Namibia – The Republic of Namibia a state in South Africa


Namibia Anthem

Namibia, located in southwest Africa covering an area of 825,418 km², was in fact annexed to South Africa until 1990 (it was called Southwest Africa until 1968). The country is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Orange River to the south, and the lower reaches of the Cunene River to the north. The official languages are English and Afrikaans. The coastline is level and has only two good natural harbors, Wolfish Bay and Luderitz. Most of the territory is a plateau 900-1500 m high, in the east descending to the semi-desert Kalahari, and in the west bounded by the Great Escarpment, breaking off towards the coastal plain – the Namib Desert. The plateau is divided into several sections by tectonic depressions and temporary river valleys. Significant portions of the Namib Desert are occupied by high (up to 100 m) sand dunes.

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The climate is tropical, very dry, influenced by the cold Bengal Current of the Atlantic Ocean. The average temperature of the hottest month (January) ranges from 18 ° C in the Namib Desert to 27 ° C in the Kalahari, the coldest 12-16 ° C. Rainfall ranges from 10-50 mm per year on the coast (often they fall here in the form of fog, not rain) to 400-600 mm in the far northeast. Apart from the two boundary rivers, the Kunene and Orange, there are no permanent watercourses, and temporary ones are often swept away by moving dunes. In the northeast, a drying Lake Etosha lies in the depression, and there are other similar lakes that come to life only in the rainy season.

Flora and fauna

Vegetation is sparse but very distinctive. The cereal-bush desert in the north of the plateau to the south is replaced by semi-desert acacia communities and a deserted savannah stretches along the border with the Kalahari. Most of the Namib Desert has no permanent vegetation at all: the dunes are covered with scanty grass only after rare rains. On the other hand, there are species of ancient desert flora, such as a velvicia, a tree with a very thick trunk (up to 1 meter in diameter), rising only 10-15 cm above the ground and two leathery leaves up to 3 meters long, which last for the entire life of the plant – over 100 years. Another interesting species is the nara melon, which bears fruit every 10 years. The fauna is equally poor: the deserts are dominated by rodents (among which there are many rare species), there is trumpet tooth. Typically African animals – black rhinos, mountain zebras Hartman, ground wolves, honey-eaters, various antelopes, giraffes, elephants and lions – can be found only in the far north in the Etosha Reserve. The coast is animated by a huge number of seabirds (cormorants, pelicans, gulls, spectacled penguins), and a herd of kap seals.


Namibia’s population of 2,606,971 (2017) is divided into 9 ethnic groups, 6 of which belong to the Bantu family and 3 to the Khoisan language family. The most numerous of the Bantu peoples are the Ovambo and Guerero, farmers and pastoralists, the peoples of the Khoisan family are the Damara pastoralists, the Hottentot Nama and the Bushmen, who live in the Kalahari mainly engaged in hunting and have little connection with the outside world. Most of them adhere to traditional local beliefs. Many have also preserved their ancient crafts: making masks, beaded jewelry, etc. The capital is Windhoek, there are practically no other major cities.


For a long time the territory of Namibia was inhabited by Bushmen (San) tribes and later the Hottentots – Namakwa and Damara arrived there. Around the 14th century the Bantu tribes, such as the Owambo and the Herero, came from the north.

Europeans came to this arid land relatively late – only in 1878, Britain joined Wolfish Bay in the Cape Colony. In 1883, the German merchant Adolf Luderitz bought a piece of coastal land in the area of Angra Peken Bay from one of the local Nama tribal leaders – for 200 guns and goods worth £100.

Under the Anglo-German treaty of 1890 the entire coast of present-day Namibia, excluding Wolfish Bay, went to Germany. Thus the boundaries of the German colony of German Southwest Africa were defined . In 1890, Germany received a narrow strip of land in the northeast (the so-called “Caprivi Strip”), which provided a link along the Zambezi River between the German colonies in Southwest and East Africa (Germany also received Helgoland Island in the North Sea, and Britain in exchange received Zanzibar Island).

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The German authorities encouraged the arrival of white colonists, taking land from the local population – all the more valuable because the Herero and Nama were cattlemen and there was little land suitable for pasture in Namibia. In 1903, under the leadership of Samuel Maharero, the Herero rebelled, killing more than a hundred German settlers. Germany sent 14,000 soldiers to Southwest Africa, led by General Lothar von Trota, who declared that all Herero must be expelled from the country. At the Battle of Waterberg, the Herero were severely defeated. The survivors attempted to reach the British possession of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) through the Kalahari: Britain promised to give the Herero asylum if they did not continue the rebellion. Many perished, unable to endure the crossing.

In 1905, when the Germans took their first census, there were about 25,000 Guereros, mostly women and children, in Southwest Africa. They were placed in concentration camps similar to those the British had set up during the war against the Boers. Many Guereros died because of the terrible conditions and slave labor. By the time the camps closed in 1908, it was estimated that between 50 and 80 percent of the Herero had been exterminated.

Soon after the suppression of the Guerero rebellion, the Nama rose up against the Germans. Their leaders were Hendrik Witbooi and Jacob Morenga. Fighting continued until March 1907, when a peace agreement was signed (although Morenga waged guerrilla warfare later). Estimates of the number of Nama who died in the uprising vary greatly: it is likely that there were about 40,000.

During World War I, in 1915, South African Union troops invaded Namibia. In 1920 the SAS received a mandate from the League of Nations to govern Southwest Africa. After the League ended, South Africa refused to surrender the mandate and continued to control the territory, establishing an apartheid regime there. South Africa saw Namibia as a buffer protecting the country from “enemy” Black African states. Namibia’s white minority was represented in South Africa’s parliament. Walvis Bay was annexed to South Africa as an enclave (it was not returned to Namibia until 1994).

Beginning in 1966, the People’s Organization of Southwest Africa (SWAPO) began to fight for independence from South Africa. SWAPO bases were located in Angola and Zambia, and they were supported by the Soviet Union: the official ideology of SWAPO was Marxism. It was then that the name “Namibia” was first used. The international community also did not recognize South Africa’s right to govern the territory. However, it was not until 1988 that the South African authorities agreed to withdraw from Namibia. On March 21, 1990 Namibia’s independence was declared in the presence of the UN Secretary-General and the President of South Africa.

The first president of Namibia was the leader of SWAPO, Sam Nujoma. He held the post for three terms. On 21 March 2005 Hifikepunye Pohamba, the former Minister of Land Affairs, became President of Namibia with over 75% of the vote.

In 1994, representatives of the Lozi people announced the establishment of the Caprivi Liberation Front, which aimed at gaining independence for the territory, which led to an attempt of an armed rebellion. Currently, the confrontation has subsided, and since 2001 the Caprivi Strip has been declared safe for tourists again.


About 20% of Namibia’s GDP comes from the mining industry. Uranium and diamonds are the primary mines in the country, but there are also copper, gold, lead, zinc, and natural gas deposits in the interior of Namibia. Diamond veins near Luderitz (and the ghost town of Kolmanskop) are especially famous. In the vicinity of Swakopmund is the largest uranium mine in the world.

About half (47%) of the labor force in Namibia is employed in agriculture, mostly in animal husbandry, while the share of agriculture in GDP is less than 10%. In particular, the breeding of Karakul sheep is important. However, fisheries and tourism are becoming increasingly important. Manufacturing and heavy industry (in particular engineering), by contrast, are very underdeveloped in Namibia, so that in these areas it is highly dependent on imports. Namibia also imports up to 50% of the food it consumes.

Namibia’s economy retains strong ties to that of South Africa. The Namibian dollar is tightly pegged to the South African rand.

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Although Namibia is one of Africa’s richest countries, unemployment is between 30% and 40% and wages are relatively low. The average monthly per capita income is about $150, but income is very unequally distributed; for example, in 2004 only 64,000 Namibians were taxpayers. Namibia has the worst income inequality in the world. According to the UN, in 2005, 34.9% of the population lived on less than $1 a day (the UN-adopted poverty line), while 55.8% lived on less than $2 a day.

In 2005, Namibia’s GDP at purchasing power parity was about $16.5 billion ($8,200 per capita); at the official rate it was almost $5 billion.

With the fall of the apartheid regime, Namibia is becoming increasingly popular among tourists. It offers unlimited opportunities both for “civilized” recreation (for example, in Windhoek or Swakopmund, preserving the atmosphere of the old colonial town), and for extreme tourism (especially popular are Etosha and Fish River National Parks, Skeleton Coast). Russian citizens visiting for less than 3 months do not require a visa.

Namibia is one of the four largest mineral producers in Africa. Here rich deposits of copper, diamonds, tin and other minerals have been discovered. The world’s largest uranium mines are located in the center of the country in the Namib Desert. Namibia is the 2nd largest producer of lead in the world.


Namibia’s modern culture is a synthesis of various cultural influences. The traditions of the nomadic San (Bushmen) hunters and the Nama (Hottentots) and Herero pastoralists have undergone marked changes in the settled life in the reserves. The traditional way of life of sedentary farmers in the far north of the country has been less affected. Most Namibians are governed by the norms of behavior accepted in cash and exchange societies and by Christian morality.

By 1990, Namibia’s literature and arts were heavily influenced by South Africa, Europe and North America, from where films, theater productions, radio and television broadcasts, fiction and music flowed into Namibia. Traditional local culture has not perished, but is experiencing intense competition from trendy foreign cultural samples. The cosmopolitan influence of South Africa and the West is also evident in fashion and sports. Nevertheless, independent Namibia continues to develop local contemporary art. Namibian artisans have made notable advances in artistic photography, painting, and woodcarving. African-inspired garments are very popular among the elite, especially those who have been in exile. The small white community remains committed to Afrikaner and German cultures of the metropolitan countries. Independent Namibia inherited from the colonial period a system of public education which was not generally accessible. Schools were placed under state control. The former regime allocated about ten times as much to the education of one white pupil as it did to one African. The introduction of universal primary education became a priority for the leadership of independent Namibia. Schools began to teach in English instead of Afrikaans, and the earlier Juar method of teaching was replaced by the Cambridge model. The alternative to the old colonial education system was independent secondary schools, many of which were run by the church. After independence, Namibia opened the Free University and the Polytechnic Institute, and the distance learning system became widespread. The number of students and schools has increased by more than 20% and the quality of schooling has improved. The adult literacy rate is 66 percent. The government pays great attention to the problem of gender equality. In the 1998 local government elections, 40% of deputies were women, in part because that was their quota on party lists. There is an Office of Women’s Affairs that reports directly to the president and is supported by him. A significant number of government positions are held by women, far more than in other African countries. The inclusion of women on the boards of companies and institutions has become the norm. As the position of women in Namibian society has strengthened, private property and inheritance issues have been dealt with more fairly.

Namibia is a country in Southwest Africa

Dunes, Namibia

Dunes, Namibia. Photo by Robert Marchant.

Namibia is a state in the southwest of the African continent, which got its name from the coastal Namib Desert, which occupies a large part of its territory. The country, which is one of the poorest in Africa, is famous for its rich deposits of the purest diamonds. National parks where you can see rare animals in their natural habitat have made Namibia a popular destination for world tourism.

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In ancient times, the territory of Namibia was inhabited by tribes who lived off gathering and hunting. Later, nomadic cattle ranchers came to the region. Colonization of Namibia by Europeans began in the late 19th century when a large part of Namibia was annexed by the British to the Cape Colony.

In 1883, Adolf Lüderitz, a German, was able to buy a large tract of land on the Atlantic coast from an African tribe, giving the chief as payment for goods that cost no more than a hundred pounds sterling and two hundred rifles. Seven years later a treaty was concluded between England and Germany, under which the lands of the future Namibia were placed under German control. The territory was named German Southwest Africa.

German authorities facilitated the relocation of white settlers who occupied the land of local tribes. The actions of the Germans displeased the indigenous people of Africa. In 1904 and 1907 there were uprisings of Africans that were brutally suppressed by the colonists.

Germany’s defeat in World War I led to the loss of control of the African colony, which was taken over by the Union of South Africa (UAS). In the early twenties, the League of Nations gave the SAS a mandate to govern the region. After the first interstate organization ceased to exist, the SAC, which had by then declared itself the Republic of South Africa, refused to return the mandate. South Africa continued to control Namibia, establishing an apartheid regime there. The Namibian territory served as a buffer zone to protect the republic, where the white minority was in power, from hostile Black African states.

South Africa agreed to leave the occupied territory only in 1988, and two years later the former colony was officially proclaimed an independent state of Namibia.

Elephants, Namibia

Elephants, Namibia. The author of the photo is Nedko Nedkov.


Today’s Namibia is a presidential republic with a bicameral parliament. The country is home to 2.5 million people, approximately 14% of whom are infected with human immunodeficiency virus. The country has the fifth highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. Average life expectancy is 64.5 years.

The majority of the population are members of the tribes that have inhabited the territory since ancient times. The share of the white population, whose ancestors are from Germany, Great Britain, and other European countries, does not exceed 6%.

English is considered the official language in the country. However, it is spoken by only 7% of the population. For the vast majority of Namibian people their native languages are Oshivambo and Afrikaans.

The predominant religion in Namibia is Christianity. Eight out of ten Namibians consider themselves followers of Christ.

More than 20% of able-bodied people are unemployed and 13.4% of the population lives on less than $1.9 a day. Nonetheless, the standard of living of Namibians has been rising steadily in recent years. The welfare state is also benefiting from increased literacy – Namibia has committed itself to improving the education of its people. The country ranks ninth in the world in terms of the ratio of GDP to the amount of funding allocated to educational programs.

Literacy rates are high enough for the African continent – 85% of the population over the age of 15 can read and write.

Cheetah, Namibia

Cheetah, Namibia. Photo by Robert Marchant.


South Africa is Namibia’s main trading and economic partner. The Namibian dollar is tightly pegged to the South African rand. In the early nineties, South Africa wrote off $190 million in debt to its former colony.

Namibian Dollars, Namibia

Namibian Dollars, Namibia. Photo by John McCabe.

Unlike most African countries, where agriculture is the main economic sector, in Namibia industry plays the leading role, providing more than a third of GDP. The mining industry, in particular diamond mining, generates the largest export income for the country. Also gold, uranium, zinc, tin, cadmium and tungsten are mined in Namibia.

The country has developed metallurgy, the food industry; there are factories that assemble cars and a diamond-cutting factory.

The most part of the territory of Namibia is not suitable for agriculture; cultivated farmlands occupy 1 % of the country’s area. They grow wheat, corn and millet on the cultivated areas. Given the situation in agriculture, Namibia actively imports food.

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One of the main sources of foreign exchange earnings is international tourism, which provides 35% of export earnings. More than 1.5 million foreign tourists visit Namibia every year.


Much of Namibia’s railway network was built during colonial times. Currently, the railroad connecting all the major cities in the country is used mainly for freight transportation. The population within the country is moved by buses.

Namibia has a well-developed network of highways, which run to all corners of the country. The total length of highways is 65 thousand kilometers. The condition of the road surface on the main roads is good. Traffic in the country is to the left.

All major cities in the country have their own airports. The national airline Air Namibia operates domestic and international flights. The country also has a large number of smaller airlines. There are no direct flights to the CIS countries. The easiest way to get to Namibia from the former Soviet Union is to make a connection in Doha, Frankfurt am Main or Addis Ababa.

The main port of Namibia is Wolfish Bay, where a large fishing fleet is based.

Wallfish Bay, Namibia

Wallfish Bay, Namibia. The author of the photo is Jule Lumma.


The climatic conditions in Namibia are typical of the semi-desert, where it is hot during the day and cold at night. The summer season lasts from October to April. During this time of year the thermometer rises to +40 ° C during the day and drops to +20 ° C at night. During the winter season, which begins in May and ends in September, the temperature during the day ranges from +25 ° C to +5 ° C.

Namibia Climate

Namibia. Photo by sea palms.


Namibia is one of the most attractive countries in Africa in terms of tourism. Namibia has a visa-free regime with the CIS countries.

The country is considered relatively safe for travelers. However, it is better to leave money, jewelry, and expensive items in a hotel safe rather than carry them.

Colmanskop Ghost Town, Namibia

Colmanskop Ghost Town, Namibia. Photo by Meme Kuru.

Most of Namibia does not fall into the malaria risk zone. Only the area between Etosha National Park and the Namibian-Angolan border is considered dangerous. Given the possibility of infection, before traveling to Namibia travelers are recommended to take preventive anti-malarial drugs, as well as compulsory purchase of travel insurance.

Tap water in Namibia poses no danger to human health, but it is better to refuse to drink it in favor of bottled water.

Rent a car is available in major cities. To rent a car it is sufficient to have an international driver’s license.

There are hotels with different levels of comfort. The main type of accommodation in the national parks are lodges (comfortable bungalow houses).

Most tourists who come to Namibia on vacation tend to visit:

  • Kolmanskop Ghost Town in the Namib Desert. The typical German town was built by German natives early last century near a rich diamond deposit. In the mid-fifties, the deposits of precious stones were exhausted, causing the inhabitants to leave the town.
  • Caprivi is the wettest region of Namibia. Elephants migrate through Caprivi and tourists have the opportunity to observe the giant animals in the wild.
  • Spitzkop are granite peaks in the Namib Desert, which are up to 700 meters high. There are preserved rock paintings of the tribes that inhabited the Namibian territory in ancient times.
  • Cape of the Cross, which got its name from the cross, established in the XV century by Portuguese navigators. The Cape, home to one of the world’s largest colonies of fur seals, is a protected area.
  • Etosha National Park is a world famous nature reserve in the northwestern part of the country. One of the main attractions of Namibia, where you can admire the wildlife. It is home to endangered black rhinos and many rare animals.

Rhino, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Rhinoceros, Etosha National Park, Namibia. Photo by D. Mario Franco.

The optimal time to travel in Namibia is the summer season.

The Namibian coast has its own beach resort Swakopmund. The city is an example of typical German architecture. Beyond the city limits the desert begins immediately.

Graceful Trio, Swakopmund, Namibia

The graceful trio, Swakopmund, Namibia. Photo by Andrew Sulitsky.

Food and Drink

In Namibian restaurants you can order both traditional oysters and lobsters and dishes exotic to Europeans: crocodile meat, stewed zebra, pilaf of antelope or lion kebab and also insects which Namibians stew and fry.

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The German past has left its mark on the alcoholic habits of Namibians. Every year they have their own Oktoberfest and Namibian beer is exported.

Lunch, Namibian Cuisine, Namibia

Lunch, Namibian cuisine, Namibia. Photo by Petro Marais.

A tribe of toothless women

Toothless Women, Himba Tribe, Namibia

Toothless women, Himba tribe, Namibia. Photo by Thomas Bleich.

The nomadic cattle-herding Himba tribe is the last tribe in Namibia that observes all ancestral traditions. Today the number of Himba is estimated from 20 to 50 thousand people who live in small nomadic settlements in the north of the country.

Himba women have no front teeth. During the initiation ritual, after which girls are officially considered adults, they have their four front teeth knocked out and then their gums are burned with a red-hot iron. In addition, the Himba tribeswomen avoid water procedures. Instead of washing, women daily smear their body and hair with a homemade cream of ochre and animal fat, and also fume themselves with smoke.

3 generations of Himba tribe, Namibia

Three generations of the Himba tribe, Namibia. The author of the photo is Francesca Bullet.

The boys of the tribe become men after they are able to kill their first animal on the hunt. In order to get married, a Himba man is obliged to pay a ransom – to give the bride’s parents 5 cows. Because of this tradition, many men get married after the age of 30, and women have children out of wedlock.

The tribesmen wear practically no modern clothes, and the women walk around with their breasts bare. They live in small huts made of clay and straw, and cook their food on a fire near the house. The Himba use only plastic bottles and cellophane bags, which most modern people are accustomed to.

Himba Children, Kunene Valley, Namibia

Himba children, Kunene Valley, Namibia. The author of the photo is Truwail Blue.

Residents of the settlements actually do not seek traditional medical care – the function of the doctor in the Himba is performed by herbalists, who treat for all diseases, including snake bites. Women give birth to each other.

At the same time, the tribe has its representatives in the Namibian Parliament, and the country’s authorities are trying to provide mobile schools for Himba children.

Skeleton Coast – an anomalous area that frightens sailors

Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Skeleton Coast, Namibia. Photo by rajarajaraja.

There is an anomaly zone in Namibia. Skeleton Coast is considered one of the darkest places on our planet and is shrouded in many mysteries and legends. Its ominous name the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, where the sands of the Namib desert touch the water, got not just for fun. Many years ago the remains of decapitated people, including a child, were found there. A tablet in an unknown language was found next to the dead. It was not possible to determine who the victims were or why they had been beheaded.

Skeleton Coast, Namibia DX

The Skeleton Coast, Namibia. Photo by dconvertini.

There is a belief among sailors that the Coast of Skeletons is a cursed place, which should be avoided. For centuries, many ships were wrecked here, and sailors who made it to land died a painful death due to lack of water and food. History also knows many instances when ships anchored off the coast were cut off from water by the shifting sands.

According to scientists, the cause of tragedies on the Coast of Skeletons is a combination of unfavorable weather and natural conditions – changing currents, powerful surf and heavy fog are constantly present here.

Ship, Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Ship, Skeleton Coast, Namibia. Photo by David Lowry.

Despite the danger, the Skeleton Coast is like a magnet attracting treasure hunters, as deposits of diamonds have been discovered near the coast. However, because the sand dunes constantly change their location, it is impossible to navigate the area with maps. That is why most diamond hunters find not gems here, but death.

The Skeleton Coast now has the status of a Namibian National Park with its territory divided into two parts. The northern part, where the cemetery of wrecked ships is located, is closed to independent tourists. To get here is possible only as part of an organized tour group, accompanied by a professional guide. Staying in the territory is allowed only in the daytime, overnight stays in the northern part of the park are forbidden. The southern part of the park can be visited by anyone. It offers tourists a small hotel where you can stay overnight.

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