Namibia is a large country situated in southwest of Africa. The country is notable for being among the driest in the world as it receives an average of 14 inches of rainfall per year. Adding to the aridity of the country is the presence of two of Africa’s driest places, the Kalahari Desert and the Namib Desert which are both found in the country. The arid country is endowed with natural resources examples of which include its wildlife and scenic terrain, agricultural products, and minerals all of which inject millions of dollars into the economy of Namibia. The country’s GDP stands at an estimated $17.79 billion.
Wildlife and Scenery
Due to the remoteness and aridity of vast sections of the country, Namibia has natural scenery which is largely untouched by human activities. The wild countryside of Namibia is a tourist magnet attracting hundreds of thousands of international visitors to the country each year who come to sample the raw African experience. The country’s two harshest geographical features where human settlement is nearly impossible, the Kalahari and Namib deserts, have geological features found nowhere else on the continent. The remote locations in Namibia are complimented by the wide array of wildlife found in the country’s national parks. Desert elephants, desert lions, gemsbok, cape buffaloes, plains zebra, and giraffes are some of the crowd-pulling attractions found in the country’s national parks. The country is renowned for having one of the largest populations of cheetahs. Among the most popular national parks in Africa is the Etosha National Park which is found in the country.
Tourist numbers in the country have experienced exponential growth from the partly 0.1 million foreign visitors estimated to have stayed in Namibia in 1989, to more than 1.176 million non-domestic visitors who stayed in the country in 2014. The annual average number of foreign tourists in recent years stands at about one million tourists. The majority of international tourists who visit the country come from African countries and particularly neighboring Angola, South Africa, and Zambia. The country’s tourism industry is a key driver for Namibia’s economy and injects millions of dollars each year to the country’s GDP.
The most important mineral (from an economic standpoint) in Namibia is diamonds, a mineral which contributed $0.235 billion of revenue to the Namibian government in 2013. Some sources have it that the annual production of diamonds in Namibia stands at about 1.92 million carats which are equivalent to over $1.1 billion. Virtually all the diamonds produced from the country are shipped to international markets, and a tiny fraction is consumed in the country’s jewelry industry. The country is ranked as the eighth largest producer of gem diamonds in the world and among the largest in Africa. The country’s diamond mining industry accounts for 2% of the world’s total gem diamonds production. The mining of diamonds in the country is primarily undertaken by the Namdeb Diamond Corporation, which is Namibia’s top diamond producer. In 2006, the company produced an estimated two million carats of diamonds. Diamonds were first discovered in the country in the turn of the 20th Century, and the discovery triggered a huge diamond rush where prospectors rushed into the country to mine the precious stone which was then found lying on the surface.
The country is also laden with vast copper deposits which are mined, processed, and sold to external markets. However, the mining of copper in Namibia has gone through a troublesome period especially during the global economic recession experienced in the late 2000s. During this period, copper prices in all major markets dropped to unprecedented lows, and these prices had a detrimental impact on the country’s copper mining industry. However, the industry is slowly recovering as the global demand for copper has been rising in recent years. One of the dominant players in the mining of copper in the country is Weatherly International, a huge company which runs major copper mines in the country.
Uranium is one of the most important foreign exchange earners in Namibia and among the country’s top export items. The country is the continent’s largest producer of uranium and ranks fourth globally behind Australia, Canada, and Kazakhstan. The mineral was first discovered in Namibia in the 1920s, but commercial production of uranium commenced in the 1970s. The nation’s largest uranium mine is the Rossing Mine whose annual production of uranium oxide averages at about 4,000 tons which is derived from over 12 million tons of ore. The mine is recognized as having the world’s largest deposits of uranium based on igneous rock. The uranium sourced from this mine is sold to Europe, North America, and Asia. Opened back in 1976, the Rossing Mine is also the oldest major uranium mine in the country. Another notable mine in the country is the Langer Heinrich who has an annual production of over 700 tons of uranium oxide. However, the mining of uranium in Namibia has also been blamed for environmental pollution in the regions surrounding the mines. Some of the mines have tailing dams which are highly acidic and have been pointed out as potential environmental hazards.
Cereals such as corn, wheat, sorghum, and millet are some of the major agricultural commodities produced in Namibia. However, the country’s arid environment makes agriculture unsustainable in most parts of Namibia. Nonetheless, agriculture is the backbone of the country. Despite accounting for an estimated 5% of the country’s GDP, agriculture supports over 25% of the country’s population. The water required for agriculture is sourced from underground sources, and it is estimated that more than 100,000 boreholes have been established in the country since the start of the 20th Century. With many of the boreholes already dried up, the country has turned its focus on harvesting water from its major rivers including the Okavango River which runs along the Botswana-Namibia border. The process involves the construction of canals and pipelines which divert a small part of the river flow. However, the process had been met with bitter criticism from Botswana, another arid country which also relies on the river for its water demands.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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