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Bordering South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola, Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. Since gaining independence from South Africa in 1988, Namibia has operated as a democratic republic, with a president who is both head of state and head of government. Human rights and political freedoms are among the best in the region, though problems persist with the justice system, discrimination against women and girls and supporting people living with AIDS and HIV.
Namibia is located on the Atlantic Ocean in southern Africa, and shares borders with South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola. Large expanses of the country are desert, with substantial parts of the Namib, Kalahari and the Coastal desert falling within its borders. The capital city is Windhoek.
Population and language
With a population of 2.3 million, Namibia is the worlds second least densely populated country. This figure has more than doubled since 1980 and, though the growth rate has slowed over the past decade, the population continues to rise at just under two per cent per year. Namibian is fairly ethnically diverse, made up of 12 major indigenous ethnic groups, including the San, and small white communities.
The official language is English, but Arfikaans, German and several indigenous languages are widely spoken.
Politics and history
Namibia gained its independence relatively late compared to many African States, following a long struggle with South Africa. The UN initially terminated South Africa's mandate over the country in 1966, and the national Court of Justice declared South Africa's presence in the country illegal in 1971, but it was not until 1988 that South Africa conceded independence. Namibia formally declared its independence in March 1990 alongside the implementation of a new Constitution, which provides for a unitary state and multi-party democracy.
The South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO) gained prominence nationally during the struggle for independence and has been dominant in Namibian politics ever since. SWAPO Presidential nominees have routinely taken in excess of 75 per cent of the vote alongside a two-thirds majority for the party in the Parliament. A number of smaller parties do operate in the country, however, including the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RPD), the Democratic Tumhalle Alliance (DTA) and the National Unity Democratic Organisation (NUDO), all of which are currently represented in the Parliament.
The only two people to serve as President since the implementation of the 1990 Constitution have been members of SWAPO. Sam Nujoma was the country's first post-independence President and served three terms. He was succeeded by the current President, Hifikepunye Pohamba, who is currently serving his second term.
The Namibian economy provides for a relatively high GDP per capita and human development index ranking compared to much of Africa, but unemployment may be as high as 50 per cent according to some estimates. Much of the country's economic activities revolve around the mining of profitable natural resources, particularly diamonds, uranium and zinc, a reliance that caused the country to fall into recession as export markets shrunk during 2009 . The country has shown signs of recovery since 2010, however, and economic forecasters are predicting that the economy will return to annual growth of around 4.4 per cent. Substantial economic disparities survive in the country, in part because of the legacy of apartheid
South Africa accounts for 80 per cent of national trade, while the UK accounts for much of the remainder and 16 per cent of exports. Namibia is a member of the South African Customs Union.
Media and civil society
Namibia is among the most press friendly countries in Africa, and was rated 21 out of 178 Countries in Reporters Without Borders 2010 Press Freedom Index. Criticism of the countries policies on press freedom is relatively rare, but RWB launched a campaign in 2008 when Ms Nutall, a journalist from South Africa, was arrested for making a report within the country after entering on a tourist visa.
Human rights, children's rights and humanitarian concerns
The 1990 Constitution contains a full range of protections for fundamental rights and freedoms, including prohibitions on discrimination and provisions for independent human rights bodies. With regards to human rights, the country is considered to be among the best performing States in Africa. Nevertheless, the legacy of apartheid has left unequal access to health and education, as well as divides between rural and urban areas. Other human rights concerns raised by international bodies and NGOs include allegations of excessive force exercised during arrests and detention, lengthy pre-trial detention and persistent discrimination against women and indigenous peoples. With the particular high rate of HIV and AIDS (17.8 per cent in 2008) and the high rate of diseases such as tuberculosis, the country also faces significant humanitarian difficulties.
- UNDESA, Population Statistics 2011
- Constitution of Namibia, Article 3
- The Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in Africa, Namibia Election Archive
- World Bank, Namibia: Country Brief
- South African Customs Union Official Website
- Reporters Without Borders, "Letter to Information Minister about South African journalist held overnight" 8 December 2008
- Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: Namibia Homepage
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Country Profile: Namibia
- BBC, Namibia Profile
- World Bank, Namibia Country Brief
- UNDESA, *Population Statistics 2011
- Reporters Without Borders, Press Freedom Index 2010
- UNICEF, Country Statistics: Namibia
- Population: 2,364,440 (UNDESA, 2011)
- Population under 18: 983800 (UNICEF, 2009)
- Number of internet users: 127,500/6 per cent (Internet World Stats/ITU, 2010)
- Human Development Index: 128 (UNDP, 2011)
- Happy Planet ranking: 96 (NEF, 2009)