Namibia: The jewel and desert

JOHANNESBURG – Namibia is the third-youngest country in Africa and the second least densely populated sovereign country in the world with a population of 2.534million (2017) and a land mass of 825 000km2.

The country is popular for its diamonds as well as its red-coloured Namib desert, which is the oldest desert in the world and home to the highest dune in the world, the Sossusvlei Dune 7 that measures 383m.

The country has since independence in 1990 enjoyed political stability, which has helped reduce poverty.

This can be seen in the proportion of Namibians living below the national poverty line declining from 69.3percent in 1993/4 to 28.7percent in 2009/10, and even further to 17.4percent in 2015/16.

Sadly, this improvement in welfare has not yet translated into job creation and nor has it solved socio-economic inequality, according to the World Bank. Namibia has also been experiencing an economic recession, with the country’s economic activity shrinking by 0.4percent in 2018 and 0.9percent in 2017.

The mining sector is the largest sector producing export revenue (25percent) and foreign currency reserves from diamonds, uranium, gold, copper, zinc, marble and granite employing 3percent of the labour force.

Fluctuating uranium world prices have seen Namibia reduce its output and slide in world producer rankings to rank as the sixth-largest world producer of uranium and the second in Africa after Niger.

The tourism sector is also key to its economy as it offers one of the prime destinations in Africa, contributing around 14.5 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP), which indirectly and directly employs roughly 20 percent of the workforce. As a renowned ecotourism destination, it offers sport hunting and other extreme sports such as skydiving, sand boarding and off-road driving.

The manufacturing sector is the pillar of the Namibian sector as it contributes more than 20percent to the GDP. The ongoing construction of two key arterial roads, the Trans-Kalahari highway and the Trans-Caprivi highway, will open up the region and provide access to Walvis Bay, an important commercial gateway to the southern African region.

Although agriculture only contributes a small portion of the GDP, the sector accounts for almost half of all Namibian jobs – most of which are poorly paid. There are around 4000 farms. The country’s fisheries have also become an important economic sector with good growth rates. It employs more than 15000 people, mainly in Walvis Bay and Lüderitz.

Namibia’s story cannot be told without speaking about the major presence of Germans, who constitute 1percent of the population with German being one of the official languages spoken by close to 32percent of the population (2011 census).

Now for the Neil Table of Economy, a can of coke in Namibia is N$8 and a litre of petrol is N$13.17, which translates to R8 and R13.17.

The story of South West Africa, a previous South African administration and now the Republic of Namibia, has tremendous history and no doubt the country is trying to build a strong investment vision. With enough resources the hope is to turn the “Desert into the Jewel of Africa”.

* I am launching an Africa Comment competition in my column. A signature pen, branded with Neil on Africa, will be given every week to the most interesting fact of the country highlighted in the article and emailed to Good fact hunting.

Neil de Beer is founder and president of the IFA and consults for numerous African states on economic development.


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