Namibia: An Introduction (1991)

    This document has been made available in electronic format
         by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA 
                         September, 1991

          (Source: Report of a Study by the ICA -The Current
          Status and Development Potential of the Co-operative
          Sector in Namibia- pp.8-12)

               II. Namibia : An Introduction

General Information
The country data presented in the opening pages of the Report
give information at a glance about the country, a picture of
its economy and some social indicators. In this chapter a
brief description of Namibia's history and its economy with
special reference to agriculture and rural areas, will be
given to provide the needed background to the main concern of
the Report: viz. the co-operative sector and its development.
Attention will be drawn to relevant constitutional provisions.
Government of Namibia's development perspectives for the
transition period of reconstruction and rehabilitation will
also be outlined.

Namibia gained independence on 21st March, 1990. First
occupied by Germany in 1984-85 and later by South Africa after
the First World War, the country remained under foreign
domination for over 100 years. The colony's economy was
structured to subserve the interests of South Africa. Further,
apartheid as practised in South Africa was applied in this
country as well, with all the exploitative elements that go
with it - dividing the population on racial lines, alienating
most land to white farmers, pushing the black majority to
separate homelands (nearly 50% of them in the relatively small
geographical areas in the North) and creating conditions for
securing cheap labour for the white farmers and the mines.

Constitution and Political System
Namibia has a Constitution that has many outstanding
characteristics. It provides for a democratic form of
government based on a multi-party system. It is based on the
rule of law and guarantees fundamental human rights and

The Constitution of the Republic of Namibia states in the
preamble that the people of Namibia "will strive to achieve
national reconciliation----and have resolved to constitute the
Republic of Namibia as a sovereign, secular, democratic and
unitary state securing to all our citizens `justice, liberty,
equality and fraternity'".

The practice of racial discrimination and apartheid is
declared illegal. Further Article 23 of the Constitution
states that Parliament may pass laws "for the advancement of
persons within Namibia who have been socially, economically or
educationally disadvantaged by past discriminatory laws or
practices". The Constitution points out that women "have
traditionally suffered special discrimination and that they
need to be encouraged and enabled to play a full, equal and
effective role in the political, social, economic and cultural
life of the nation'.

Namibia has a democratic form of government based on a multi-
party system.

The constitution stipulates that Namibia will have a mixed
economy with co-operatives as one form of ownership.

Namibia has a dualistic economy. Its modern sector is
comparable to that of the first world. Its subsistence
agricultural population together with low-income earners in
urban areas constitutes the third world sector.

The income distribution is extremely uneven, the average per
capita income is US$1,228; about 55 per cent of the people
live in conditions of extreme poverty, their per capita income
being US$ 63 per annum. It may be noted that 70 per cent of
the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture.

Namibia can be classified as a least developed country on the
basis of the UN criteria, despite its modern sector and a high
average per capita income (Namibia Foundation, `Namibia
Brief', No.12, Nov.,1990, p.13).

Namibian economy is heavily concentrated int he production for
export of primary commodities, viz. minerals, livestock and
livestock products. It has a small manufacturing base. Most
consumption and investment goods are imported, mostly from
South Africa. Currently the economy is stagnating.

Unemployment is a major problem. The rural areas also suffer
from unemployment and under-employment.

Namibia has a well developed physical infrastructure linking
it adequately with the outside world. Due to military reasons,
a fairly good road system was developed during the 1980s,
linking the south with the north. However, infrastructure in
the rural areas, especially in the densely populated North,
needs to be developed.


Agriculture is characterized by:
-    a well developed commercial sector, dominated by the
     white people,
-    a subsistence agricultural sectors in the communal areas
     inhabited by the black people.

While 70 per cent of the population lives in rural areas and
dependent on agriculture, agriculture's share of GDP net of
fishing is around 11 per cent - mostly contributed by the
commercial agricultural sector. The commercial agricultural
sector. The commercial agricultural sector is engaged in
livestock farming, and main products are beef, mutton and
karakul pelts. Commercial production of food crops is
inadequate to meet national needs. Maize and other cereals are

Subsistence agriculture is carried out on communal farms
where, according to tribal custom, farmers are given the right
to use the land but have no title to it.

Namibia can be divided into three distinct agricultural zones.
These zones correspond to rainfall levels:

i.   The Northern mixed farming area consisting of Owambo,
     Kango and Caprivi with crops and livestock production.
     Annual rainfall is 500 mm and above. However, the
     evaporation rate is high, resulting in moisture
     deficiency in all seasons.

ii.  Central, North and North-eastern parts with large animal
     stock specializing in beef production (large-scale cattle
     ranches) characterize this zone. Annual rainfall is
     between 250-500 mm.

iii. The Southern part with small animal stock. Here sheep and
     goats, including karakul sheep are reared. Annual
     rainfall is below 250 mm.

Namibian physical characteristics, namely the rainfall
situation with high degree of evaporation and particular soil
conditions, make for a fragile ecology. Hence livestock
farming and crop production have to be carried out with a
great deal of care so as not to upset the ecological balance.
The physical environment is pretty harsh. Although blessed
with a small population and large geographical area, the
carrying capacity of land is low.

The agricultural potential of the North is not fully
exploited. However, the people inhabiting these and other
communal areas, as described in one of the position papers of
FNDC, are "hardly a generation out of insular tribal life,
semi-literate and eke out a subsistence existence".

Development Perspectives
The government of Namibia has issued a General Policy
Statement for the Reconstruction and Development of Namibia.
The policy is formulated for a transitional period for
reconstruction and rehabilitation which will lay the
foundation for long-term sustainable development - a more
balanced and equitable growth in the future. The development
perspectives outlined below are based on this document.

I.   Political, Social and Economic Objectives
1.   Democracy based on a multi-party system and human rights
     will be the cornerstone in nation building and social
     progress in Namibia. Fundamental human rights and freedom
     will not be violated.

2.   Economic development and growth will be the main focus.

3.   The economic system will be based on the principles of a
     mixed and market-oriented economy and social

4.   `Co-operatives,' along with various other forms of
     economic enterprises, will be encouraged.

5.   One of the policies aimed at promoting the welfare of the
     people is `ensuring equal opportunity for women to enable
     them to participate fully in all aspects of development
     and society'.

6.   Wealth-creating sector is expected to be in appropriate
     balance with the wealth-distributing sector.

II.  Institutional Framework
1.   The public administration will be restructured.

2.   Decentralization will be introduced by establishing
     regional and local governments.

3.   "In her infancy, Namibia invites the donor countries and
     international organizations to co-operate closely in
     order to establish a well functioning aid co-ordination
     mechanism within the national planning commission."

III. Development Challenges
1.   The dualistic nature of the Namibian economy and society
     has led to lopsided development in various sectors
     resulting, inter-alia, in:
     i.   glaring poverty among the majority of the
     ii.  widespread unemployment,
     iii. a high illiteracy rate,
     iv.  inadequate health care, and
     v.   poor housing conditions.

     Despite the low population density of Namibia, viz. 2
     persons per, the carrying capacity of land has not
     kept pace with population growth.

2.   The structure of production of the Namibian economy is
     characterized by the relatively low contribution from the
     agricultural sector. This calls for the need for an
     equitable and more productive land tenure system and
     substantial increase in agricultural production.

3.   There is a need for increased domestic savings and
     increased capital formation.

4.   It is necessary to increase domestic productive capacity
     of the economy through the promotion of small and medium
     sized industries, thereby promoting employment

5.   The recent deceleration in the real growth rate of 
     G.D.P. from 2.8 in 1987 to 0.2 in 1989 is of particular

IV.  Policies on Growth and Employment
     Promoting economic growth and employment are major
     policies of the government.

V.   Priority Sectors and Programmes
     The main focus of the priority programmes is the
     promotion of popular participation in the development
     process. To this end, the following sectors will receive
     special attention:

     "i.  agricultural and rural development, on which the
          livelihood of the majority of the Namibian people

     ii.  education and training to give an opportunity to all
          Namibians to participate fully in the development

     iii. health care for the so far neglected majority of the
          population; and

     iv.  affordable housing for the less advantaged."

VI.  Other Sectors and Inter-linkages
Activities in other sectors which would contribute to the
achievement of the objectives of the policy statement
"include, inter-alia, infrastructural development, especially
in the water supply and transport sector, agro-related
industries and overall economic and financial management".