Far & Beyond

Namibia in General

Namibia is situated in southern Africa on the Atlantic coast and borders Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. Namibia gained its independence in 1990 and its capital is Windhoek. It is also is also a member state of the Southern African Development community (SADC), the African Union (AU), and the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations.

The Namibian landscape consists primarily of central highlands, of which the highest point is the Brandberg at 2,606 meters (8,550ft). The central plateau runs from north to south, bordered by the Namib Desert and its coastal plains to the west, the Orange River to the south, and the Kalahari Desert to the east. A remarkable strip of land in the northeast, known as the Caprivi Strip is the vestige of a narrow corridor demarcated for the German Empire to access the Zambezi River. The Namibian climate ranges from desert to subtropical, and is generally hot and dry; precipitation is sparse and erratic.

The cold, north-flowing Benguela, current accounts for some of the low precipitation. Besides the capital city Windhoek in the centre of the country, other important towns are the ports of Walvis Bay, and Swakopmund, as well as Oshakati, Grootfontein, Tsumeb and Keetmanshoop. Namibia is one of Africa’s most geographically and culturally diverse countries.

Tourism & Culture
One of Namibia’s main attractions is that it is easy to explore independently. The country’s tiny population, of just over 2 million, is largely scattered through a sprinkling of towns, founded by different peoples (some ancient, some colonial) offering a fascinating insight into a rich variety of cultures. Between these are vast tracks of pristine wilderness, home to some stunning wildlife, and which remain protected as national parks, one can drive for hours through endless plains, enjoying a scenic backdrop of huge mountains and spectacular canyons without meeting another tourist.

Namibia is among the three sovereign countries with the lowest population density. The majority of the Namibian population consists of a mostly of the Ovambo tribe, which forms about half of the population, concentrated in the north of the country. In addition to the Ovambo there are large groups of Khoisan (e.g. Nama and Bushmen), who are descendants of the original inhabitants of Southern Africa. Other ethnic groups include the pride Herero nation and people with mixed racial origins, called Basters, Other Namibians are descendants of Dutch, German, British, French and Portuguese ancestry. Due to the countries past most Namibians speak Afrikaans (a language similar to Dutch) while English is the official language. Other languages spoken include German and Portuguese.

Since gaining independence from South Africa in 1990, the Republic of Namibia has become one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest growing and most competitive economies. It is also becoming increasingly visible as a tourism destination boosted by the recent decision of the high  profile actress, Angelina Jolie, and her partner Brad Pitt to choose Namibia as the birthplace of their much-publicised baby.

As the sector gains in importance, it is also increasingly complementing the country’s traditional economic sectors-agriculture, fishing and mining. Yet, despite the clear potential for tourism growth and the opportunities it offers to diversify and enrich the economy, the sector has seen low levels of government investment.

Environment
Namib-Naukluft National Park is an ecological preserve in the Namib Desert in Southwest Africa, thought to be Earth’s oldest desert. The park is the largest game park in Africa, and a surprising collection of creatures manages to survive in the hyper-arid region, including snakes, geckos, unusual insects, hyenas and jackals. More moisture comes in as a fog off the Atlantic Ocean than falls as rain, with the average 106 millimeters of rainfall per year concentrated in the months of February and April.

“Namib” means open space and the Namib Desert gave its name to form Namibia’s  “land of open spaces”.  Stretching 1,200 miles in length, but averaging a width of only 70 miles, the Namib Desert is home to the highest sand dunes in the world.The winds that bring in the fog are also responsible for creating the park’s towering sand dunes, whose burnt orange color is a sigh of their age.  These dunes are the tallest in the world, in places rising above the desert floor more than 300 meters (almost 1,000 feet). The dunes taper off near the coast, and lagoons, wetlands, and mudflats located along the shore attract hundreds of thousands of birds.

A number of unusual species of plants and animals are found only in this desert. One of these is Welwitschia mirabilis, one of the most unusual species. Welwitschia is a shrub-like plant, but grows just two long, strap-shaped leaves continuously throughout its lifetime. These leaves may be several meters long, gnarled and twisted from the desert winds. The taproot of the plant develops into a flat, concave disc in age. Welwitschia is notable for its survival in the extremely arid conditions in the Namib, sometimes deriving moisture from the coastal sea fogs.

Along with the Skeleton Coast further north, it is notorious as the site of many shipwrecks. Some of these wrecked ships can be found as much as 50 meters inland, as the desert is slowly creeping westwards into the sea, reclaiming land over a period of many years. The Namib is an important location for the mining of tungsten, salt and diamonds. Access is via light aircraft from Windhoek (the capital of Namibia, about 480km east of the centre of the desert), Swakopmund and Walvis Bay at the north end of the desert, or overland on gravel roads.

Transport
International air connections for both passengers and freight are available at Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport. Direct destinations include the strategic regional hub of Johannesburg, and the European cities of London and Frankfurt. Air Namibia is the national carrier; other international airlines operating here are South African Airways, British Airways/Comair, TAAG and LTU.

Infrastructure
Namibia has an infrastructure of a standard which would agreeably surprise all Those who are unfamiliar with the country and its advantages. There is continuous and growing investment in those facilities which are regarded the lifeblood of a vibrant, modern and developing economy.

Namibia has a world class telecommunications system, with telephone and internet connections widely available in both urban and remote area, thanks to recent substantial investment in the telecommunications infrastructure including the installation of optical fiber cable networks. The Harvard Africa Competitiveness Report 2000-2001 ranked the quality of Namibia’s telecommunications services first in Africa.

Services
The full range of business support services is available in Namibia, including banking and finance, insurance, stock broking, accountancy, general business consultancy, advertising and marketing agencies and conference facilities. Namibia has a well-established banking system. The Bank of Namibia is responsible for issuing currency and is the foreign exchange authority, lender of last resort to banking institutions, banker to the government and the commercial banks and the supervisory authority on financial institutions and monetary matters.

Commercial banks operate through a nationwide network of branches and offer a comprehensive range of banking services, including current account and overdraft facilities, term deposits, discounting of bills, foreign exchange and a variety of loan products.  International services are available through inter-bank arrangements. Electronic banking and teller services are available in all major centers.

The Namibian Dollar (N$) is divided into 100 cents. It is linked to and on a par with the South African Rand which is also legal tender in Namibia. The Namibian Stock Exchange is Africa’s second largest in terms of total market capitalization and among the continent’s most technically advanced bourses.

Economy
Namibia is one of the most sophisticated and promising emerging markets. A unique combination of a highly developed first-world economic infrastructure and a huge emergent market economy has given rise to a strong entrepreneurial and dynamic business environment with many globally competitive advantages and opportunities. A wide array of economic and social policies has been adopted by the Namibian Government since 1990 to ensure the international reintegration of the country’s economy and the creation of an environment for sustained export growth, healthy net capital inflows and improved investor confidence.

Today, these actions are paying dividends and the South African investment is showing significant improvements. Inflation is at its lowest levels since 1970, the interest rate is the lowest since 1984, the fiscal deficit and government debt levels have been reduced to more acceptable levels, the economy has been opened up to competition and global markets (through tariff liberalization and gradual exchange control relaxation) and economic growth is taking off.

Government finance and Fiscal policy
Since independence the government’s main policies have been aimed at achieving sustainable economic growth and a real increase in income per hand. It has abstained from any major state intervention, aiming to promote sustainable development by facilitating foreign direct investment inflows into priority sectors (natural resource value added, non-traditional manufacturing and tourism). At the same time it has expanded the role of the state through the creation of a number of new parastatals. Black empowerment and affirmative action are being implemented, although progress in the private sector is slow.

Economic policy is focused on the stimulation of activity in the private sector, notably in the manufacturing sector, in an effort to reduce vulnerability by diversifying away from the primary sector, policy. Growth, poverty reduction and reducing unemployment are focus areas. In the 2001/02 budget the government introduced a medium-term expenditure framework designed to strengthen fiscal policy management and provide a more targeted focus on the allocation of available resources.