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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Profile

Area: 824,269 sq. km
Population: 2,130,000 (2008 census)
Capital city: Windhoek
People: 12 major indigenous ethnic groups, including the San;small white (primarily German, Afrikaans and English-speaking) minorities
Languages: English (official), Afrikaans, German; several indigenous languages
Religion(s): predominantly Christian
Currency: Namibian dollar (pegged to the South African rand)
Major political parties: South West Africa Peoples Organisation (SWAPO), Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), National Unity Democratic Organisation (NUDO)
Head of State: President Hifikepunye Pohamba
Membership of international groupings/organisations: Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union (AU), Non-Aligned Movement, Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), United Nations, Commonwealth.

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ECONOMY

Basic economic facts

GDP: US$13.518bn (2010)
Annual growth: 6.6% (2010)
Inflation: 5.3% (September 2011)
Major industries: mineral production, tourism, fishing, game and cattle ranching
Major trading partners: South Africa, UK, Angola, Spain, Japan, China, USA
For historical and other reasons, the Namibian economy is dominated by South Africa, with (or through) which 80% of its trade is conducted. The UK is Namibia’s second largest export destination, receiving approximately 16% of all Namibian exports. Namibia is unduly dependant on diamonds, uranium and zinc, which provide over half of the country's exports. Major economic challenges facing the Government include reducing the public sector budget deficit, increasing efficiency and creating jobs (unemployment is estimated at 51%). A relatively high per capita GDP conceals wide economic disparities, many of which were inherited from apartheid. There are good prospects for economic diversification in fields like tourism, fisheries and manufacturing, but none has the potential on its own to significantly reduce unemployment. The Government is encouraging foreign investment in order to develop a diverse economy that alleviates both unemployment and chronic rural poverty.

Land is an important issue. There are some 5,000 commercial farmers in the country. Since 1990, the Government has purchased farms on the 'willing-buyer willing-seller' principle, and redistributed the land to landless families. In 2004, a new policy to speed up land transfer was announced. This was further amended in 2010, making selling to the Government easier and more attractive for commercial farmers.

International Monetary Fund - Namibia (http://www.imf.org/external/country/NAM/)

World Bank - Namibia (http://lnweb18.worldbank.org/AFR/afr.nsf/0/2082903994783c8b852567d100436228?OpenDocument)

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HISTORY

Germany declared a protectorate over the area in 1884. Colonial settlement provoked a series of uprisings at the beginning of the 20th century, in which the Herero and the Nama peoples were almost wiped out. During the First World War South Africa, in pursuit of its own colonial ambitions, invaded and occupied German South-West Africa and was awarded a League of Nations Mandate. The territory was administered as a de facto South African colony; many Afrikaners settled there and, after 1948, elements of apartheid were introduced.

The UN terminated South Africa's Mandate in 1966. One year later, the UN changed the name of the territory from South West Africa to Namibia. In 1971, the International Court of Justice declared in a landmark advisory opinion that South Africa's presence in the territory was 'illegal' and that it should withdraw. South Africa ignored the Court. Angola's independence in late 1975 created the opportunity for SWAPO, which was founded in 1960, to step up its armed struggle for independence from bases in neighbouring Angola. A UN Plan for Namibian independence was adopted in 1978. But, fearful of 'communist' domination of the region, South Africa refused to implement its terms for another decade. Finally, in 1988, under US pressure and after a series of major cross-border campaigns by the South African military (ostensibly intended to destroy SWAPO bases) the South Africans conceded independence in return for a Cuban withdrawal from Angola. In the pre-independence election to the Constituent Assembly, SWAPO won 41 of the 72 seats. This body drew up the independence constitution, elected Sam Nujoma to be the country's first President, and became Namibia's first National Assembly when formal independence was achieved on 21 March 1990. Namibia joined the Commonwealth on the same day.

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Namibia has good relations regionally and internationally. There has been occasional friction with Botswana over disputed territorial boundaries, and the presence of Caprivi separatists (who fled Namibia after a failed 'uprising' in 1998) on the latter's territory. Relations with the Angolan Government are particularly close because of the latter's considerable support for SWAPO during the liberation struggle. SWAPO's - and especially ex-president Nujoma's - publicly-expressed sympathy with Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe is another relic of liberation struggle solidarity. The Namibian Defence Force participated in the unofficial, Zimbabwe-led SADC intervention in the DRC in 1997, and has sent small contingents to UN peacekeeping operations in Cambodia, Angola and Liberia.

South African Development Community (http://www.sadc.int/)
African Union (http://www.africa-union.org/)

Namibia's relations with the UK

Namibia-UK relations are good.

Cultural relations with the UK

The British Council is the focal point for cultural relations between Britain and Namibia.

British Council - Namibia (http://www.britishcouncil.org/namibia.htm)

Policy

For recent statements of UK policy towards Namibia see Hansard website (http://www.parliament.uk/hansard/hansard.cfm) (enter 'Namibia' in search engine).

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GEOGRAPHY

Namibia is bordered on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and shares land borders with South Africa, Botswana and Angola. The northeastern Caprivi Strip also connects it to Zambia and Zimbabwe. The climate varies from arid in the west, to semi-arid and sub-humid in the central and northeastern regions. There are frequent prolonged periods of drought. Rainfall is largely confined to the summer months (November to March). Due to the nutrient-rich Benguela Current, flowing from the Antarctic and the source of Namibia's rich fishing, the country's coastline is cooler than the rest of the country, with frequent sea fog. Namibia is well known for its diversity of plants and wildlife.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Trade and investment with the UK

Recent trends suggest that various sectors in Namibia are increasing, including tourism. Trade (diamonds, beef, table grapes) and investment (mining) are also increasing. The UK is Namibia’s second largest export market. British direct exports of goods and services to Namibia in 2009 amounted to £23 million. UK imports of goods and services from Namibia for 2009 were valued at £115 million. The main British investor in Namibia is Rio Tinto which owns 69% of the Rössing uranium mine. Namibia is the fourth largest producer of uranium. There are potential opportunities in the oil and gas sector as exploration (although not large scale extraction) off Namibia’s coast.

UKTI country profile - Namibia (https://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/appmanager/ukti/countries?_nfls=false&_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=CountryType1&navigationPageId=/namibia)

Development

Namibia has one of the highest rates (22.5%) of HIV infection in the world, and it is the single biggest cause of death in the country. Access to education and health-care is uneven (a legacy of apartheid); there are good facilities available, but not in rural or poor urban areas.

The UK’s Department for International Development has an ongoing programme of supporting UNICEF’s work with Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) in Namibia, worth about US$1 million per year. Namibia is also included in DFID's Southern Africa regional work on HIV/AIDS. In addition to its direct spending, DFID contributes about £1 million per year through the EU development programme in Namibia.

Department for International Development work in Namibia (http://www.dfid.gov.uk/countries/africa/namibia.asp)

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POLITICS

The Namibian Constitution, which came into force in March 1990, provides for a unitary state with a democratic multi-party system, executive power shared between the President and Cabinet, a limit to presidential tenure of two five-year terms, an elected 72-member National Assembly with a five year term, and a 26-member National Council, composed of two members from each of the 13 Regional Councils, with a six-year term.

SWAPO has dominated Namibian politics since independence. In all post-independence elections (1994, 1999, 2004 and 2009), the SWAPO President has consistently taken just over 75% of the vote, with SWAPO securing a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Nujoma handed over to his successor, Hifikepunye Pohamba, in March 2005. In November 2009, Pohamba won a second term with 75% of the vote. His closest rival was the RDP’s Hidipo Hamutenya who won 11% of the vote. In the parliamentary elections, SWAPO took 54 seats, and the RDP (taking over from CoD - the Congress of Democrats - as the official opposition) took eight seats. DTA and Nudo came joint third with two seats each, while six other parties have one seat each. The opposition is splintered by ethnic rivalries. Part of SWAPO's success can be ascribed to its Ovambo support base (the Ovambo represent a fraction over half of the Namibian population). But notwithstanding former President Nujoma’s increasing tendency to stray from the party line when speaking out on various subjects (including sexual orientation and colonialism), Pohamba’s record indicates SWAPO continues along a pragmatic policy course.

BBC Country Information on Namibia (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/country_profiles/1063245.stm)

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Partly as a result of achieving independence relatively late, Namibia's constitution is often regarded as a model of up to date legislation. It includes a list of 'fundamental rights and freedoms', and strictures against discrimination of any kind, as well as provision for independent entities - such as an Ombudsman - to protect human rights. There is a flourishing NGO community involved in political and civic education. But, notwithstanding a relatively benign environment, there are some challenges to human rights in Namibia. Key human rights problems reported in recent years include political intolerance, excessive force by security forces during arrests and detention, lengthy pre-trial detention, long delays during trials, and discrimination against women and indigenous peoples. Although some concerns persist, the direction of travel is considered positive and Namibia may still be regarded as one of the best-performing countries on human rights in Africa.

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Last Updated: November 2011

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