's unique mix of political stability, cultural diversity, and geographic beauty. Tourism in Namibia has had a positive impact on resource conservation and rural development. As of 2007, there were 50 communal conservancies established across the country, resulting in enhanced land management while providing tens of thousands of rural Namibians with much needed income.
While most Namibians are economically active in one form or another, the bulk of this activity is in the informal sector, primarily subsistence agriculture. In the formal economy, the official estimate of unemployment is 51.2% of the work force. In March 2011, the government introduced a 3-year budget that contains significant (30%) additional spending over prior years with a focus on public works and infrastructure to stimulate economic growth and generate employment opportunities, primarily for Namibia’s unskilled workers. A large number of Namibians seeking jobs in the formal sector are held back due to a lack of necessary skills or training. The government is aggressively pursuing education reform to address this problem.
There are two main trade union federations in Namibia representing workers: the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), which is affiliated with the ruling SWAPO party, and the Trade Union Congress of Namibia (TUCNA), which is not affiliated with any party. A new labor law went into effect in November 2008. The new law prohibited employers from using “labor hire” (third-party hiring of temporary or contract workers); however, the Supreme Court declared this provision unconstitutional in December 2009.
The constitution defines the role of the military as "defending the territory and national interests." Following independence, Namibia formed the National Defense Force (NDF), comprised of former enemies in a 23-year bush war, the PLAN and South West African territorial force. The NDF consists of five battalions and a small headquarters element. The NDF has a modest air wing and a maritime wing. Namibia contributed 900 troops to UN peacekeeping efforts in Liberia.
Namibia has had defense cooperation at various levels with several countries, including the United States. It also participates in regional peacekeeping efforts. The U.S. does not have an Article 98 agreement with Namibia.
Namibia follows a largely independent foreign policy, but has close relations with states that aided its independence struggle, including the People's Republic of China, Russia, and Cuba.
Namibia is developing trade and strengthening economic and political ties within the Southern African region. As a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), Namibia is a vocal advocate for greater regional integration.
Namibia became the 160th member of the United Nations on April 23, 1990, and the 50th member of the British Commonwealth upon independence.
U.S.-Namibian relations are good and continue to improve. Characterized by shared democratic values, commitment to rule of law, and respect for human rights, the bilateral relationship has been strengthened through trade ties and U.S.-Namibian partnerships. Namibia is a focus country under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and on September 3, 2010 the United States and Namibia signed a PEPFAR Partnership Framework. Since 2004, PEPFAR assistance to Namibia has exceeded $300 million. A $304 million Millennium Challenge Account Compact entered into force on September 16, 2009. On average, there are 128 Peace Corps Volunteers in country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Defense, and Treasury Department also are represented in Windhoek.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Wanda L. Nesbitt
Deputy Chief of Mission--Ava Rogers
Public Affairs Officer--Anthony Deaton
Political Officer--Emily Plumb
Economic/Commercial Officer--Frank DeParis
Consular Officer--Charles Jarrett
USAID Director--Debra Mosel (acting)
CDC Director--Jeff Hanson
Defense Attache--Major Cheryl Korver, U.S. Army
Peace Corps Country Director--Gilbert Collins
The U.S. Embassy in Namibia is located at 14 Lossen Street, Windhoek (tel. +264 61-295-8500).