Southern Africa

Capital City:

total: 824,292 sq km
land: 823,290 sq km
water: 1,002 sq km

Land boundaries:
Total: 4,220 km

border countries (4):
Angola 1,427 km,
Botswana 1,544 km,
South Africa 1,005 km,
Zambia 244 km
Coastline: 1,572 km
Total: 5792 km




desert; hot, dry;
rainfall sparse and erratic

mostly high plateau;
The Namib Desert along the coast;
The Kalahari Desert in east

mean elevation: 1,141 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Konigstein on Brandberg 2,573 m

Natural resources:
diamonds, copper, uranium, gold, silver, lead, tin, lithium, cadmium, tungsten, zinc, salt, hydropower, fish

Land use:
agricultural land: 47.2%
arable land 1%; permanent crops 0%; permanent pasture 46.2%
forest: 8.8%
other: 44% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land:
80 sq km (2012)

Population – distribution:
population density is very low, with the largest clustering found in the extreme north-central area along the border with Angola

Natural hazards:
prolonged periods of drought


People and Society

Namibia has the second-lowest population density of any sovereign country, after Mongolia. The majority of Namibians are rural dwellers (about 55%) and live in the better-watered north and northeast parts of the country. Migration, historically male-dominated, generally flows from northern communal areas – non-agricultural lands where blacks were sequestered under the apartheid system – to agricultural, mining, and manufacturing centers in the center and south. After independence from South Africa, restrictions on internal movement eased, and rural-urban migration increased, bolstering urban growth.

Namibians concentrated along the country’s other borders make unauthorized visits to Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, or Botswana, to visit family and to trade agricultural goods. Few Namibians express interest in permanently settling in other countries; they prefer the safety of their homeland, have a strong national identity, and enjoy a well-supplied retail sector. Although Namibia is receptive to foreign investment and cross-border trade, intolerance toward non-citizens is widespread.



Ethnic groups:
black 87.5%, white 6%, mixed 6.5%

Tigrinya (official), Arabic (official), English (official), Tigre, Kunama, Afar, other Cushitic languages

Oshivambo languages 48.9%, Nama/Damara 11.3%, Afrikaans 10.4% , Otjiherero languages 8.6%, Kavango languages 8.5%, Caprivi languages 4.8%, English (official) 3.4%, other African languages 2.3%, other 1.7%

Ethnicity, Language, and Religion

Namibia’s population can be divided into (at least) 11 ethnic groups, the biggest group of which is the Owambo people. The majority of the Namibian population is of Bantu-speaking origin mostly of the Ovambo ethnicity, which forms about half of the population residing mainly in the north of the country, although many are now resident in towns throughout Namibia. Other ethnic groups are the Herero and Himba people, who speak a similar language, and the Damara, who speak the same “click” language as the Nama. In addition to the Bantu majority, there are large groups of Khoisan (such as Nama and San), who are descendants of the original inhabitants of Southern Africa.

The country also contains some descendants of refugees from Angola. There are also two smaller groups of people with mixed racial origins, called “Coloureds” and “Basters”, who together make up 8.0% (with the Coloureds outnumbering the Basters two to one). Whites (mainly of Afrikaner, German, British and Portuguese origin) make up between 4.0 and 7.0% of the population. Although their percentage of the population decreased after independence due to emigration and lower birth rates they still form the second-largest population of European ancestry, both in terms of percentage and actual numbers, in Sub-Saharan Africa (after South Africa).

The Christian community makes up 80%–90% of the population of Namibia, with at least 75% being Protestant, and at least 50% Lutheran. Lutherans are the largest religious group – a legacy of the German and Finnish missionary work during the country’s colonial times. 10%–20% of the population hold indigenous beliefs. Islam in Namibia is subscribed to by about 9,000 Muslims, many of whom are Nama. Namibia is home to a small Jewish community of about 100 members.

According to the 2011 census, the most common languages are Oshiwambo (the most spoken language for 49% of households), Nama/Damara (11.3%), Afrikaans (10.4%), Kavango (9%), Otjiherero (9%). The most widely understood and spoken language is English. Both Afrikaans and English are used primarily as a second language reserved for public communication.

WA_popgraph 2016


The constitution of the new government guaranteed the right to education for all of its citizens. Specifically, free primary education, grades 1-7, and access to secondary education contingent on the success of the student and ability for that student to pay tuition. Along with guaranteeing education as a right, the new constitution abolished the apartheid-style funding system that had previously existed. Between 1990 and the early 2000s, the country made great strides in terms of improving education. Enrollment in primary education increased from 60 to 95 percent. Education in Namibia and Namibia as a whole is dependent on economic development. Its economy is not well-diversified and is far too reliant on the mining industry.

Curriculum development, educational research, and professional development of school teachers are centrally organized by the National Institute for Educational Development (NIED) in Okahandja. Compulsory education starts at the primary education level at an age of 6. Primary education consists of seven years from Grade 1 to Grade 7 to prepare children for secondary education. The Namibian Government introduced free primary education in 2013.

Secondary education stretches over a period of 5 years from Grade 8 to Grade 12. Children are presented with a Junior Secondary School Certificate after successful completion of Grade 10. After successful completion of Grade 12 learners are presented with a Namibia Senior Secondary Education Certificate. This certification can either be the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) or the Higher International General Certificate of Secondary Education (HIGCSE).

Namibia has two public tertiary institutions of general education, the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) and the University of Namibia (UNAM). At NUST admission is based on grade 12 certificate with a maximum of five qualifying subjects with a total score of 25 points or more and a symbol or better in English. At the University of Namibia’s basic requirement for entrance to undergraduate degree programmes is a Namibia Senior Secondary Certificate (NSSC) with a pass in five subjects with a total score of 25 points, on the UNAM evaluation scale, or more in not more than three examination sittings.




Namibia’s economy is heavily dependent on the extraction and processing of minerals for export. Mining accounts for about 12.5% of GDP but provides more than 50% of foreign exchange earnings. The country’s natural mineral riches and a tiny population of about 2.5 million (2016) have made it an upper-middle-income country. Political stability and sound economic management have helped anchor poverty reduction, however, this has not yet been accompanied by job creation, and extreme socio-economic inequalities inherited from the years it was run as under an apartheid system still persist, despite generous public spending on social programs.

Real economic activity contracted 1% in 2017, registering a contraction for four consecutive quarters. The continuation of the fiscal consolidation process led domestic consumption to stall. This process was done mostly through the reduction in the capital expenditures that affected most sectors of the economy, especially construction and tertiary sector activities. The construction activity shrank in 2017 by more than 30% on annual basis. This reflects the base effect from last year due to the completion of the Husab mine, without any additional large construction projects to offset this impact. Within the manufacturing sector, a contraction is also noticed in the electricity production sub-sector because of the closure of two power plants (Van Eck and Paratus) due to regular maintenance.

Namibia is one of the world’s largest producers of uranium. The Chinese-owned Husab uranium mine began producing uranium ore in 2017 and is expected to reach full production in August 2018 and produce 15 million pounds of uranium a year. Namibia also produces large quantities of zinc and is a smaller producer of gold and copper. Namibia’s economy remains vulnerable to world commodity price fluctuations and drought.

A positive signal for the Namibian economy came from the mining and agricultural activities. The mining sector activity increased by more than 15% on annual basis in 2017, due to the higher diamond and uranium production. The diamond production in 2017 has expanded by more than 10% and reflects the base effect from the previous year when some of the offshore diamond extraction vessels were closed due to regular maintenance. The uranium production increased by more than 25% in 2017 and this is mostly a result of the start-up of operation of the Husab mine. The agricultural production also rebounded in 2017 from the previous droughts with a solid growth of 5%.

Namibia’s government continues to exercise the requisite leadership in developing and financing the policies it needs to address its development challenges, policies such as the Harambee Prosperity Plan, and the fifth National Development Plan. Program implementation and delivery of public services lags behind and undermines sound policies.

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$27.02 billion (2017 est.)
$26.81 billion (2016 est.)
$26.52 billion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):
$12.56 billion (2017 est.)

GDP – real growth rate:
0.8% (2017 est.)
1.1% (2016 est.)
6% (2015 est.)

GDP – per capita (PPP):
$11,500 (2017 est.)
$11,500 (2016 est.)
$11,600 (2015 est.)

Gross national saving:
18% of GDP (2017 est.)
11.6% of GDP (2016 est.)
20.9% of GDP (2015 est.)

GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
agriculture: 6.6%
industry: 25.8%
services: 67.6% (2017 est.)

Agriculture – products:
millet, sorghum, peanuts, grapes; livestock; fish

meatpacking, fish processing, dairy products, pasta, beverages; mining (diamonds, lead, zinc, tin, silver, tungsten, uranium, copper)

Population below poverty line:
28.7% (2010 est.)

revenues: $3.967 billion
expenditures: $4.759 billion (2017 est.)



About 70% of the Namibian population depends on agricultural activities for livelihood, mostly in the subsistence sector. Agriculture in Namibia contributes around 5.1% of the GDP of which 70 % represents the output of the livestock sub-sector. Over the years, the sector’s performance has been minimal as a result of among others, low and delayed rainfall experienced in the 2014/15 season led to a drought that is estimated to lead to a contraction in both livestock farming and crop production. Despite the declining or small share contribution to GDP, the sector remains the backbone of the economy and prosperity for many Namibians.

The sector’s significance, largely because of its potential for growth and job creation. As such, agriculture has continued to receive enormous support by the government through support programmes aimed at increasing productivity to ensure food security, the creation of employment and poverty eradication as highlighted in both NDP4 and Harambee Prosperity Plan. The government has devised programs and projects to ensure food security at both the national and household level. In this regard, an agency (AMTA) was established to coordinate and manage the marketing and trading of Agricultural Produce in Namibia through Fresh Produce Business Hubs (FPBH) and National Strategic Food Reserves (NSFR) facilities ensuring high-quality standard to achieve food security.

Despite its arid and semi-arid climate, Namibia is able to produce a variety of crops ranging from cereals, fruits and horticulture products. The horticulture covers fresh agricultural produce including tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, butternuts, beans and groundnuts, dates, grapes, watermelons, span speck, citrus and others under irrigation’s. Cereals crops include maize, pear millet (mahangu), wheat and sunflower. The Namibian livestock sector consists of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, accounting to about 76% of livestock production of the overall agricultural output value of which 70% is from the commercial areas and 6% from communal areas.

Electricity access:
population without electricity: 1,600,000
electrification – total population: 32%
electrification – urban areas: 50%
electrification – rural areas: 17% (2013)
Electricity – production:
1.519 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – consumption:
3.771 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – exports:
88 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – imports:
2.623 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – installed generating capacity:
514,200 kW (2015 est.)
Electricity – from fossil fuels:
30.1% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Electricity – from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)

Telephones – fixed lines:
total subscriptions: 187,853
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 8 (July 2016 est.)
Telephones – mobile cellular:
total: 2,659,951
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 107 (July 2016 est.)
Internet country code:
Internet users:
total: 756,118
percent of population: 31.0% (July 2016 est.)


According to a World Bank report, the industrial sector in Namibia contributed 19.61% to the country’s total GDP for 2010 (2011). The manufacturing sector contributed 14.4 % to GDP; this represents NAD$11.7billion from a total GDP of NAD$81.5 billion. The Industrial sector is Namibia’s second highest employer and employed 22.4% of the total Namibian labor force in 2008. The manufacturing sector as a whole recorded a growth of 9.1 % in 2010 compared to 5.6% in 2009 (Namibia National Planning Commission, 2010).

The main manufacturing activities in Namibia are light industry-based and directly link with the country’s agricultural sector. They include meatpacking, fish processing, and dairy processing. Since Namibia’s independence in 1990, fisheries have become increasingly important to the economy of the country.

Fishing is the third-largest sector of the Namibian economy and has grown considerably in recent years, the value of fish exports are now approximately six times greater than in 1990. Namibia is one of the top 10 fishing countries in the world and has the largest estimated national fish reserves in Southern Africa. Hangana Seafood (Pty) Ltd, is one of the largest fish production companies in Namibia and operates a wet fish factory with the capacity to process between 55 and 70 tonnes of hake per day. In 2013 Hangana Seafood employed roughly 1,200 people.

The diamond production also makes a large contribution to the Namibian economy, with approximately 1.6million carats produced per year. While traditional land-based mining of diamonds still takes place in Namibia this has been largely surpassed by marine diamond recovery, which now accounts for over 60% of Namibia’s total diamond production. The major diamond producing company in Namibia is Namdeb Diamond Corporation (Pty) Ltd.

Exports from Namibia are mainly comprised of diamonds which make up 25% of the country’s total exports. Other exported produce includes uranium, lead, zinc, tin, silver, tungsten, and food products. Over 25% of total exports from Namibia go to South Africa. Europe and the US also major trade partners with the country.

The manufacturing sector in Namibia currently faces many challenges including a lack of skilled workers in the labor market and unfavorable trade practices within the South African Development Community (SADC). In 2010 the Namibian Manufacturing Association (NMA) highlighted these issues as potential concerns to the Namibian economy. The NMA suggested that the approval and implementation of policies and strategies developed to help combat these issues, including the National Export Strategy, Private Sector Development Strategy and Foreign Direct Investment Act, is essential in order to accelerate growth in the manufacturing sector.

Namibia has fallen by six places on the rankings for 2017-18 – down to 90th from 84th in 2016-17. Namibia’s score was also down – 3.99 from 4.02 last year. Namibia ranks highly for its institutions (44th), infrastructure (67th), financial market development (50th), and labour market efficiency (33rd) but is rated poorly for the quality of its higher education (111th), health and primary education (110th), business sophistication (87th), technological readiness (89th), macroeconomic environment (107th), and market size (111th).



Banking and Finance

Namibia has one of the most sophisticated, diverse, and developed financial systems in Africa. Most of the country’s financial institutions are privately owned and maintain strong links with South African institutions. The financial sector seems to have come out of the financial crisis in relatively good shape. The Bank of Namibia successfully migrated to the Basel II as a regulatory standard for capital adequacy in January 2010. Accordingly, all banking institutions in Namibia have since implemented the Standardized Approach for the measurements and calculation of capital charges for credit, operational and market risks.

The performance of the financial system has been shaped by the structural characteristics of the economy. Namibia suffers from very high economic inequality and from a huge disparity between its formal and informal sectors. The financial system serves the formal sector very well but has been unable to achieve a satisfactory level of access for the urban poor and the rural population. Owing to limited domestic investment opportunities, institutional investors invest heavily overseas. In addition, Namibia seems to have an acute deficit of skilled financial professionals. Given the structure of the economy, solutions to the policy challenges facing the financial sector go beyond the sector itself and include “real” sector policies such as education, land reform, and rural development.

The banking system consists of four private commercial banks and three specialized banks, including the Agribank, Nampost Savings Bank and the Development Bank of Namibia, Banks dominate the financial system with a share of nearly 40 of total assets, while pension funds accounted for about 35 percent and insurance companies for a further 20 percent.

Close ties with South Africa have significantly benefited financial institutions but also entail some risks.
Benefits include:
(i) access to regional and global financial markets that enable pension funds and insurance companies to diversify their risks;
(ii) more efficient capital allocation within the Common Monetary Area (CMA);
(iii) strong ownership ties and common good practices with reputable financial institutions in South Africa which help mitigate weaknesses in domestic supervision and regulation (see below) as well as limited domestic skills;
(iv) a peg that provides predictability in the exchange rate.

Nevertheless, there are possible risks that need to be managed including
(i) limited avenue for independent monetary and financial policies given the CMA;
(ii) more limited options for global diversification given the need to conform to South African exchange control practices for countries outside the CMA; and
(iii) the possibility that shocks in South Africa can be quickly propagated to Namibia.


Tourism is a major contributor (14.5%) to Namibia’s GDP, creating tens of thousands of jobs (18.2% of all employment) directly or indirectly and servicing over a million tourists per year. The country is a prime destination in Africa and is known for ecotourism which features Namibia’s extensive wildlife.

There are many lodges and reserves to accommodate eco-tourists. Sports hunting is also a large, and growing component of the Namibian economy, accounting for 14% of total tourism in the year 2000, or $19.6 million US dollars, with Namibia boasting numerous species sought after by international sports hunters. In addition, extreme sports such as sandboarding, skydiving, and 4x4ing have become popular, and many cities have companies that provide tours.  The most visited places include the capital city of Windhoek, Caprivi Strip, Fish River Canyon, Sossusvlei, the Skeleton Coast Park, Sesriem, Etosha Pan and the coastal towns of Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, and Lüderitz.

Major Attraction

Windhoek, the capital, and biggest city is the main entry point for people flying into the country, usually at Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport, the main hub for Air Namibia. Important tourist sites in Windhoek include the Tintenpalast, Windhoek Country Club Resort. Zoo Park and other places. Windhoek also has the first five-star hotel in the country known as Hilton Windhoek.

Walvis Bay, as the fourth biggest town in Namibia, is host to the main part of the country, as well as the Walvis Bay International Airport. Geographically the town is uniquely situated, as it is the meeting place of extreme landscapes – on the one side the Namib desert, the oldest desert in the world, and on the other side a massive lagoon and harbor flowing from the Atlantic Ocean. Both of these landscapes lend themselves towards some of the most unusual sight-seeing opportunities in Namibia.

Swakopmund is a beach resort and an example of German colonial architecture. It was founded in 1892 as the main harbor for German South-West Africa. Attractions include spectacular sand dunes near Langstrand south of the Swakop River. The city is known for extreme sports. Nearby is a farm that offers camel rides to tourists and the Martin Luther steam locomotive, dating from 1896 and abandoned in the desert.

Namibia has many prominent National Parks, the oldest, most visited and best known is Etosha National Park. Other national parks in Namibia include Namib-Naukluft, Skeleton Coast, Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park with Fish River Canyon and Ai-Ais Hot Springs and Waterberg Plateau Park.


  • Pre-history

    History of Namibia – First Settlements 25 000 B.C. the first humans lived in the Huns Mountains As early as 25 000 B.C., the first humans lived in the Huns Mountains in the South of Namibia. The painted stone plates that exist from that time not only prove that these settlements existed, they also belong among the oldest works of art in the world. A fragment of a hominoid jaw, estimated to be thirteen Million years old, was found in the Otavi Mountains. Findings of Stone Age weapons and tools are further proof that a long time ago early humans already hunted the wild animals of the region.

    Rock paintings in the Brandberg Mountains In the Brandberg Mountains, there are numerous rock paintings, most of them originating from around 2000 B.C. There is no reliable indication as to which ethnic groups created them. It is dubitable whether the San (Bushmen), who alongside the Damara are the oldest ethnic group in Namibia, were the creators of these paintings. The Nama only settled in southern Africa and southern Namibia during the first century B.C. In contrast to the San and Damara, they lived on the livestock they bred themselves.

    The dry lands of Namibia were inhabited since early times by San, Damara, and Nama. From about the 14th century, immigrating Bantu people arrived during the Bantu expansion from central Africa. The first agriculturalists and iron workers of definite Bantu-speaking origin in southern Africa belonged to the Gokomere culture. They settled the temperate savannah and cooler uplands of Zimbabwe and were the first occupants of the Great Zimbabwe site, in the southeastern part of modern-day Zimbabwe, where a well-sheltered valley presented an obvious place to settle. Cattle ranching became the mainstay of the community and earlier hunting-and-gathering San groups either retreated to the west or were enslaved and/or absorbed.

    At the same time, the San communities were also coming under pressure from Khoi-Khoi (the ancestors of the Nama), who probably entered the region from the south. The Khoi-Khoi were organized loosely into tribes and raised livestock. They gradually displaced the San, becoming the dominant group in the region until around 1500. During the 16th century, the Herero arrived in Namibia from the Zambezi Valley and occupied the north and west of the country. As ambitious pastoralists, they inevitably came into conflict with the Khoi-Khoi over the best grazing lands and water sources. Eventually, given their superior strength and numbers, nearly all the indigenous Namibian groups submitted to the Herero.

  • European Contact

    During the 17th century the Herero, a pastoral, nomadic people keeping cattle, moved into Namibia. They came from the East African lakes and entered Namibia from the northwest. First, they resided in Kaokoland, but in the middle of the 19th century, some tribes moved farther south and into Damaraland. A number of tribes remained in Kaokoland: these were the Himba people, who are still there today. During the German occupation of South West Africa, about one-third of the population was wiped out in a genocide that continues to provoke widespread indignation. An apology was sought in more recent times.

    The first Europeans to disembark and explore the region were the Portuguese navigators Diogo Cão in 1485 and Bartolomeu Dias in 1486, but the Portuguese crown did not try to claim the area. Like most of interior Sub-Saharan Africa, Namibia was not extensively explored by Europeans until the 19th century. At that time traders and settlers came principally from Germany and Sweden. In the late 19th century, Dorsland Trekkers crossed the area on their way from the South African Republic to Angola. Some of them settled in Namibia instead of continuing their journey.

    Because Namibia has one of the world’s most barren and inhospitable coastlines, it was largely ignored by the European nations until relatively recently. The first European visitors were Portuguese mariners seeking a route to the Indies in the late 15th century, but they confined their activities to erecting stone crosses at certain points as navigational aids.
    It wasn’t until the last-minute scramble for colonies towards the end of the 19th century that Namibia was annexed by Germany (except for the enclave of Walvis Bay, which was taken in 1878 by the British for the Cape Colony).

    From the late 18th century onwards, Oorlam people from Cape Colony crossed the Orange River and moved into the area that today is southern Namibia. Their encounters with the nomadic Nama tribes were largely peaceful. The missionaries accompanying the Oorlam were well received by them, the right to use waterholes and grazing was granted against an annual payment. On their way further northwards, however, the Oorlam encountered clans of the Herero at Windhoek, Gobabis, and Okahandja, who resisted their encroachment. The Nama-Herero War broke out in 1880, with hostilities ebbing only after the German Empire deployed troops to the contested places and cemented the status quo among the Nama, Oorlam, and Herero.

  • Colonial German

    The first territorial claim on a part of Namibia came when Britain occupied Walvis Bay, confirming the settlement of 1797, and permitted the Cape Colony to annex it in 1878. The annexation was an attempt to forestall German ambitions in the area, and it also guaranteed control of the good deepwater harbor on the way to the Cape Colony and other British colonies on Africa’s east coast. In 1883, a German trader, Adolf Lüderitz, bought Angra Pequena from the Nama chief Josef Frederiks II. Believing that Britain was soon about to declare the whole area a protectorate, Lüderitz advised the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck to claim it. In 1884 Bismarck did so, thereby establishing German South West Africa as a colony.

    A region, the Caprivi Strip, became a part of German South West Africa after the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty on 1 July 1890, between the United Kingdom and Germany. The Caprivi Strip in Namibia gave Germany access to the Zambezi River and thereby to German colonies in East Africa. In exchange for the island of Heligoland in the North Sea, Britain took control of the island of Zanzibar in East Africa. Soon after declaring Lüderitz and a vast area along the Atlantic coast a German protectorate, German troops were deployed as conflicts with the native tribes flared up, most significantly with the Namaqua. Under the leadership of the tribal chief Hendrik Witbooi, the Namaqua put up a fierce resistance to the German occupation. The Namaqua’s resistance proved to be unsuccessful, however, and in 1894 Witbooi was forced to sign a “protection treaty” with the Germans.

    Being the only German colony considered suitable for white settlement at the time, Namibia attracted a large influx of German settlers. In 1903 there were 3,700 Germans living in the area, and by 1910 their number had increased to 13,000. Another reason for German settlement was the discovery of diamonds in 1908. Diamond production continues to be a very important part of Namibia’s economy. The settlers were encouraged by the government to expropriate land from the natives, and forced labor hard to distinguish from slavery – was used. As a result, relations between the German settlers and the natives deteriorated.

    From 1904 to 1907, the Herero and the Namaqua took up arms against brutal German colonialism. In a calculated punitive action by the German occupiers, what has been called the ‘first genocide of the Twentieth Century’ was committed, as government officials ordered extinction of the natives. In the Herero and Namaqua genocide, the Germans systematically killed 10,000 Nama (half the population) and approximately 65,000 Herero (about 80% of the population). The survivors, when finally released from detention, were subjected to a policy of dispossession, deportation, forced labor, racial segregation, and discrimination in a system that in many ways anticipated the apartheid established by South Africa in 1948.

  • Herero Wars

    During the Scramble for Africa, South West Africa was claimed by Germany in August 1884. At that time, it was the only overseas German territory deemed suitable for white settlement. German colonists arriving in the following years occupied large areas of land, ignoring any claims by the Herero, Namaqua, and other natives. There was continual resistance by the natives. At the beginning of the war the Herero, under the leadership of chief Samuel Maharero had the upper hand. With good knowledge of the terrain, they had little problem in defending themselves against the Schutztruppe (initially numbering only 766). Soon the Namaqua people joined the war, again under the leadership of Hendrik Witbooi.

    To cope with the situation, Germany sent 14,000 additional troops who soon crushed the rebellion in the Battle of Waterberg in 1904. Earlier von Trotha issued an ultimatum to the Herero, denying them citizenship rights and ordering them to leave the country or be killed. In order to escape, the Herero retreated into the waterless Omaheke region, a western arm of the Kalahari Desert, where many of them died of thirst. The German forces guarded every water source and were given orders to shoot any adult male Herero on sight. Only a few of them managed to escape into neighboring British territories. These tragic events, known as the Herero and Namaqua Genocide, resulted in the death of between 24,000 and 65,000 Herero (estimated at 50% to 70% of the total Herero population) and 10,000 Nama (50% of the total Nama population). The genocide was characterized by widespread death by starvation and from consumption of well water which had been poisoned by the Germans in the Namib Desert.

    In October 1904, General Lothar von Trotha issued orders to kill every male Herero and drive women and children into the desert. As soon as the news of this order reached Germany, it was repealed,[citation needed] but Trotha initially ignored Berlin. When the extermination order was finally suspended at the end of 1904, surviving tribesmen were herded into concentration camps, while others were transferred as slave labor to German businesses; many Herero died of overwork and malnutrition. It took the Germans until 1908 to re-establish authority over the territory. By that time tens of thousands of Africans estimates range from 34,000 to 110,000 had been either killed or died of thirst while fleeing. 65,000 of 80,000 Hereros and at least 10,000 of 20,000 Nama.

  • South African rule

    In 1915, during World War I, British and South African forces occupied it in the so-called South West Africa Campaign. South African troops under General Louis Botha occupied the territory and deposed the German colonial administration. The end of the war and the Treaty of Versailles left South Africa in possession of South West Africa as a League of Nations mandate. The mandate system was formed as a compromise between those who advocated an Allied annexation of former German and Turkish territories, and another proposition put forward by those who wished to grant them to an international trusteeship until they could govern themselves. It permitted the South African government to administer South-West Africa for an undefined period until that territory’s inhabitants were prepared for political self-determination. However, South Africa interpreted the mandate as a veiled annexation and made no attempt to prepare South West Africa for future autonomy.

    In February 1917, Mandume Ya Ndemufayo, the last king of the Kwanyama of Ovamboland, was killed in a joint[clarification needed] attack by South African forces for resisting South African sovereignty over his people. On 17 December 1920, South Africa undertook the administration of South West Africa under the terms of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations and a Class C Mandate agreement by the League Council. The Class C mandate, supposed to be used for the least developed territories, gave South Africa full power of administration and legislation over the territory but required that South Africa promote the material and moral well-being and social progress of the people.

    Following the League’s supersession by the United Nations in 1946, South Africa refused to surrender its earlier mandate to be replaced by a United Nations Trusteeship agreement, requiring closer international monitoring of the territory’s administration. Although the South African government wanted to incorporate South West Africa into its territory, it never officially did so, although it was administered as the de facto ‘fifth province’, with the white minority having representation in the whites-only Parliament of South Africa. In 1959, the colonial forces in Windhoek sought to remove black residents further away from the white area of town. The residents protested and the subsequent killing of eleven protesters spawned a major Namibian nationalist following and the formation of united black opposition to the South African rule.

    During the late 1950s and early 1960s, pressure for global decolonization and national self-determination began mounting on the African continent; these factors had a radical impact on South West African nationalism. Early nationalist organizations such as the South West African National Union (SWANU) and South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) made determined attempts to establish indigenous political structures for an independent South West Africa. In 1966, following the ICJ’s controversial ruling that it had no legal standing to consider the question of the South African rule, SWAPO launched an armed insurgency which escalated into part of a wider regional conflict known as the South African Border War.

  • Struggle for Independence

    Forced labor had been a lot of most Namibians since the German annexation. This was one of the main factors that led to mass demonstrations and the development of nationalism in the late 1950s. Around this time, a number of political parties were formed and strikes organized. By 1960 most of these parties had merged to form the South West Africa People’s Organization (Swapo), which took the issue of South African occupation to the International Court of Justice. The outcome was inconclusive, but in 1966 the UN General Assembly voted to terminate South Africa’s mandate and set up a Council for South West Africa (in 1973 renamed the Commission for Namibia) to administer the territory. At the same time, Swapo launched its campaign of guerrilla warfare. The South African government reacted by firing on demonstrators and arresting thousands of activists.

    In 1975 the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) was officially established. Formed from a combination of white political interests and ethnic parties, it turned out to be a toothless debating chamber, which spent much of its time in litigation with the South African government over its scope of responsibility. The DTA was dissolved in 1983 after it had indicated it would accommodate members of Swapo. It was replaced by the Multiparty Conference, which had even less success and quickly disappeared. And so control of Namibia passed back to the South African–a­ppointed administrator-general.

    The failure of these attempts to set up an internal government did not deter South Africa from maintaining its grip on Namibia. It refused to negotiate on a UN-supervised programme for Namibian independence until the estimated 19, 000 Cuban troops were removed from neighboring Angola. In response, Swapo intensified its guerrilla campaign. In the end, however, it might not have been the activities of Swapo alone or international sanctions that forced the South Africans to the negotiating table. The white Namibian population itself was growing tired of the war and the economy was suffering badly.

    The stage was finally set for negotiations on the country’s future. Under the watch of the UN, the USA and the USSR, a deal was struck between Cuba, Angola, South Africa and Swapo, in which Cuban troops would be removed from Angola and South African troops from Namibia. This would be followed by UN-monitored elections held in November 1989 on the basis of universal suffrage. Swapo collected a clear majority of the votes but an insufficient number to give it the sole mandate to write the new constitution. Following negotiations between the various parties, a constitution was adopted in February 1990. Independence was granted the following month under the presidency of the Swapo leader, Sam Nujoma. Initially, his policies focused on programs of reconstruction and national reconciliation to heal the wounds left by 25 years of armed struggle.

  • Independent Namibia

    On March 21, 1990, the South African flag was lowered and Namibia’s raised at the National Stadium; Namibia subsequently joined the Commonwealth, the UN, and the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union). Diplomatic relations were established with many countries. The Namibian Defense Force—which included members of PLAN as well as the former South West African Territory Force—was created with the assistance of British military advisers.

    Since independence, Namibia has successfully completed the transition from white minority apartheid rule to parliamentary democracy. Multiparty democracy was introduced and has been maintained, with local, regional and national elections held regularly. Several registered political parties are active and represented in the National Assembly, although the SWAPO has won every election since independence. The transition from the 15-year rule of President Sam Nujoma to his successor Hifikepunye Pohamba in 2005 went smoothly.

    In 2004 the world watched warily to see if Nujoma would cling to the office of power for a fourth term, and an almost audible sigh of relief could be heard in Namibia when he announced that he would finally be stepping down in favor of his chosen successor Hifikepunye Pohamba. Like Sam Nujoma, Pohamba is a Swapo veteran and swept to power with nearly 77% of the vote. He leaves behind the land ministry where he presided over one of Namibia’s most controversial schemes – the expropriation of land from white farmers to black citizens.

    Presidential and parliamentary elections were held on November 28, 2014. With Pohamba barred from standing for a third term as president, Prime Minister Hage Geingob was SWAPO’s presidential candidate. Geingob won easily, with 86.73 percent of the vote, and SWAPO won an overwhelming majority in the parliamentary vote. Geingob was inaugurated on March 21, 2015, which was Namibia’s 25th anniversary of independence.