Africa 26.11.2014 09:17 pm

Pre-election round up: Namibia

FILE PICTURE : Namibian Prime Minister Hage Geingob attends a meeting hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People April 8, 2014 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Parker Song-Pool/Getty Images).

FILE PICTURE : Namibian Prime Minister Hage Geingob attends a meeting hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People April 8, 2014 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Parker Song-Pool/Getty Images).

Namibia, which holds elections on Friday, is a large sparsely-populated country which for much of the 20th century lived in the shadow of white-ruled South Africa.

Here are some key facts about the former German colony once known as South West Africa, which boasts some of the world’s most spectacular desert landscapes and mineral riches including diamonds and uranium.

GEOGRAPHY: At 824,292 square kilometres (318,261 square miles), Namibia is almost twice as big as California and two-thirds the size of neighbouring South Africa.

In addition to a 1,500-kilometre (930-mile) Atlantic coastline, the country also borders with Angola to the north, Zambia in the far northeast and Botswana to the east.

Much of Namibia is desert and the Namib Desert which gives the country its name, is the oldest on the planet at 80 million years.

POPULATION: 2.3 million in 2013 (World Bank), of whom around half are from the Ovambo ethnic group, and six percent whites, including descendants of German settlers. About 80 percent of the population are Christians.

MAIN CITIES: Windhoek, the capital, whose name means “windy corner” in Africaans, and Walvis Bay, the only deep-water port.

POLITICS: The nationalist South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) has consistently won elections since independence in 1990.

President Hifikepunye Pohamba, a founder of the rebel movement which fought for independence, became president in 2004 and won another election in 2009. Prime Minister Hage Geingob, the man likely to become president in Friday’s vote, has held office since 2012.

HISTORY: The oldest residents of the region are the San, or Bushmen, who were traditional hunter-gatherers. In early modern times other groups moved in, including the Herero people in the 17th century, and British and German missionaries and settlers in the 19th.

The region became a German colony from 1884, when major European powers engaged in their “scramble for Africa.” The discovery of diamonds in the early 20th century heightened its attractiveness.

The Germans brutally put down rebellions and introduced racial segregation, which was later pursued by the South Africans who imposed their control after Germany’s defeat in World War I.

After World War II, South Africa continued to administer the territory in defiance of the United Nations. The collapse of the white minority apartheid system brought independence in 1990.

ECONOMY: Thirty percent of Namibia’s export earnings are from diamonds. It is also the world’s fourth biggest uranium producer, and possesses other minerals including silver, copper, zinc and gold as well as a large fishing industry.

In 2005, the government undertook an agricultural reform with the objective of redistributing, by 2020, 15 million hectares in the hands of the white minority, to black farmers, Around 3,800 farmers, most of whom are white, hold 40 percent of arable land.

With nearly one million foreign visitors every year, tourism is the third biggest economic sector .

Average per capita income was $5,840 in 2013 (World Bank). Youth unemployment stands at 40 percent.

Sapa

 

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