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Republic of Liberia

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Liberia, officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West African coast. It is bordered by Sierra Leone to its northwest, Guinea to its north, Ivory Coast to its east, and the Atlantic Ocean to its south-southwest. It covers an area of 111,369 square kilometers (43,000 sq mi) and has a population of around 4,700,000 people. The coastal country is characterized by humid, tropical climate with mean rainfall ranging from 2,000 mm farthest inland to over 5,000 mm at the coast. English is the official language and over 20 indigenous languages are spoken, representing the numerous ethnic groups who make up more than 95% of the population. The country’s capital and largest city is Monrovia.

Liberia, the “Land of the Free”, was founded, established, colonized, and controlled by citizens of the United States and ex-Caribbean slaves as a colony for former African American slaves and their free black descendants. It was the first African republic to proclaim its independence, and is Africa’s first and oldest modern republic. It is one of only two sovereign countries in the world that were started by citizens and ex-Caribbean slaves of a political power as a colony for former slaves of the same political power, the other being Sierra Leone, established by Great Britain. Settlement of former slaves was organized by the American Colonization Society (ACS). The mortality rate of these settlers was the highest in accurately recorded human history. Of the 4,571 emigrants who arrived in Liberia from 1820 to 1843, only 1,819 survived until 1843.

In 1847, the ACS encouraged Liberia to proclaim independence, as it no longer wanted to support it. On January 3, 1848, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a wealthy, free-born African American from Virginia who settled in Liberia, was elected as Liberia’s first president after the people proclaimed independence in 1947.

 

GOVERNANCE

The government of Liberia, modeled on the government of the United States, is a unitary constitutional republic and representative democracy as established by the Constitution. The government has three co-equal branches of government: the executive, headed by the president; the legislative, consisting of the bicameral Legislature of Liberia; and the judicial, consisting of the Supreme Court and several lower courts.

The president serves as head of government, head of state, and the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Among the other duties of the president are to sign or veto legislative bills, grant pardons, and appoint Cabinet members, judges, and other public officials. Together with the vice president, the president is elected to a six-year term by majority vote in a two-round system and can serve up to two terms in office.

The current President of the Republic of Liberia is Mr. George Oppong Weah.

George Oppong Weah, President of Liberia

 

The Legislature is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House, led by a speaker, has 73 members apportioned among the 15 counties on the basis of the national census, with each county receiving a minimum of two members. Each House member represents an electoral district within a county as drawn by the National Elections Commission and is elected by a plurality of the popular vote of their district into a six-year term. The Senate is made up of two senators from each county for a total of 30 senators. Senators serve nine-year terms and are elected at-large by a plurality of the popular vote. The vice president serves as the President of the Senate, with a President pro tempore serving in their absence.

Liberia’s highest judicial authority is the Supreme Court, made up of five members and headed by the Chief Justice of Liberia. Members are nominated to the court by the president and are confirmed by the Senate, serving until the age of 70. The judiciary is further divided into circuit and specialty courts, magistrate courts and justices of the peace. The judicial system is a blend of common law, based on Anglo-American law, and customary law. An informal system of traditional courts still exists within the rural areas of the country, with trial by ordeal remaining common despite being officially outlawed.

 

ECONOMY

Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world, and its economy is extremely underdeveloped, largely due to the First Liberian Civil War in 1989-96. The civil war destroyed much of country’s economy, especially the infrastructure in and around Monrovia.

It is a low-income country that relies heavily on foreign assistance and remittances from the diaspora. It is richly endowed with water, mineral resources, forests, and a climate favorable to agriculture. Its principal exports are iron ore, rubber, diamonds, and gold. Palm oil and cocoa are emerging as new export products. The government has attempted to revive raw timber extraction and is encouraging oil exploration.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, civil war and government mismanagement destroyed much of Liberia’s economy, especially infrastructure in and around the capital. Much of the conflict was fueled by control over Liberia’s natural resources. With the conclusion of fighting and the installation of a democratically elected government in 2006, businesses that had fled the country began to return. The country achieved high growth during the period 2010-13 due to favorable world prices for its commodities. However, during the 2014-2015 Ebola crisis, the economy declined and many foreign-owned businesses departed with their capital and expertise. The epidemic forced the government to divert scarce resources to combat the spread of the virus, reducing funds available for needed public investment. The cost of addressing the Ebola epidemic coincided with decreased economic activity reducing government revenue, although higher donor support significantly offset this loss. During the same period, global commodities prices for key exports fell and have yet to recover to pre-Ebola levels.

In 2017, gold was a key driver of growth, as a new mining project began its first full year of production; iron ore exports are also increased as Arcelor Mittal opened new mines at Mount Gangra. The completion of the rehabilitation of the Mount Coffee Hydroelectric Dam increased electricity production to support ongoing and future economic activity, although electricity tariffs remain high relative to other countries in the region and transmission infrastructure is limited. Presidential and legislative elections in October 2017 generated election-related spending pressures.

Revitalizing the economy in the future will depend on economic diversification, increasing investment and trade, higher global commodity prices, sustained foreign aid and remittances, development of infrastructure and institutions, combating corruption, and maintaining political stability and security.

 

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture is the primary livelihood source for more than 60 percent of Liberia’s population and provides sustenance for many households who engage in farming of rubber, rice, oil palm, cocoa, and sugarcane.  However, low agricultural productivity results in Liberia importing more than 80 percent of its staple food, making the country vulnerable to global food price volatility.  Poorly integrated, the sector lacks basic infrastructure such as machines, farming equipment/tools, farm-to-market roads, fertilizers and pesticides, and food storage capacity.  Cassava and rice are the primary staple food crops.  The main cash crops and foreign exchange earners are rubber, cocoa, and timber.  Rubber is the most important cash crop for households and one of the dominant generators of state revenues accounting for nearly 34.6 percent of the total export receipts in 2016.  An estimated 30,000 people are employed by commercial rubber farms and up to 60,000 smallholder households are involved in growing of rubber trees.  Firestone Rubber Plantation, covering almost 200 square miles, is the largest single natural rubber operation in the world and the biggest private sector employer in Liberia.

Another significant cash crop is oil palm, which has traditionally been produced for the domestic market.  Recently, there has been considerable interest from both smallholders and large investors in expanding export production.  However, uncertainty with regard to land tenure is a significant challenge for potential oil palm farmers and investors.  Stakeholders in the oil palm sector include smallholder farmer cooperatives, individual farmers, large multinational corporations and concessionaires, as well as individuals playing various intermediation roles and support services.  Another obstacle to investment in the sector is the lack of capital and professional expertise to increase farm productivity.

The country has favorable climate and fertile soil for cocoa production and there is increased investment in the rehabilitation of cooperative and smallholder farms in the country.  Although cocoa production is small scale, it is expected to increase as farmers continue to reclaim and rehabilitate their farms.  As with the agriculture sector in general, smallholder cocoa farmers and local cooperatives are challenged by inadequate farm-to-market roads, lack of familiarity with measurement and quality standards, lack of storage facilities, and limited access to updated price and market information.

Beside the cash crops, there are market opportunities and potential for agribusiness investment, which focuses on developing the value chain of the available food crops such as rice, cassava, vegetables, fruits, poultry and fish.  Liberia has suitable climate for horticulture such as production of peppers, okra, onions, tomatoes, bitter balls, etc., which are in high demand throughout the country all year round. Lowland cultivation and low-cost irrigation would give smallholders an opportunity to increase productivity and expand market share of these valuable crops.  Liberia has an Atlantic coastline spanning about 580 kilometers endowed with abundant marine fish stocks.  The coastline and abundant freshwater resources provide breeding grounds for varieties of marine species including crab, lobster, shrimp, tilapia, tuna, shark, croaker and barracuda.

 

INDUSTRY

The industrial sector contributes 5.4% to the country’s GDP and employ almost 8% of the working population. The major Liberian industry sectors include mining, oil and electricity.

Before the outbreak of the civil war, the country had an evolving rubber industry, which accounted for almost US$100 million in exports annually. The discovery of iron ore in the late 1950s gave another major boost to the country’s economic growth. In the 1960s and 1970s, Liberia was one of the major largest exporters of iron ore.

During the military regime and the civil war period, the Liberian economy was heavily exploited. The rubber and iron industries were the most exploited since they used to generate foreign currency. After the restoration of a democratic set up in 1997, the government took measures to reinstate the major industrial sectors. However, no significant results were achieved due to severe depletion in the availability of raw materials.

Some of the major Liberia industry sectors are:

 

Oil sector

The country has a modest oil sector. The upstream oil industry is insignificant due to no major oil and gas discoveries. For the downstream oil industry, all the raw material is imported from the neighboring oil producing nations. The Ministry of Land, Mines and Energy regulates the oil sector in the country.

 

Mining sector

Since the outbreak of the civil war, the mining sector has lost all its foreign investment. This has resulted in an underdeveloped mining sector in the country. Diamond and gold are the primary mining products for the country. The industry also produces other minerals such as tin, phosphates, zinc, copper, nickel, molybdenum, beach sand, bauxite, kyanite, uranium, chromite, and silica sands. The country’s mining sector is a victim to smuggling across the borders of Sierre Leone, Guinea and Cote de Ivoire.

 

Electricity

Liberia Electricity Corporation is responsible for generating and distributing power in the country. The corporation has two electric power generation plants in the capital city of Monrovia.

 

Manufacturing

Before the civil war manufacturing and construction accounted for around 20 percent of the GDP; that figure dropped to 10 percent by 2000. Manufacturing was dominated by iron-ore production and rubber processing, but domestic and industrial consumption goods were also produced.
Liberia’s manufacturing sector is a virgin territory with unlimited potential. Manufacturing in Liberia has a wealth of opportunities in plastic and rubber goods such as: car tires, shoes, pipes, toys, furniture, as well as bio-fuel, etc. With plentiful raw materials, limited competition, abundant and low cost labor, a strategic coastal location, ports, and its role in the regional and subregional economic groupings of ECOWAS and MRU make Liberia the perfect staging ground to produce goods for these markets as well.

 

SERVICES

The services sector consists mainly of wholesale and retail distribution, telecommunications, postal service, transport, hotels and restaurants, repairs, financial services, tourist services, and government administration, but all such services are quite limited. For the most part, these services support the other sectors of the economy. The main exception is the charges made for the use of Liberian registration by merchant ships owned by private shipping companies from other countries, the so-called “flag of convenience.”

Financial Sector

The government has made progress on stabilizing the financial sector, but overall the sector remains fragile.  As the policy discourse moves from short-term stabilization, which is largely complete, to medium-term initiatives designed to create and support a sustainable financial sector that can support economic growth, a number of outstanding policy issues, many of which are interlinked, require consideration by regulatory and legislative bodies. The financial sector constitutes 9 Commercial banks, 1 Deposit-taking Microfinance Institution, 1 Non –bank Financial Institution, 13 Microfinance Institutions, 10 Rural Community Finance Institutions (RCFI), About 256 Credit Unions – Monitored but not licensed. The financial sector is mostly dominated by the banks.

 

Banks

A partial view taken on September 27, 2017 shows the Central Bank of Liberia, Monrovia. / AFP PHOTO / CRISTINA ALDEHUELA

The Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) is responsible for licensing, regulating and overseeing the financial sector in Liberia. There are nine commercial banks, eight of which are foreign banks.  Foreign banks or branches can establish operations in Liberia, and are subject to prudential measures or other regulations required by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL). Liberian banks are poorly capitalized and remain in a semi-fragile state.

 

Construction

Construction offers many potential prospects for investment.  The capital city Monrovia has an estimated population of 1.2 million people, triple the population the city was originally planned for.  There is growing demand for property renovation, and construction of office buildings, shopping malls, business centers and low-to-middle income housing units.  The demand is even more acute in the mining and agricultural concession areas as well as the commercially active regions, along the north-central-south corridor (growth corridor).

Activity in the real estate sector is expected to pick up because of improving security. Initial demand will be driven mostly by Liberians abroad many of whom have experience with mortgages abroad. They are expected to seek easy, hassle-free ways to purchase second homes in Liberia.  This will lead to a large market in Liberia for quality homes that have all the required amenities.  These sorts of planned communities have been very popular in other countries in Africa.

Currently there is no single institutionalized large real estate developer operating in Liberia. The reconstruction of the countries battered infrastructure is creating opportunities for investors.  The National Housing Authority (NHA), a state-owned institution, is the only entity providing housing on a large scale.

 

Communication

Communications in Liberia is the press, radio, television, fixed and mobile telephones, and the Internet. There are six major newspapers in Liberia, and 45% of the population has a mobile phone service. Also, the radio stations in Liberia are abundant to the extent that there are over 70 radio stations in the entire country (Liberia). As for Montserrado County, there exist about 30 radio stations.

Even as it struggles with economic and political constraints, Liberia’s media environment is expanding. The number of registered newspapers and radio stations (many of them community stations) is on the rise despite limited market potential. And politically critical content and investigative pieces do get published or broadcast.

 

Transportation

Transport in Liberia consist of railways, highways, seaports and airports.

Road Networks: Majority of roads in Liberia are unpaved and unable to provide all-year access to either county or district headquarters. Roads are often impassable during the rainy season. Consequently, vehicle tariffs, operating costs and transportation fares tend to be high. When traveling outside Monrovia, four-wheel drive vehicles are advised. Liberia has a tropical climate with rainy season beginning in May through October and dry season from November through April.

Aviation: Roberts International Airport (RIA) is a single runway airport located near a town called Harbel, about 40 miles (64 km) outside Monrovia. There are few car rental agencies or bus or taxi services in Monrovia which offer on-site airport services upon request, and these have to be pre-arranged. Visitors should avoid yellow taxis by pre-arranging transportation through a hotel or business contact. James Spriggs Payne Airport is a smaller single runway airport located in Monrovia.

Sea Ports: The country has four ports including Freeport of Monrovia, Buchanan Port, Greenville Port and Harper Port.  The Freeport of Monrovia accounts for nearly all of Liberia’s maritime trade.

 

TOURISM

Image: Kpatawee Waterfall, Liberia

Liberia’s tourism sector possesses unique and competitive assets that remain largely untapped. The country is endowed with a rich culture and a wide variety of natural beauty ranging from plains to spectacular white-sand beaches to rainforest. Liberia enjoys three main touristic features: costal and marine sites, natural sites/features and cultural and historical sites.

The potential for Liberia’s tourism sector is massive. Liberia’s natural attractions include two natural forest reserves, wetlands and mangroves, and biological and landscape diversity. Liberia is endowed with approximately 42% of the Upper Guinea Forest of West Africa, rich in endemic flora and fauna. There are two upper Guinea biodiversity hotspots: East Nimba Natural Reserve and the Sapo National Park. Both are home to rare birds, and high diversity of mammals such as elephants, monkeys, antelopes and Liberia’s national symbol, the Pigmy Hippopotamus. All sorts of touristic services can be tapped around these natural sites, such as ecotourism activities, e.g. birds watching, and rural tourism activities, e.g. village tours.

The infrastructure deficit is one of the critical factors that discourage entrepreneurs from investing in this sector.  Despite its infrastructural deficit, prospects are abundant for the sector to contribute to the economy. There are good opportunities in the hospitality sector. Currently, the demand for hotel rooms outstrips supply as a result of the activities of donor agencies, international NGOs, the UN and increasing business visitors. As the security situation improves, tourism is also expected to pick up.

 

CULTURE

The culture of Monrovia has two distinct roots, the Southern US heritage of the freed Americo-Liberian slaves and the ancient African descendants of the indigenous people and migratory tribes. Most former Americans belonged to the Masonic Order of Liberia, outlawed since 1980, but originally playing a huge part in the nation’s politics. Settlers brought the skills of embroidery and quilting with them, with both now firmly embedded in the national culture. The haunting slave music and songs of the American South with ancient African rhythms and harmonies blended well with indigenous musical traditions of the region.

Image: Liberia Culture Ambassador Drummers

The diverse tribal ethnicities making up the population of Liberia today have all added to the richness of cultural life in the country. Christian music is popular, with hymns sung a-capella in the iconic African style. Spirituality and the region’s ancient rituals are reflected in the unusually intricate carving style, and modern Liberian artists are finding fame outside the country. Dance is a valued heritage, with the Liberian National Culture Group giving performances both in the country and overseas based on traditional themes. The gradual integration of all Liberia’s ethnic groups has given rise to a renewed interest in its tribal culture as a reminder of the diverse roots of the new country.

 

SOCIAL ACTIVITIES

Liberians celebrate festivals and observe holidays in remembrance of a notable individual or event in the nation’s history. The capital city annually hosts the Monrovia Children’s Day, a festival which, as its name suggests, is held for the nation’s children. Numerous activities geared towards the young generation including live performances, games, and contests take place during the festival which sees thousands of children from all over Liberia come together. An important national holiday in the country is Independence Day which is observed each year on July 26th. Liberia also observes religious holidays including Christmas, Easter, and Eid al Fitr. The country has a close relationship with the United States as it was established during the repatriation of slaves in the 19th Century. A testament of the close relationship shared between the two countries is the observation of “Thanksgiving Day in Liberia.” The observation of the holiday is provided for by law and is observed on November 4th each year.

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Africa

Republic of Namibia

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Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia, is a country in Southern Africa. Its western border is the Atlantic Ocean; it shares land borders with Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. Although it does not border Zimbabwe, less than 200 meters of the Zambezi River separates the two countries.

The country is large and sparsely populated on Africa’s south-west coast and has enjoyed stability since gaining independence on 21st March 1990 after a long struggle against rule by South Africa through a bush war of almost 25 years. The country’s name is derived from the Namib Desert, and it is a member state of the United Nations (UN), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU), and the Commonwealth of Nations.

The country has a population of 2.3 million people, it is the second least densely populated country in the world (after Mongolia). Capital and largest city is Windhoek, situated in the country’s central highlands. With an area of 824,292 km² (318,260 sq. mi.), Namibia is 1.5 times the size of France, or about half the size of the U.S. state of Alaska.

Namibia is the driest country in Sub-Saharan Africa and was inhabited since early times by the San, Damara and Nama peoples. Around the 14th century, immigrating Bantu peoples arrived as part of the Bantu expansion. Since then, the Bantu groups, the largest being the Ovambo, have dominated the population of the country; since the late 19th century, they have constituted a majority.

In the late 1800s, Germany took control of the area and named it South West Africa. South Africa later occupied the colony during World War I and administered it under a League of Nations as a mandate until after World War II, when it annexed the territory. In 1966, the Marxist South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) guerrilla group launched a war of independence for the area that became Namibia, but it was not until 1988 that South Africa agreed to end its administration in accordance with a UN peace plan for the entire region. Namibia has been governed by SWAPO since the country won independence in 1990, though the party has dropped much of its Marxist ideology.

The discovery of diamonds in 1908 prompted an influx of Europeans. Inter-racial reconciliation encouraged the country’s white people to remain and they still play a major role in farming and other economic sectors.

GOVERNANCE

The Government of Namibia consists of the executive, the legislative and the judiciary branches. The Cabinet is the executive organ of government, implementing the laws of the country. It consists of the President, the Prime Minister and his deputy, as well as the Ministers.

The legislative organs of government are the National Council and the National Assembly. They make the laws of the country.

The judiciary organs of government are the courts. The highest court of Namibia is the Supreme Court. There is also the High Court, and lower courts.

The Namibian government is partly centralized and partly regional. In the executive branch, Central government consists of ministries, offices and agencies, whereas regional government consists of Regional Councils, and constituencies within these. The legislation is centralized in the lower house (National Assembly), and regional in the upper house (National Council). The judiciary is centralized in the Supreme Court, whereas High Courts and lower courts are distributed all over the country.

The President is the head of State and government. He is elected in a national election every five years. The current President of the Republic of Namibia is Hage Geingob. President Hage GEINGOB was elected in 2014 in a landslide victory, replacing Hifikepunye POHAMBA who stepped down after serving two terms. SWAPO retained its parliamentary super majority in the 2014 elections and established a system of gender parity in parliamentary positions.

The Legislative branch is made of bicameral Parliament that consists of the National Assembly (104 seats; 96 members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote to serve 5-year terms and 8 nonvoting members appointed by the president) and the National Council (42 seats), which primarily reviews legislation passed and referred by the National Assembly; members indirectly elected 3 each by the 14 regional councils to serve 5-year terms.

Politics of Namibia takes place in a framework of a semi-presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Namibia is both head of state and head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by both the President and the Government. Legislative power is vested in both the Government and the two chambers of Parliament. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Additional to the government political structure, Namibia has a network of traditional leadership with currently 51 recognized traditional authorities and their leaders. These authorities cover the entire Namibian territory. Traditional leaders are entrusted with the allocation of communal land and the formulation of the traditional group’s customary laws. They also take over minor judicial work.

ECONOMY

The Namibian economy has a modern market sector, which produces most of the country’s wealth, and a traditional subsistence sector. Although the majority of the population engages in subsistence agriculture and herding, Namibia has more than 200,000 skilled workers and a considerable number of well-trained professionals and managerials.

Namibia is a higher middle income country with an estimated annual GDP per capita of US$5,828 but has extreme inequalities in income distribution and standard of living. It leads the list of countries by income inequality with a Gini coefficient of 59.7 (CIA) and 74.3 (UN), respectively.

Since independence, the Namibian Government has pursued free-market economic principles designed to promote commercial development and job creation to bring disadvantaged Namibians into the economic mainstream. To facilitate this goal, the government has actively courted donor assistance and foreign investment.

The liberal Foreign Investment Act of 1990 provides guarantees against nationalization, freedom to remit capital and profits, currency convertibility, and a process for settling disputes equitably. Namibia also is addressing the sensitive issue of agrarian land reform in a pragmatic manner. However, Government runs and owns a number of companies such as Air Namibia, Transnamib and NamPost, most of which need frequent financial assistance to stay afloat.

The country’s sophisticated formal economy is based on capital-intensive industry and farming. However, Namibia’s economy is heavily dependent on the earnings generated from primary commodity exports in a few vital sectors, including minerals, especially diamonds, livestock, and fish.

Mining accounts for about 12.5% of GDP, but provides more than 50% of foreign exchange earnings. Rich alluvial diamond deposits make Namibia a primary source for gem-quality diamonds. Marine diamond mining is increasingly important as the terrestrial diamond supply has dwindled. The rising cost of mining diamonds, especially from the sea, combined with increased diamond production in Russia and China, has reduced profit margins. Namibian authorities have emphasized the need to add value to raw materials, do more in-country manufacturing, and exploit the services market, especially in the logistics and transportation sectors.

Namibia is one of the world’s largest producers of uranium. The Chinese-owned Husab uranium mine began producing uranium ore in 2017, and was expected to reach full production in August 2018 and produce 15 million pounds of uranium a year. Namibia also produces large quantities of zinc and is a smaller producer of gold and copper. Namibia’s economy remains vulnerable to world commodity price fluctuations and drought.

Namibia normally imports about 50% of its cereal requirements; in drought years, food shortages are problematic in rural areas. A high per capita GDP, relative to the region, obscures one of the world’s most unequal income distributions; the current government has prioritized exploring wealth redistribution schemes while trying to maintain a pro-business environment. GDP growth in 2017 slowed to about 1%, however, due to contractions in both the construction and mining sectors, as well as an ongoing drought.

A five-year Millennium Challenge Corporation compact ended in September 2014. As an upper middle income country, Namibia was ineligible for a second compact. The Namibian economy is closely linked to South Africa with the Namibian dollar pegged one-to-one to the South African rand. Namibia receives 30%-40% of its revenues from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU); volatility in the size of Namibia’s annual SACU allotment and global mineral prices complicates budget planning.

Furthermore, the Namibian economy remains integrated with the economy of South Africa, as the bulk of Namibia’s imports originate there.

AGRICULTURE

OUTJO, 12 April 2013 Some of the cattle donated by the Namibian-German Special Initiative Programme through the National Planning Commission (NPC) last October to the Hai//Om San community at Seringkop resettlement farm in the Outjo Constituency. Five of them were attacked by hyenas suspected to have come from the Etosha National Park. (Photo by: Mulisa Simiyasa) NAMPA

Agriculture in Namibia contributes around 5% of the national Gross Domestic Product though 25% to 40% of Namibians depend on subsistence agriculture and herding. Primary products includes livestock and meat products, crop farming and forestry. Only 2% of Namibia’s land receives sufficient rainfall to grow crops. As all inland rivers are ephemeral, irrigation is only possible in the valleys of the Border Rivers Oranje, Kunene, and Okavango.

Animal products, live animals, and crop exports constitute roughly 10.7% of total Namibian exports. The government encourages local sourcing of agriculture products. Retailers of fruits, vegetables, and other crop products must purchase 27.5% of their stock from local farmers.

In the largely white-dominated commercial sector, agriculture consists primarily of livestock ranching. There are about 4,000 commercial farms in Namibia, 3,000 of which are owned by whites. Cattle raising is predominant in the central and northern regions, while karakul sheep and goat farming are concentrated in the more arid southern regions. Subsistence farming is mainly confined to the “communal lands” of the country’s populous north, where roaming cattle herds are prevalent and the main crops are millet, sorghum, corn, and peanuts.

Table grapes, grown mostly along the Orange River in the country’s arid south, are becoming an increasingly important commercial crop and a significant employer of seasonal labor. Rain-fed white maize is produced by farmers mainly in the maize triangle situated between Tsumeb, Otavi and Grootfontein.

The clean, cold South Atlantic waters off the coast of Namibia are home to some of the richest fishing grounds in the world, with the potential for sustainable yields of 1.5 million metric tonnes per year. Commercial fishing and fish processing is the fastest-growing sector of the Namibian economy in terms of employment, export earnings, and contribution to GDP.

The main species found in abundance off Namibia are pilchards (sardines), anchovy, hake, and horse mackerel. There also are smaller but significant quantities of sole, squid, deep-sea crab, rock lobster, and tuna.

At the time of independence, fish stocks had fallen to dangerously low levels, due to the lack of protection and conservation of the fisheries and the over-exploitation of these resources. This trend appears to have been halted and reversed since independence, as the Namibian Government is now pursuing a conservative resource management policy along with an aggressive fisheries enforcement campaign. The government seeks to develop fish-farming as an alternative.

INDUSTRY

Industry contributes to the creation of 31% of GDP and employs about 15% of the population. Namibian industry includes mining, manufacturing, construction, electricity, water, and gas.

Mining

The mining industry is one of the biggest sectors in Namibia accounting for about 25% of the country’s revenue. Despite an abundant supply of minerals such as uranium, zinc, lead, diamond, tungsten, tin, and silver, only 3% of the population is employed in this sector. Fluctuation of world commodity prices also affects the profitability margins and in some cases some mining projects may be abandoned when there is a steady decline in prices.

Diamond mining is the chief contributor of all revenue from the mining industry with a share of 7.2% of the 9.5% that mineral extraction contributes to the GDP of Namibia. The amount of uranium in the country is capable of providing 10% of the world’s uranium output from just two mines. In addition, non-fuel minerals found in the country make it the fourth largest producer in Africa and the fifth largest producer of uranium in the world.

Manufacturing

The manufacturing sector is the main pillar of the Namibian economy contributing more than 20% of the GDP. This is despite the proliferation of subsidized goods from South Africa, a dispersed population, inadequate local capital, and a semi-skilled labor force. Meatpacking, fish processing, and dairy products processing are some of Namibia’s biggest industries.

A well-developed infrastructure has also led to a larger network and better movement of goods and labor between producers and the market. In addition to this, world-class aviation facilities have made it easier to export perishable goods to outside countries. The ongoing construction of two key artery roads, the Trans-Kalahari highway and the Trans-Caprivi Highway, will open up the region and provide access to Walvis Bay.

Construction

The Namibian construction industry has since independence in 1990 become  an increasingly  important  economic  sector, both in terms of investment and employment,  as the country has experienced  an  increase  in  investment  in  fixed  assets  in  terms  of  both the state and private sectors. From about 2006 to 2008 the  industry experienced  a boom, with the value of construction and building  works climbing  from just  over  N$5 billion  in  2006 to  almost  N$7 billion  in  2008.

Of the 2008 estimate, almost N$3 billion accounted for infrastructure building works. In 2008 the construction industry’s share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) hovered around the four percent mark, up from about two percent in 1990. According to the 2008 Namibia Labour Force Survey (released  in  late  2010), 23,316  adults  were  employed  in  the  construction  sector.

This was 7 percent of the total employed workforce. Most of those employed in the sector are either unskilled or semiskilled.  Despite a cross-industry agreement  that workers should be registered  with  the  Social  Security  Commission only 5,627 workers were reported  to be registered  according  to the 2008 survey.

As  an indication  of the volatility  of employment  in  the  construction  industry,  the  2008 labour  force  survey found  that  12.2  percent  of  unemployed  persons were  previously employed  in the sector, exceeded  only by employment  in private households (18.9 percent)  and  repair  of motor  vehicles/wholesale  and  retail  trade  (23.5  percent).  Such  statistics  also  tend  to indicate  that  in  troubled  economic  times,  public  investment  in construction  work could  provide  a living  for thousands of workers who have  had experience  on building  sites but  who are  currently unemployed.

SERVICES

Services sector account for 62% of Namibian GDP and employs about half of the labor force.

FINANCE

Namibia has one of the most sophisticated, diverse, and highly developed financial systems in Africa.  Most financial institutions are private, with strong ownership links to South African institutions. Access to the South African market fills in any gaps.

The performance of the financial system has been shaped by the structural characteristics of the economy.  The financial system serves the formal sector very well, but has been unable to achieve a satisfactory level of access for the urban poor and the rural population.

Owing to limited domestic investment opportunities, institutional investors invest heavily overseas. In addition, Namibia seems to have an acute deficit of skilled financial professionals. Given the structure of the economy, solutions to the policy challenges facing the financial sector go beyond the sector itself and include “real” sector policies such as education, land reform, and rural development.

The financial system assets are about 170% of GDP. This system consists of private commercial banks, insurance companies, pension funds, a stock exchange, a number of asset management and unit trust management companies, several special lending institutions, and a large number and variety of micro-lending institutions. Most of these institutions are private with strong ownership links to South African institutions.

Banking

The Bank of Namibia functions as the Central Bank of Namibia. The Bank was established in 1990 by the Bank of Namibia Act, 1990 (Act 8 of 1990).

The Banking Sector in Namibia comprises of eight banking institutions, which can be categorized as follows: seven commercial banking institutions; and a branch of a foreign banking institution. The Bank also oversee the business conduct of a representative office. These banking institutions are the primary mobilisers of funds from the public and the main sources of financing, which support business operations and economic activities in Namibia.

Transportation

The transport sector in Namibia covers the road, rail, air and maritime transportation modes.  Due to the country’s vastness and the sparsity of the population, road, rail and air transport infrastructure is of relatively greater economic importance than would be the case for a smaller, more density populated country.

Namibian transport infrastructure comprises well-developed and well-maintained proclaimed road network of some  65000km of which about 5500 km  is  high  quality bitumen surfaced roads; 2400km  of  rail  track,  connected to the South African rail system; the ports  of Walvis Bay  and Luderitz; and several airports capable of handling large jet aircraft. Walvis Bay is the main deep water port in Namibia and is expected to be an important commercial gateway to the southern African region.

Government exercises a regulatory function with regard to transport services. This function encompasses economic and quality regulation of road transportation, civil aviation and merchant shipping.

Telecommunications

Telecommunications in Namibia include radio, television, fixed and mobile telephones, and the Internet.

Telecommunication age commenced on 16 January 1899 when the German colonial administration contracted an agreement with the Eastern and South African Telegraph Company in London to participate in the sea cable from Mossamedes (Namibe in Angola) to Cape Town with a link to Swakopmund, the port town of “German South West Africa”.

Further telegraph stations followed in Karibib (9th August 1901), Okahandja (22nd October 1902) and Windhoek (27th October 1902). Swakopmund was the first town to get a telephone network with 28 lines on 1st October 1901. Windhoek, Okahandja and Karibib followed until February 1902. The total trunk connection between Swakopmund and Windhoek was constructed between 1901 and 1906.

Telecom Namibia Ltd is a telecommunications service provider operating in Namibia. It is the national telecommunications operator, established in August 1992 and wholly owned by the Government of the Republic of Namibia. Telecom Namibia is a commercialized company and a subsidiary of Namibia Post and Telecom Holdings Limited.

Tourism

row of chalets

Namibia is among the prime tourist destinations in Africa boasting of a large number of wildlife species found nowhere else in the world. Nearly 20% of employments in the country are directly or indirectly related to the tourism industry. The sector contributes to about 14.5% of the country’s GDP and more than one million tourists flock the country’s national parks and other tourist destinations each year. As a renowned ecotourism destination, Namibia’s economy is heavily reliant on its extensive wildlife.

There are many lodges and reserves to accommodate eco-tourists. Sport and trophy hunting is also a large and growing component of the Namibian economy, accounting for 14% of total tourism in the year 2000, or 19.6 million US dollars, with Namibia boasting numerous species sought after by international sport hunters.

Sport hunting and other extreme sports such as skydiving, sandboarding, and off-road driving are extremely popular in Namibian cities. Lodges and hotels have increased to cater to the new emerging interests as well as accommodate tourists from all over the world. Coastal towns such as Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, and Lüderitz generate income from the tourism sector and service industry. This has boosted the local economies as well as improved the standard of living of the locals.

Windhoek plays a very important role in Namibia’s tourism due to its central location and close proximity to Hosea Kutako International Airport.

CULTURE

With just 2.1 persons per square kilometer and a population of 2.3million, Namibia’s different cultures span an impressively diverse population for what is a sparsely populated country. From the Bantu-speaking Ovambo and Herero tribes (the latter of which are admired for their colorful Victorian dress) to the Damara minorities and nomadic San Bushmen, Namibia boasts cultural and historical flavor in spades.

German colonization left its own imprint on this Southern African nation with German being a widely spoken language today and German architecture and cuisine featuring prominently. Namibia’s diverse and, at times, harsh climate contributed to its colorful history with skirmishes, international and national, reflected in much of its modern history.

The vast majority of Namibians (about 80 to 90%) are Christians. Lutheranism is the predominant Christian denomination in the country. About 50% of the population is affiliated to the Lutheran Church. Christian festivals are celebrated throughout the country.

The cuisine of Namibia is influenced by both the cookery practiced by the indigenous inhabitants and that introduced by the Europeans who colonized the country in the past. Millet, sorghum, melons, peanuts, beef, mutton, and dairy products are the subsistence food products in Namibia. Mealie is the staple diet of the people.

English is the official language spoken in Namibia. The most widely understood national language is Afrikaans, the country’s lingua franca. Both Afrikaans and English are used primarily as a second language reserved for public communication.

SPORTS

Soccer is highly popular in Namibia. Most children grow up playing the game. Track and field is also a popular sport in the country. Many Namibians run daily chores that demand great physical efforts. Children in rural areas walk or run for long distances daily to reach school.

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