Namibia, officially, Republic of Namibia, a country in southwestern Africa. It fronts on the Atlantic Ocean and is bounded by Angola, Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa. A narrow arm known as the Caprivi Strip juts eastward nearly to Zimbabwe.
|Facts in brief about Namibia|
|Official language: English.|
|Official name: Republic of Namibia.|
|Area: 318,261 mi2 (824,292 km2). Greatest distances—east-west, about 880 mi (1,420 km); north-south, about 820 mi (1,320 km). Coastline—925 mi (1,489 km).|
|Elevation: Highest—Brandberg, 8,465 ft (2,580 m) above sea level. Lowest—sea level, along the coast.|
|Population: Current estimate—2,091,000; density, 7 per mi2 (3 per km2); distribution, 67 percent rural, 33 percent urban. 2001 census—1,830,330.|
|Chief products: Agriculture—cattle, fish, sheep, corn, millet, vegetables. Mining—copper, diamonds, lead, uranium oxide, zinc.|
|Flag: Namibia's flag, adopted in 1990, has a large blue triangle in the upper-left corner and a large green triangle in the lower-right corner. A sun appears on the blue triangle. The triangles are separated by a red diagonal stripe with a white border.|
|Money: Basic units—Namibian dollar and South African rand. One hundred cents equal one dollar. One hundred cents equal one rand.|
The terrain consists mainly of a high plateau that rises fairly abruptly in a series of escarpments along the coast. The plateau lies generally 3,000 to 4,000 feet (900 to 1,200 m) above sea level and reaches its highest point---8,550 feet (2,606 m)---the Konigstein peak at Brandberg. Running the length of the coast and extending inland as much as 80 miles (130 km) is the Namib Desert, one of the driest and most desolate regions in the world. In the east lies the western edge of the Kalahari Desert. Namibia's principal rivers, and virtually the only ones flowing all year, are the Orange, which forms the southern boundary, and the Kunene and Okavango, which make up parts of the northern boundary. Several dry salt lakes, including Etosha Pan, dot the north.
Namibia lies astride the Tropic of Capricorn and has a dry, subtropical climate, moderated somewhat by elevation. Temperatures at Windhoek average 74° F. (23° C.) in January, the warmest month, and 55° F. (13° C.) in July. Daytime highs of more than 90° F. (32° C.) are common in summer; frost may occur at high elevations in winter. Along the coast temperatures are moderated by the cold Benguela Current. Rainfall varies from less than one inch (25 mm) in the Namib Desert to slightly more than 20 inches (500 mm) in the northeast. Virtually all the rain falls during summer.
Vegetation consists chiefly of grasses and semidesert scrub. The Namib Desert has virtually no plant life. Animal life is extremely varied and abundant. Etosha National Park, which includes the Etosha Pan, ranks among Africa's finest game preserves.
Namibia's economy became closely linked to that of South Africa during the long period it was administered by that country. Following independence, many close economic ties remained, especially in trade, mining, and transportation.
Mining is the leading industry by value. The country is a major producer of uranium and of gem-quality diamonds, which are taken from the alluvial sands and the seabed along the coast. The production of copper, lead, and zinc is also important, and various other minerals are also produced. Manufacturing is limited to the simple processing of animal products, fish, and minerals and the making of a few consumer goods.
Agriculture, particularly livestock raising, engages the largest number of people. Cattle, for meat; hides, and dairy products, and karakul sheep, raised for their pelts, are the most numerous and economically valuable animals. They are raised primarily on large, white-owned farms and ranches. Subsistence farming and herding are practiced by blacks, chiefly in the north. Commercial fishing, centered at Lüderitz, yields anchovies, pilchards (sardines), mackerel, and rock lobsters for export.
The transportation system was developed largely by the government of South Africa. Railways are the most heavily used facility. Roads are generally poor and unpaved. There is an international airport at Windhoek. Ocean shipping is mainly through Walvis Bay.
The indigenous Namibians are predominantly Bantus---blacks who speak one of the Bantu languages. The largest group, the Ovambos, form close to half of the country's population. The Hereros, the next largest Bantu group, are traditionally nomadic, which is unique among Bantus. The non-whites include also three aboriginal peoples---the Bushmen (San), probably Africa's oldest ethnic group and still essentially nomadic; the Namas, a Khoi (Hottentot) band; and the Damaras (or Bergdamas). The Damaras are, Negroid, while the Bushmen and the Namas are generally considered non-Negroid. All three speak Khoisan, or Click, languages. There are also persons of mixed ancestry.
The whites, making up about 9 per cent of the population, are largely South Africans, of Dutch or British ancestry, and descendants of German colonists.
The official language is English, though it is not widely used. Other languages include Afrikaans, Oshivambo, and German.
Primary education begins at age seven and lasts seven years. Secondary education lasts five years. The leading institution of higher education is the University of Namibia, at Windhoek.
There has been extensive missionary work by Christian churches (especially the Evangelical Lutheran) among the indigenous peoples. About 90 per cent of the population is Christian, the remainder animist.
Under the constitution of 1990, the head of state is a president who is directly elected and is limited to two five-year terms. The president appoints a prime minister, who is head of government, and a cabinet. The legislature has two houses---the National Assembly, composed of 72 members elected for five-year terms, and the National Council, whose members are elected from regional councils (two from each council) for six-year terms. The Supreme Court is the highest judicial body.