Namibia’s economy is driven by its natural resources. Mining and fishing are important contributors, while livestock is the biggest sector of the agricultural industry. Tourism is growing rapidly and with the support of the government is becoming a well of job opportunities and foreign currency.
Namibia’s natural beauty and biodiversity are among its biggest assets. The government has rightly committed itself reducing the economy’s environmental impact. In accordance with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Namibia has started several research projects to establish how the ‘Green Economy’ concept can be applied. The goal is to promote sustainable development within Namibia’s economy and to conserve Namibia’s biodiversity and natural wealth for future generations.
Namibia is one of Africa’s most attractive tourist destinations. Untouched and well-managed conservation areas, picturesque landscapes, most of Africa’s big game, biodiversity hotspots, fascinating cultures and endless space have a an irresistible appeal to visitors from Africa and overseas. Namibia’s excellent infrastructure, a low crime rate, a good road network and friendly people have made Namibia one of the most accessible destinations on the continent. Namibia caters to discerning travellers and backpackers alike. You can pack your 4×4 and escape to the bush, check into some of the world’s most luxurious and remote lodges or by overlanding or backpacking and using public transport.
Namibia’s tourism industry is steadily growing and the popular conservation areas and many community based tourism options are allowing Namibia’s people and conservation efforts to benefit from the country’s visitors.
Namibia’s farming industry is dominated by livestock. While only 2% of the country’s surface area is considered arable, 46% are suitable to graze livestock. Because Namibia’s cattle feeds on shrubs and savannah grass the beef is free of hormones or antibiotics. Namibia’s beef is considered among the best in the world and about 80% of all meat products are exported. Game meat such as springbok, gemsbok, kudu, zebra and hartebeest are becoming increasingly popular and farmers are now starting to utilize the potential of game meat.
Because Namibia is a country of low and unreliable rainfalls, floods and droughts crop production is difficult. Still large parts of the population rely on production of pearl millet (mahangu) and white maize. Especially in the more fertile northern parts of the country, subsistence farming provides a livelihood for many Namibians. While a system of controlled crops ensures that local production is taken up first, Namibia is forced to import 66.6% to satisfy the demand for grains and fresh produce.
Namibia’s fishing industry thrives on the fertile Benguela Current. The commercial vessels harvest about 60 000 metric tonnes of fish and shellfish per year contributing 5.5% to Namibia’s GDP. Important species are hake, pilchard, monkfish, horse mackerel, deep-sea red crab and rock lobster.
Namibia’s mining industry produces rough diamonds, uranium oxide, high-grade zinc, acid-grade fluorspar, gold bullion, blister copper, lead concentrate, salt and dimension stone. Mining is the biggest contributor of export income and produces 10-15% of the GDP. Even though Namibia has the fifth largest mining sector in Africa only 2% of Namibia’s working population are employed by the mines.
The southwest of Namibia has a wealth of diamonds. It was in 1908 when the railway worker Zacharias Lewala picked up the first sparkling stone near Kolmanskop. The discovery quickly lead to an influx of fortune hunters and the founding of mining towns like Kolmanskop, which today is a ghost town and museum. Soon the diamond industry moved further south into territories with an even bigger wealth of diamonds. The Sperrgebiet (forbidden area) was closed to the public for the last century. This area once had valleys, where diamond could be seen sparkling from a distance and is now turning into a National Park known for its diversity of succulent species.
Today Namibia is the world’s sixth largest diamond producer by value and known for its high-quality rough diamonds. The world’s leading diamond producer, De Beers, and the Namibian government (Namdeb) are mining in a 50:50 joint venture. Interestingly Namdeb is mining a growing portion of its diamonds under the sea. The Namdeb Diamond Corporation employs 1 600 people, most of them are Namibians.