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Introduction to Country Context

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Situated on the south-western Atlantic coast of the African continent, Namibia borders Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A large part of the country is covered by two of Africa’s largest deserts: the Namib to the west and the Kalahari to the east.

Namibia map.png
Africa Namibia map.png

The climate is mainly arid and semi‐arid with sparse and erratic rainfall. Environmental concerns include desertification, recurring drought and floods, depletion of natural resources, loss of biodiversity, decline of water quality, pollution from solid and domestic waste, and aquatic acidification. Repeated drought and floods have seriously affected the food security of mainly rural populations as successive harvests have been destroyed.

Floods in 2009 and 2010 led to severe water-logging and affected over 300 000 people.[1] According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and the World Food Programme Crops, livestock and food security assessment mission to Namibia,163 000 people in the north‐eastern and central regions of the country are food insecure.

Nationally, 92% of households have access to an improved source of drinking water, but 12% of the rural population obtains water from unimproved sources.[2]

According to the latest United Nations Children's Fund figures, only 17% of rural households do not use improved sanitation facilities.[2]

Namibia is sparsely populated with its inhabitants spread over a wide area, often beyond the reach of road infrastructure and basic services. The surface area of Namibia is 824 116 square kilometres and the population is 2 324 000,[3] giving a population density of 2.8 persons per km2. The majority of the population lives in rural areas. According to 2009 figures, the fertility rate is 3.3, and life expectancy is 62.[2] The percentage of households in rural areas with orphans and fostered children is 38%.[4]

Despite its small population, Namibia has a rich diversity of ethnic groups, including Afrikaners, Basters, Coloured, Damaras, Germans, Hereros, Namas, Ovambos, Sans, Tswanas and others. English is the official language. Other languages spoken are Afrikaans, Herero, Oshiwambo, Otjjiherero, Khoekhoegowab (Damara/Nama, Khoisan), Rukwangali, Setswana, Silozi and others. Namibia is a secular state but over 90% of population is Christian. The adult literacy rate 2005–2008 was 88%.[2]

Before independence, Namibia was ravaged by war, social and economic discrimination, and racial and ethnic enmity. Since gaining independence in 1990, the country has enjoyed a stable multiparty democracy based on the rule of law. Checks and balances are exercised through the State organs of the executive, legislative and judiciary. General, presidential, regional and local elections are held every 5 years. There are 13 political regions and 33 administrative districts.

The policy of reconciliation has greatly helped create a harmonious society. The policy of affirmative action strives to remove the inherited inequity in employment opportunities and socioeconomic status. Social initiatives such as protection of human rights, access to health, education and training are being pursued vigorously to remove enormous social deficits.

The Namibian dollar (N$) is pegged 1:1 to the South African rand. Namibia’s main exports are primary commodities (e.g. diamond, uranium and gold). The gross national income per capita in 2009 was US$ 4310 and the country is classified as an upper middle‐income country by the World Bank.[2] This masks serious socioeconomic inequalities, with a very high Gini coefficient of 0.74[5] and an unemployment rate of 51.2% in 2008.[6]

Vision 2030 aims to transform Namibia into an industrialized nation and reverse a colonial legacy of income inequality and poverty.

The Third National Development Plan (NDP 3) 2007/08‐2011/12 translates Vision 2030 objectives into concrete policies and actions; the main theme is “accelerated economic growth and deepening rural development”.


  1. Disaster assistance: Namibia. United States Agency for International Development
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Namibia statistics. United Nations Children's Fund
  3. Namibia country profile: human development indicators. United Nations Development Programme
  4. Namibia Demographic and Health Survey 2006-07 (pdf 2.6Mb). Windhoek, Ministry of Health and Social Services; and Calverton, Maryland, Macro International, 2008
  5. United Nations Development Programme, 2007
  6. Field Listing: unemployment rate. CIA world factbook. Washington DC,Central Intelligence Agency