At 825,418 km2 (318,696 sq mi), Namibia is the world’s thirty-fourth largest country (after Venezuela). It lies mostly between latitudes 17° and 29°S (a small area is north of 17°), and longitudes 11° and 26°E.

Administrative division

Namibia is divided into 13 regions and sub-divided into 107 constituencies. The administrative division of Namibia is tabled by Delimitation Commissions and accepted or declined by the National Assembly. Since state foundation three Delimitation Commissions have been formed, the last one in 2002 under the chairmanship of Judge Peter Shivute. Regional councillors are directly elected through secret ballots (regional elections) by the inhabitants of their constituencies.

Geographical areas

The Namibian landscape consists generally of five geographical areas, each with characteristic abiotic conditions and vegetation with some variation within and overlap between them: the Central Plateau, the Namib Desert, the Great Escarpment, the Bushveld, and the Kalahari Desert. With Namibia’s tiny population, statistically one could only come across two people every square kilometre. The dramatic physical features of this astounding country draw visitors from all over the globe. Below are some of the most notable:

Central Plateau

The wide and flat Central Plateau is home to Namibia’s highest point, the Königstein elevation at 2,606 metres, which runs from north to south and is bordered by the Skeleton Coast to the northwest, the Namib Desert and its coastal plains to the southwest, the Orange River to the south, and the Kalahari Desert to the east. The Central Plateau holds most of Namibia’s population and economy as Windhoek and the most arable land are located here.

Namib Desert

Considered to be the oldest desert in the world, the Namib Desert consists of an expanse of hyper-arid gravel plains and dunes that stretch along the entire coastline of Namibia. Due to its constant shapeshifting nature, the size of the desert varies between 100 to several hundred kilometres in width. Notable areas include the Skeleton Coast and the Kaokoveld in the north and the extensive Namib Sand Sea along the central coast. The sand sea is made up from processes of erosion that take place in the Orange River valley and areas further to the south. Masses of sand are carried by rivers to the Atlantic where strong currents deposit them along the shore. The sands are picked up by a prevailing south west wind and redeposited into massive dunes forming the widespread sand sea, which becomes the highest sand dunes in the world.

In other areas, strong winds pummel the land to form large gravel plains in place of the sand. There is little vegetation in most areas of the Namib Desert apart from lichens in places where plants can reach underground water such as in the gravel plains and dry river beds.

Known as the living fossil, the Weltwischia plant is only found in the Namib desert, with some individual plants said to be nearly 2000 years old.

Coastal Desert

The coastal desert of Namibia is one of the oldest and highest in the world. As part of the sand sea, its sand dunes are created by the strong onshore winds. The Namib Desert and the Namib-Naukluft National Park are located here. It is also one of the richest sources of diamonds in the world and is made up of the Skeleton Coast in the north and the Diamond Coast in the south. There is often thick fog, as a result of the situation on the point where the Atlantic’s cold water reaches Africa. Namibia has rich coastal and marine resources that remain largely unexplored.

Great Escarpment

The Great Escarpment rises swiftly to over 2,000 metres and sees temperature ranges increasing further inland from the cold Atlantic waters with the prevalence of the coastal fogs diminishing slowly inwards. The area is rocky and although it has poor soils, it is greatly more productive than the Namib Desert.

Moisture is extracted from the summer winds which push over the Escarpment. This unique precipitation together with the varying topography, are responsible for the microhabitats of a wide range of endemic organisms. The varying vegetation ranges from dense woodland to shrubs and scattered trees.


The Bushveld lies in north eastern Namibia along the Angolan border and in the narrow corridor of the Caprivi Strip which has access to the Zambezi River, and is part of the KAZA Transfrontier Conservation area. The area receives much more precipitation than the rest of the country, with an average of 400mm per year. It is also cooler with approximate seasonal variations of between 10 and 30 °C. The area is mostly flat with sandy soils, which limits their water retaining ability.

The Etosha Pan in north-central Namibia lies adjacent to the Bushveld and is one of the most spectacular natural features. The Pan transforms from a dry-wasteland to a shallow lake which covers over 6,000 square kilometres in the wet season. It is an ecologically important area as it is vital to large numbers of birds and animals which gather from the surrounding savannah.

The Bushveld area is demarcated as part of the Angolan Mopane woodlands ecoregion.

Kalahari Desert

The Kalahari Desert, shared with South Africa and Botswana, is widely regarded as Namibia’s best known geographical feature. Its environments range from hyper-arid sandy desert to areas which are outside of the definition of a common desert, such as the Succulent Karoo which is home to over 5,000 species of plants. Almost half of these succulents are endemic; and one third of the succulents in the world are found in the Karoo.

The productivity of this desert is as a result of its stable precipitation and therefore does not receive droughts regularly. The area is technically a desert but it receives regular winter rains which provide sufficient moisture. Some of the main features of the Kalahari are inselbergs, or isolated mountains, which house organisms which aren’t adapted to life in the surrounding desert system.

Weather and Climate

Namibia has over 300 days of sunshine per year as a result of being situated at the southern edge of the tropics – the Tropic of Capricorn cuts directly through the middle of the country. Winter is from June to August and is mostly dry while the rainy season is in summer (the small rains occur between September and November, and the big one between February and April). There is low humidity and the average rainfall ranges from nearly zero in the coastal desert to over 600mm in the Caprivi Strip, although rainfall is variable with regular droughts.

The coastal area is dominated by the cold, north-flowing Benguela current of the Atlantic Ocean, accounting for the low precipitation of less than 50mm per year, frequent thick fog, as well as lower temperatures than in the rest of the country overall. Sometimes winter brings a condition called Bergwind or Oosweer (Afrikaans: East weather) which is a hot dry wind which blows from inland coastward. These winds can form sand storms due to the locality of the coastal desert. Sand is deposited into the Atlantic Ocean and these deposits can be seen by satellite.

The Central Plateau and Kalahari areas have high temperature ranges of up to 30°C.

People of Namibia


Namibia is a rich and diverse melting pot of different cultures, which speak of its varying history. The country has the second-lowest population density of any sovereign country, after Mongolia, with the majority being black African – mostly of the Ovambo ethnicity. Ovambo people form about half of the total population. Most reside in the north of the country, although many are now moving to towns throughout Namibia in a period of urbanisation. The Herero and Himba people, who speak a similar language, and the Damara, who speak the same “click” language as the Nama, are other ethnic Bantu groups of Namibia.

There are also large groups of Khoisan, including the Nama, who arefrom South Africa in 1990. descendants of the original inhabitants of southern Africa. The country is also home to descendants of refugees from Angola. There are two smaller groups of people with mixed racial origins, who together make up 6.5%.

The population is made up of 7% of white people of Portuguese, Dutch, German, British and French ancestry, and most speak Afrikaans.

Around 9% of the population is made up of the Kavango ethnic group. Other ethnic groups are: Herero 7%, Damara 7%, Nama 5%, Caprivian 4%, San 3%, Baster 2%, and Tswana 0.5%.


Namibia’s official language is English and until 1990, German and Afrikaans were also official languages. However, SWAPO had decided that Namibia should be monolingual before independence, in direct contrast to South Africa.

Some of the other languages received semi-official recognition and as a result are allowed as medium of instruction in primary schools.

Half of all Namibians speak Oshiwambo as their first language, whereas the most widely understood language is Afrikaans. The transition is evident in the younger generation who understand English more widely and both Afrikaans and English are used as a second language in public communication.

The majority of the white population speak German or Afrikaans.


Christianity is practiced by more than 90% of the population in Namibia as a result of the missionary work of the 1800s. Indigenous beliefs make up the remainder.

Most Namibian Christians are Lutheran, but there are also Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, African Methodist Episcopal, Dutch Reformed Christians and Mormon (Latter-Day Saints) represented, as well as some Jewish people.


The education system in Namibia is commendable. The country has compulsory free education for 10 years per child between the ages of six and 16. Primary level is from Grades 1–7 and Secondary level is from grades 8–12. Increasing numbers of children are attending schools; however there has been a shortage of teachers. The pupil-teacher ratio in 1999 was estimated at 32:1, with about 8% of the GDP being spent on education. According to UNICEF, Primary school attendance was 89% between the years 2005 and 2009 and the adult literacy rate was 88% between the years 2005 and 2008.

Most schools in Namibia are state-run, but there are also a few private schools on the country’s education system (St. Paul’s College, Windhoek Afrikaanse Privaatskool, Deutsche Höhere Privatschule, Windhoek International School and Windhoek Gymnasium). The National Institute for Educational Development (NIED) based in Okahandja, now organises curriculum development, educational research, and the professional development of teachers.

The problem of teacher shortage is being dealt with through the introduction of four teacher training colleges. There are also three agricultural colleges, a police training college, Polytechnic, and a National University.

Namibian Cuisine

Typical Namibian cuisine is heavily influenced by the country’s history, cultures, climate and environment. This is most evident in the influences of traditional German and South African dishes as well as the use of meat, game and seafood.

Staple foods include corn porridge and meat or fish stews. Dishes often include pasta, rice and potatoes; while vegetables include tomatoes, cabbage, celery and beans. Fruits which are found abundantly throughout Namibia include oranges, bananas, mandarins, pineapples, kiwis, and avocados; dried fruit is a particular favourite. Popular meat choices include beef, lamb, pork, chicken, ostrich, game (kudu, springbok and gemsbok) and cured or smoked ham. More adventurous local meats include goat, bush rat, and fried caterpillars known as omanugu or mopane worms and often cooked with chilli and onion.

Corn occurs most frequently in the south of Namibia where it is used in the making of bread, most often accompanied by fish. As a result of the hot, dry climate and desert conditions in most parts, couscous has become popular, as well as peanuts. The weather has also ensured that outdoor cooking has become the norm, and is most frequently done in the form of ‘braais’ and ‘potjiekos’ stews. Spices and herbs are essential to Namibian food and cooking techniques have stemmed from German and French cooking styles. Dishes are generally presented in visually attractive ways and make use of extensive colours.

The direct access to the sea has given rise to an extensive fishing industry which brings in seafood including vast arrays of fish, mussels, oysters, squid and shellfish.

There are a number of festivals and national holidays in Namibia and traditional food forms an important part of most of them. Namibia’s national day is the 21 March and the air is usually filled with the smoke and smell of braai fires and bubbling potjie pots. Traditional dishes are usually served on Worker’s Day, Cassinga Day, Ascension Day, Africa Day, Heroes’ Day, Women’s Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Frequent dishes include varieties of stews with snacks of biltong, brotchen and landjäger, which is a smoked pork and beef sausage. Rauchfleisch is a beautiful smoked meat which is enjoyed throughout Namibia.

For those with a sweeter tooth, the German influence is seen extensively in the variety of breads, cakes and pastries used in Namibian food; and for the thirsty, Namibia has a big German brewing tradition and its national drink is Tafel Lager and the ever popular Windhoek Lager.

Namibian food definitely has a unique flavour and look and is predominantly prepared by the woman of the household. However, tourists are not often exposed to it as most restaurants favour a typically European style – although hints of Namibian influence often crop-up in dishes, which is most often preferred. One thing that can be guaranteed is the freshness and abundance of food products.

Traditional Namibian foods include:

  • eedingu (dried meat, carrots and green beans);
  • kapana (meat);
  • mealie pap (porridge);
  • omanugu (mopane worms);
  • oshifima (millet);
  • oshifima ne vanda (millet with meat);
  • oshiwambo (spinach and beef)