About Namibia

Geography

Namibia is a land of wonderful contrasts – the icy Benguela current sweeps up its western shore, home to an abundance of fish life. Ghostly fog floats from the shore to lie suspended over the brooding Namib Desert, providing much needed moisture to desert-adapted flora and fauna.

Further south, the ochre dunes of Sossusvlei- highest dunes in the world, cast a fiery glow at sunset against a cobalt sky. The Fish River Canyon, second in size only to the Grand Canyon, bears among its crevaces and strata secrets to bygone millennia. Windhoek, the capital is an attractive and bustling city, framed by the towering Auas and Eros Mountains.

The haunting Skeleton Coast hides shipwrecks in its misty waters and crumbling bones in its sandy shores, while the well-adapted desert elephants and rhinos roam the rocky hills of Damaraland and Kaokoveld further to the north. Revel in the game-rich Etosha Park or follow the meandering Zambezi and Chobe Rivers through the Caprivi Strip, home to glorious sunsets, vast elephant populations and honking hippos.

Climate

Namibia’s climate is typical of semi-desert terrain, hot days and cool nights. The coastal regions are cooled by the cold Benguela current, causing fog and inhibiting rainfall. Over the central plateau in the country which is higher up, temperatures are understandably lower.

With 300 days of sunshine on average per year, Namibia is truly a sunny place. Only during the summer months from November to February does rain occur, mostly as heavy thunderstorms. Then the usually dry riverbeds become saturated with torrents of muddy water in a very short time. It is during this time that the sun-scorched land comes to life and develops a colourful horizon to horizon floral carpet within a few days. The interior enjoys two rainy seasons: the short season is between October and December, marked by frequent thunderstorms. The longer season is from mid-January to April.

Summer is from October to April. Temperatures can reach 40o C which plummet at night to cool levels. Average daily temperatures range from 20 to 34o C. Winter is from May to September with wonderful warm days which are contrasted by very cold nights, when temperatures often drop to below freezing.Namibia enjoys an average of 300 sunny days a year and the main camps in Etosha National Park are open all year round. The best time for visiting the Namib desert is from May – September when temperatures are cooler – note however the nights can get cold. Swakopmund is a popular seaside resort especially over Christmas and Easter so advance bookings or avoiding those times should be considered. In the Fish River Canyon area some of the camps may close from November until mid-March mainly due to high temperatures.

Fauna

The country has an abundance of animal species. Some of these species are rare to sight, given either their nature or limited population.

Sighting a “Black Zebra” in Etosha is spectacular given the fact that it is a genetic “kick-back” that causes their unique appearance.

Black Face Impala are only found in the North Western region of country. Other unique species to sight include Honey Badgers, Wild Dogs, Sable Antelope, Pangolins and desert dwelling moles.

Some species are not rare, although through unique adaptations they are unique in their own right. Some of these include desert-adapted elephants and giraffe. Desert river-dwelling lions and jackals that survive solely of nutrients gained from scavenging seal colonies at the Skeleton Coast.

Big game:
Elephant, Lion, Rhino, Buffalo,
Cheetah, Leopard, Giraffe, Antelope
20 species of antelope
240 species of mammals (14 endemic)
250 species of reptiles
50 species of frogs
about 630 species of birds

Flora

Namibia has about 200 endemic plant species, 4,300 higher plant species and 422 grass species within the 14 vegetation zones, ranging from several variations of desert vegetation to semi-desert, mopane, mountain, thorn bush, highland, dwarf shrub, camel thorn and mixed tree and shrub savannahs and the forest savannahs and woodlands of the north east. A desert plant that has caused much interest amongst botanists worldwide is the living fossil, Welwitschia mirabilis, endemic to the Namib Desert and one of the oldest plants known to man. Lithops also known as Stone Flowers or Bushmens Buttocks are one of the many small succulents that hide in the arid regions, as well as sensitive Lichens.

Typical trees found in the north are:
Mopane, terminalia, marula, giant figs, baobabs, makalani palms and commercially exploitable timber species, Tamboti and Transvaal teak.

Common trees of the arid central and southern regions:
Kokerboom or quiver tree, Aloe dichotoma, Species of the Leadwood tree, Combretum imberbe and various species of Commiphora. Many of these species are perceived holy by local cultures.

Other plants like the Devel’s Claw and Hoodia are making medicinal break-throughs in the health industry.

Reed Data Book of Namibian Plants

Many spectacular species can only be seen when specific weather conditions persist in the arid regions, some of those species are unidentified or only seen in as much as fifteen year cycles.
120 species of trees
200 endemic plant species
100 species of lichen

 

Economy

Read More: Namibia Economy 2006 Overview

The Namibian economy rests on four pillars: mining, agriculture, fishery and tourism.

Mining generates about one third of the gross domestic product and the biggest portion of the income in foreign currency. Namibia is very rich in natural resources with some minerals occurring exclusively under Namibian soil. Out of a great variety of minerals, mainly diamonds, uranium, gold, silver, zinc, copper, lead, tin, marble and granite as well as semi-precious stones are being mined. Almost half of the revenue brought in from the export of mining products comes from diamonds alone. The company Namdeb – which partially belongs to the government as well as the South African De Beers group – runs big mining operations in Oranjemund and in Elizabeth Bay near Luederitz and produces over a million carats of diamonds annually.

The second-most important economic sector is agriculture. It only generates a small part of the GDP, but more than half of all the jobs are to be found in agriculture: characterised by poor wages. The approximate 4000 farms belong mostly to white farmers who farm cattle and sheep extensively and export the meat to South Africa. Some farms are successfully producing ostrich meat, mainly for export.

Due to the arid conditions in most parts of the country, crop-farming is found mainly in the Otavi/Tsumeb region, near Mariental at the Hardap Dam and – as subsistence farming – in the former Ovamboland region around Oshakati, where mainly millet and maize are being cultivated.

The Namibian waters are teeming in fish. In the seventies they were illegally overfished by foreign fishing fleets. But in 1990, Namibia proclaimed a 200-seamile-zone where only Namibian companies are allowed to fish. Since then the Namibian fishing industry – fish-processing and canneries included – has developed into an important economic contributor with good growth rates. It employs more than 15000 people, mainly in Walvis Bay and Luederitz. The largest portion of the catch is exported, mainly to Spain and Japan.

The tourism sector also registers a considerable growth rate since the Namibian independence. The annual number of visitors is nearing the one-million mark. A third of the visitors come from South Africa. The Germans hold the second place, followed by the British, Italians and French. Part of the state revenue from tourism flows into nature conservation.

The processing industry is of minor importance in Namibia. Besides canned meat and fish, beer and soft drinks, only raw materials are produced and exported. Almost all consumables and machinery have to be imported, mostly from South Africa, upon which Namibia is economically dependent. The Namibian currency, the Namibia Dollar (N$), is linked to the South African Rand (1:1), and Namibia has to follow the high-interest strategy of the South African Reserve Bank.

Namibia is – besides South Africa and Botswana – one of the richest countries in Africa. Nevertheless, the per-capita income only amounts to a mere 120 Euro per month, whereby the majority of the population has to cope with an even lesser income. Approximately 40% of the population capable to work are unemployed.

Infrastructure

Transportation and Communications

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.

Air

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.

There are also direct flights between Windhoek and Luanda, Lusaka, Harare, Livingstone and Cape Town, as well as domestic flights to local destinations from the city’s Eros Airport.

Walvis Bay International Airport has regular flights to Cape Town, Johannesburg and Windhoek, and Keetmanshoop Airport also operates and international service. All Namibia’s main towns and tourist resorts have airports, landing strips and/or heliports.

Sea

Walvis Bay, with its world-class standard of cargo handling and sheltered deepwater harbor, is poised to become the most important port on Africa’s west coast and a regional container hub for southern Africa. The completion in 2000 of the deepening process and the building of a new enlarged container terminal able to handle vessels with a capacity of some 2000 to 2400 TEUs put the port on a par with Cape Town and Durban.

Container vessels from Europe can save three days’ journey time by loading and/unloading in Walvis Bay, rather than Cape Town, while cargoes for central and southern Africa from elsewhere in the Atlantic region can gain up to seven days by using Walvis Bay and going further overland.

The dedicated facilities for a range of commodities, including containerized cargo, refrigerated produce, break bulk, dry bulks, and petroleum products. The port currently handles around 2.5 million tons of cargo annually, with an average turnaround time of about 12-18 hours for container vessels. Products include foodstuffs, marble blocks, lead and copper ingots and an annual 500,000 tons of salt. As well as excellent logistical support services, there is a thriving ship repair and marine engineering industry at Walvis Bay.

Ludertiz, although traditionally a fishing port, has been upgraded, with a new cargo and container quay completed in 2000. Cargo volumes have increased significantly as a result of the ports ability to handle larger vessels and consignments of freight. The port is strategically located to cater for southern Namibia and the Northern Cape. An important base for fishing fleets, it is now also used by the offshore diamond and mining industry.

Both Walvis Bay and Lüdertiz are administered by the Namibian Ports Authority (NamPort), a state owned organization established in 1994, part of whose role is to ensure the smooth operation of cross-border trade. The ports enjoy good industrial relations, with well-motivated workforces, and are able to offer a high standard of stevendoring to complement their modern dockside equipment.

Road

Namibia has a well developed road network covering more than 40,000 kilometers and providing access to the majority of towns, as well as tourist resorts and nature reserves. The primary routes are tarred.

The Trans-Caprivi Highway provides an all weather road link between Walvis Bay and Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Trans-Kalahari Highway links Walvis Bay with South Africa’s Gauten industrial heartland via Botswana. Previously this region used Durban as its natural gateway. The highway also is connected to the Maputo Corridor on Africa’s east coast, thus providing a transport link across the entire breadth of the continent.

Rail

A network of railways covering 2,382 kilometers connects Walvis Bay and Ludertiz with key destinations in Namibia and South Africa. Much of the containerized traffic at Walvis Bay goes by rail, and the port has its own marshalling yard for maximum operational efficiency. Thousands of tons of bulk minerals from mines in South Africa and Namibia are transported directly to the quayside by rail for export.

A railway line from Walvis Bay to Grootfontein, where there are trans-shipment facilites, links in with the Trans-Caprivi Highway.

Walvis Bay Corridor

The Walvis Bay Corridor is the name for a newly constructed network of transport which has opened up access to landlocked southern Africa for destinations west of the continent by the shortest possible route. Completed in 1998, and using the port of Walvis Bay as the trade gateway, its main arteries are the Trans-Caprivi and Trans-Kalahari Highways. The Walvis Bay to Grootfrontein railway line also forms part of the corridor.

Utilities

Namibia has the capacity and competence to provide utilities and services effectively and at competitive rates.

Electricity

Namibia’s electricity network is operated by the Namibian Power Corporation, NamPower. Ample, reliable supplies exist in all major centers.

Water

Despite the climate, there is a reliable water supply in all major centers. All tap water in Namibian’s cities, towns and villages is safe to drink.

Telecommunications

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 off optical fiber cable networks.

The Harvard Africa Competitiveness Report 2000-2001 ranked the quality levels of Namibia’s telecommunications services first in Africa

An international satellite links Namibia to worldwide telecommunications services. A GSM900 network is operated by Mobile Telecommunications Ltd (MTC), Namibia cellular service provider. About 80 per cent of the population is within reach of this network. MTC currently has roaming agreements with 160 countries worldwide, and visitors from these an use their GSM900 phones in Namibia without difficulty.

Business 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. These are Bank Windhoek Ltd., Swabou, the Commercial Bank of Namibia Ltd., First National Bank of Namibia, Standard Bank of Namibia Ltd. And NIB, Most also provide specialized merchant banking facilities. 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 (R) 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

Education

The current literacy rate in Namibia is about 65%. With the focus on teach training and upgrading of educational facilities, an estimated 94% of children between the ages of seven and 18 years now attend school.

There are over 1450 schools in the country.

The University of Namibia (UNAM) and the Polytechnic of Namibia provide tertiary education. In addition there are two agricultural colleges and our colleges of education throughout the country.

The IIT Education Center at Schoemanshoek, Windhoek provides information technology and computer education.

Health

Health in Namibia

Namibia currently has one doctor per 3650 people, and one of the best doctor/patient ratios in Africa. All major centers have state-run hospitals. In Windhoek there are three would-standard privately run hospitals and two state hospitals, each with fully equipped and maintained intensive care units.

Qualifications of medical practitioners measure up to world standards. All specialist fields are available in Windhoek, where 90% of emergency cases can be treated.

All medication is obtainable in the capital. The American Food and Drug organization standards are strictly adhered to. All imported medication is controlled by the local Drug Control Board.

Hospitals

There are state hospitals in virtually all-major towns in Namibia. In smaller towns, villages and rural settlements well-equipped and staffed clinics and healthcare centers are operated by the Ministry of Health and Social Services.

Windoek has three private hospitals:
Medi-Clinic in the Eros suburb,
The Roman Catholic Hospital in the center of town and
Rhino Park Private Hospital on the northern highway.

Major private hospitals outside Windoek include:
The Medi-Clinic Private Hospital in Otijiwarango, and
The Tsumeb Private Hospital in Tsumeb

In Swakopmund there are two private facilities:The Cottage Hospital, and
The Bismarck Medical Center

In Walvis Bay is:
The privately run Welwitschia Hosptial.

HIV/AIDS

has hit Africa worse than any other continent, with Namibia being one of the hardest hit countries. Twenty two percent of pregnant women were found HIV positive in the last survey carried out by the Ministry of Health and Social Services.

The prevalence ranges from 43% in Katima Mulilo to 9% in Opuwo. In its national effort to combat HIV/AIDS, Government launched a Strategic Plan in 1999 that calls on all stake holders to contribute in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Both the public and private sectors have started to establish comprehensive HIV/AIDS programs.

Service providers such as non-governmental organizations, churches, youth and women groups also raise awareness and provide care and support to the Namibian public. Increasing numbers of voluntary counseling and testing centers are being established thorough out the country.

Emergency Medical Services

Medical emergency evacuation services extend to the furthest corners of Namibia. They are supported by a well-developed charter industry, countless landing strips and a well-maintained road network.

At the end of 2001 the two medical assistance companies Aeromed and MedRescure merged to form International SOS (ISOS), part of a global network operating in 41 countries. The most important feature of Namibia’s ISOS is the fact that with tow fully equipped ambulance aircraft based in Windhoek it is possible to reach even the remotest parts of the country in a very short space of time.

Apart from the Cessna 402 C air ambulances, ISOS also uses three Cessna 402 C air ambulances, ISOS also uses three Cessna 406s, tow Cessna Conquests and a Cessna Citation Jet. This is in addition to ambulances based in Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Otjiwarongo and Tsumeb. For sea and mountain operations, helicopters are loaned from companies such as NamPower.

While medical care in Namibia is on par with most first-world countries, advanced medical faculties and 80% of the country’s medical specialists are based in Windhoek. For this reason considerably more air evacuation is done than in most other countries, and the service is therefore more highly developed.

The largest percentage of cases requiring emergency evacuation related to road accidents, mostly on gravel by self-drive tourists who are not used to local conditions and are evaluation is a highly reliable service.

ISOS can be reached at:
Tel  (++264 61) 23 0505/24977
Cell (++264 61) 81 128 4888/9

Emergency number: (++ 264 61) 112