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NAMIBIA – GENERAL INFORMATION

                 Fig.1 – Namibia Flag

 

GEOGRAPHY

Namibia is in southwest Africa. It is a large and mainly arid country sharing borders with Angola to the north, Botswana to the east, South Africa to the south and, in the Caprivi Strip, a narrow panhandle of Namibian territory jutting from the northeast corner of the country, with Zambia and Zimbabwe. To the west is 795 miles of some of the most desolate and lonely coastline in the world. The port of Walvis Bay, situated roughly halfway down Namibia’s coast, was returned by South Africa to Namibian jurisdiction in

February 1994. Along its entire length, the vast shifting sand dunes of the Namib Desert spread inland for 50-80 miles. In the interior, the escarpment of a north-south plateau slopes away to the east and north into the vast interior sand basin of the Kalahari.

In the far northwest, the 25,500 sq miles of the Kaokoland mountains run along the coast, while further inland lies the Etosha Pan (a dried-out saline lake), surrounded by grasslands and bush which support a large and varied wildlife. The Etosha National Park & Game Reserve is one of the finest in Africa, in that it remains, to a large extent, free of human influence.

HISTORY

Credit: Central Intelligence Agency

The history of Namibia has passed through several distinct stages from being colonized in the late nineteenth century to Namibia’s independence on 21 March 1990.  From 1884, Namibia was a German colony: German South West Africa. After the First World War, the League of Nations mandated South Africa to administer the territory. Following World War II, the League of Nations was dissolved in April 1946 and its successor, the United Nations, instituted a Trusteeship system to bring all of the former German colonies in Africa under UN control. South Africa objected arguing that a majority of the territory’s people were content with South African rule. Legal argument ensued over the course of the next twenty years until, in October 1966, the UN General Assembly decided to end the mandate, declaring that South Africa had no further right to administer the territory, and that henceforth South West Africa was to come under the direct responsibility of the UN.

THE PEOPLE

About 2.2 million people share the vast spaces of Namibia, the country has one of the lowest population densities in the world with 1.5 people per square kilometer. It is thought that only about a quarter of Namibians live in urban areas, although this figure is certainly increasing as growing numbers of unemployed people leave their villages and farms.

The population of Namibia is not evenly distributed with about 60% of people living in the northern regions, while the southern and coastal areas are almost unpopulated. Namibia’s population can be divided into (at least) 11 ethnic groups, the biggest group of which is the Owambo people. As a country Namibia is still trying to find a national identity, but each of the countries cultural groups has its own a rich heritage and traditions.

Due to the unfortunate apartheid history of Namibia the division of people into cultural or tribal groups is an extremely sensitive issue, and most people prefer to think of themselves as Namibians.

The population of Namibia can be divided into the following groups: Owambo; Kavango; Herero; Himba; Damara; Nama; Topnaars; Rehoboth Basters; Coloureds; Caprivians; Bushmen (San); Tswanas; and Whites.

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS

In urban areas, western customs prevail; normal courtesies should be shown when visiting someone’s home. In rural settlements, visitors should follow the advice of a local guide.

LANGUAGES

There is one official language: English. However, German and Afrikaans are also spoken throughout the country.

GOVERNMENT

The government is divided into three organs: The Executive, The Legislative  and The Judiciary.  The President is the head of State and government. He is elected in a national election held every five years. The Cabinet consists of the President, the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Ministers appointed by the President. Together, they implement the policies guided by the constitution and acts of Parliament. The Prime Minister is the Chief Advisor to the President and the overall coordinator of the Government Offices, Ministries and Agencies. Under the Prime Minister are Ministers and Deputy Ministers and their staff members who are responsible for different Ministries.

The Legislature branch of government is responsible for making laws of the Country. The main law-making body is the Parliament, which consists of two different chambers: The National Assembly and The National Council.

The Judiciary in terms of Article 78 of the Constitution, judicial powers are vested in the Courts of Namibia, which consists of: Supreme Court, High Court and Lower Courts. The Courts are independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law.

Namibia’s ruling party, SWAPO (the South West Africa People’s Organization), has maintained an unbroken majority of over two thirds since 1990, when the country was granted independence from South Africa.

Hage Gottfried Geingob (born 3 August 1941) is the third and the current President of Namibia, in office since 21 March 2015. Geingob was the first Prime Minister of Namibia from 21 March 1990 to 28 August 2002, and he served as Prime Minister again from 4 December 2012 to 21 March 2015. Between 2008 and 2012 Geingob served as Minister of Trade and Industry. He was Vice-President of the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) between 2007 and 2015 and became President in 2015 when his predecessor, Hifikepunye Pohamba, stepped down. In November 2015, Geingob was elected as President of Namibia by an overwhelming margin.

TIME ZONE

Two hours ahead of GMT.

ELECTRICITY

220/240 volts AC. Outlets are of the 3-pin type (Type D and Type M).

CLIMATE

The winter is generally mild but dawn temperatures may drop to freezing. Temperatures in midsummer may rise above 95°F, except at the coast, where it is cool even during December/January. The rainy season lasts from October to April. Namibia averages 300 days of sunshine a year.

Clothes to Wear:

Light cottons, with slightly heavier cottons or light woolens for evening. Inland, shoes are essential during the day as the ground is very hot.

LOGISTICAL

Entry & Exit Requirements:

A passport and visa are required. Bearers of U.S. passports who plan to visit Namibia for tourism for less than 90 days can obtain visas free of charge at the port of entry and do not need visas prior to entering the country. Passports must have at least six months of validity remaining beyond the traveler’s planned date of arrival in Namibia.

All travelers traveling to or from Namibia via South Africa are strongly encouraged to have five or more unstamped visa pages in their passport.  Travelers merely transiting South Africa (those not stopping over or exiting the international terminal in South Africa) should not require visa stamps and may require fewer blank pages for travel.  South Africa and Namibia both require at least two unstamped visa pages – one for the entry stamp and one for exit.  Visitors who do not have enough blank visa pages in their passport risk being denied entry and returned to the U.S. at their own expense.

For any further information, you may contact the Embassy of Namibia at 1605 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20009. Tel: (202) 986-0540, Fax (202) 986-0540.

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Namibia are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Windhoek via the Department of State’s travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security. U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency.

Embassy & Consulate Locations

The U.S. Embassy to Namibia

14 Lossen Street, Ausspannplatz, Windhoek, Namibia

Tel: (264-61) 295-8500

Fax: (264-61) 295-8603

http://windhoek.usembassy.gov/

Canadian Consulate in Namibia

4 Eadie Street Klein Windhoek

Phone: (011 264 61) 251 254
Fax: (011 264 61) 251 686

http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/southafrica-afriquedusud/splash.aspx

 

HEALTH

Malaria is prevalent only in the north of the country. Malaria prophylaxis is not required in Windhoek, but is suggested for travel to the north.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or via the CDC website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/topics/infectious_ diseases/en/. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

BANKS & CURRENCY

The local unit of currency is the Namibian Dollar (NAD), in note denominations of NAD 200, 100, 50 and 10. Coins are in denominations of N$5, N$1, 50 cents, 10 cents and 5 cents. It is linked to the South African Rand (R) on a 1:1 basis (South African Rand = 100 cents). The South African Rand is also acceptable as currency in Namibia.

MasterCard, Diners Club, American Express and Visa are accepted. Check with your credit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services, which may be available. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travelers are advised to take travelers checks in US Dollars.

All currency must be declared at port of entry. The import and export of local currency is limited to NAD 20,000. The import of foreign currency is unlimited. Export is limited to the amount imported and declared on arrival. Banking hours are 9am-03:30 pm Monday to Friday, and 08:30 am-11am Saturday.

COMMUNICATIONS

IDD is available. Country code: 264. Outgoing international code: 09. Most hotels have fax facilities.

Cell Phone Usage:

Please contact your cell phone provider to determine whether your contract includes coverage in the country you are visiting. Depending on your contract you may have to add international services and/or country specific services.

ENTERTAINMENT

Food & Drink:

Namibian cuisine has a unique blend of German influences and South African fare. Game dishes such as gemsbok, springbok and kudu meat are popular dishes. German fare like sausages, brötchen and landjäger are easily available. Beer is the national drink of Namibia.

The ethnic groups also have their delicacies; the staple for the Ovambo people is mielie pap, a cornmeal porridge, or mahango, also made into a porridge or soup.

Shopping:

Windhoek has a selection of fashionable shops. Local crafts can be bought in some specialized shops and at the Windhoek Street Market, held every second Saturday. Good buys include diamonds and semiprecious stones, Herero dolls, hand-carved wooden objects, jewelry, karosse rugs, liqueur chocolates made in Windhoek and Swakara garments.

Shopping hours are 08:30 am-5pm Monday to Friday, 08:30 am-1pm Saturday. Some bigger supermarkets are also open 11am-1pm and 4pm-7pm Sunday.

BAGGAGE

Baggage rules for international and domestic air travel have changed much in recent years, differ from carrier to carrier and these days even may cover your on-board bags. Checking luggage may cost a separate fee or may be free depending on your personal status with the carrier. We therefore encourage you to read your ticket’s small print and/or contact your carrier for exact rules.

TIPPING

Most restaurants and bars already include a 10% service charge in the bill. It is customary to leave a bit extra for good service. When the service charge is not included in the bill, 10-15% is the general rule. Tips are not expected by taxi drivers, although most people tell the driver to keep the change. Airport and hotel porters should receive the equivalent of US$ 1.00 per bag.

LAUNDRY

Most hotels will arrange affordable laundry services for guests.

PHOTOS & VIDEOS

In some countries you must refrain from photographing sites such as Military bases and industrial installations. Also be aware of cultural sensitivities when taking pictures of or near churches and other religious sites. It is always courteous to ask for permission before taking photographs of people.

USE OF DRONES

The use of drones is being legislated by many countries. In some cases, drones are already forbidden, and their unauthorized use may carry severe penalties. If you plan to travel with a drone, please contact the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit.

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