At independence in 1990, Namibia inherited an economy characterised by a narrow industrial base and heavy dependence on the production and export of primary commodities such as beef, fish and minerals. In order to redress this structural imbalance, Government committed itself towards a strategy of economic diversification aimed at creating dynamic industrial and service sectors through increased manufacturing activities, promotion of value addition to locally produced raw materials and the modernisation of our financial and ICT sectors.
Towards this end, Namibia implemented free-market liberal policies such as enacting a Foreign Investment Act and an Export Processing Zone (EPZ) regime as well as employing favourable incentives for exporters and manufacturers with a view to attracting foreign direct investment.
Mining and energy remains a mainstay of Namibia’s economy, being the third largest contributor to the GDP. Namibia is the fourth largest exporter of non-fuel minerals in Africa and the world’s fifth largest producer of uranium. Rich alluvial diamond deposits make Namibia a primary source for gem-quality diamonds. Namibia also produces large quantities of lead, zinc, tin, silver, and tungsten. In 2015 the mining and quarrying industry contributed 12.5% to the Gross Domestic Product.
Agriculture contributed around 3.2% to the GDP for the year 2015. In 2007 the figure was 5.3, which illustrates its gradual decline over the years. The agricultural sector directly or indirectly supports over 70% of the total population of Namibia, and its main sources of income are: (i) livestock, beef and mutton production, which accounts for about 70-80% of the gross agricultural income; and (ii) agronomic production which accounts for the remaining 20-30% gross agricultural income. The livestock population of Namibia is about 2.5 million cattle, 2.4 million sheep and 1.8 million goats. The major cattle breeds are the well adapted indigenous Sanga as well as Bonsmara, Afrikaner, Brahman and Simmentaler breeds. Cattle farming is concentrated in the northern and central parts of the country where a variety of breeds freely roam the nutritious grasslands, whilst sheep farming is mainly in the southern part of the country. About 80% of Namibia's beef and mutton is exported to South Africa and the European Union.
Namibia's climate is mainly suitable for dry-land crop production, with the exception of areas in the north, north-eastern, and southern parts of the country where irrigation is possible in areas bordering perennial rivers and where dams feed irrigation schemes. The main crops grown are maize, wheat, sorghum, pearl millet, grapes, dates and a variety of beans. Namibia remains a net importer of basic food crops particularly from South Africa and in 2005 the country imported 50% of the cereals it required. To address the dependency on imports, the government is acquiring land from traditional authorities, mainly from areas where irrigation is possible, for crop production under the Green Scheme Programme. In terms of the Green Scheme Policy, government enters into a public private partnership (PPP) agreement with a private investor who is given the mandate to farm the land, with the government being in charge of providing bulk services i.e. access to roads, water and electricity. The government's land reform policy is shaped by two key pieces of legislation: the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act 6 of 1995 and the Communal Land Reform Act 5 of 2002. The government remains committed to a "willing seller, willing buyer" approach to land reform and to providing just compensation as explicitly stipulated and directed by the Namibian constitution.
Namibia’s fishing industry ranks among the world’s top 10 in the international fishing industry and contributed to the 2015 GDP by 2.9%. This is due to the cold Benguela current which creates an especially beneficial eco-system, with year-round temperate conditions. Namibia’s 1500 kilometer-long coastline has a marine produce harvested by a flourishing fishing and fish-processing industry. Some of the more common fish available in quantity for export are horse mackerel and hake. Namibian horse mackerel contains only three to eight percent body fat, making it both healthy and highly nutritional as well as a vital staple food source for many nations. Namibia’s Hake products are of superb quality and in great demand for the catering and retail markets. Other marine exports include rock lobster; crab; oysters; kabeljou; monk; tuna; pilchards and seaweed.
The tourism sector is the fastest growing in the economy in terms of contribution to GDP. In 2015 its constribution ended at 3%, and that number is expected to rise significantly. Tourists to Namibia are increasingly attracted by the country’s unique mix of peace, political stability, cultural diversity, and geographic beauty. Tourism in Namibia has had a positive impact on resource conservation and rural development.
Namibia’s main export commodities include copper, cut diamonds, gemstones, granite, lead products, marble, uranium and zinc and manufactured products. The main export partners are South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The main import commodities include food products, petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, plastic products, rubber, spare parts, textiles and knitwear and timber. The majority of the imported goods come from South Africa, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
In addition to our membership in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Namibia is a member of the South African Customs Union (SACU), a customs union comprising Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa. Namibia has been a member of the World Trade Organization since its inception in 1995 and has been a strong advocate of the Doha Development Agenda. Namibia also is a member of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Furthermore, Namibia is currently engaged in negotiations aimed at concluding the EU-ACP Economic Partnership Agreement.
Key Economic Sectors:
• Service Industry
Key Economic Indicators:
GDP (2015): U$11.546 billion
GDP growth (2015): 5.3% (2014: 6.5%)
GDP per capita (2015): U$4.7
Inflation (2015): 3.4%
(Sources: Bank of Namibia, Quarterly Bulletin, September 2008; Ministry of Finance, Namibia; Central Bureau of Statistics, Namibia; United Nations World Economic, Development Indicators and The World Bank)