Namibia, located in the southern part of Africa, is considered the driest country in the continent. It has sparse rainfall, as well as multitudes of sand dunes surrounding the nation. A former South African colony, its current economy is strengthened by tourism and the mining for gold, silver, uranium, and other base metals.
1. Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries on the planet.
Namibia occupies a landmass of over 318,000 square miles. With a population of more than 2.6 million people, its density is at 8.3 per square miles. This makes Namibia one of the least populated nations in the world.
The reason why Namibia is one of the sparsely-populated nations on the planet is due to the Namib Desert, which spans 1,200 miles along the Atlantic. It is almost completely inhabited, except for the northern areas, where the tribes of the Ovahimba and the Obatjimba Herero can be seen. The Topnaar Namas, on the other hand, thrive in the central region of the Namib.
2. The country has the least amount of rainfall in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Namibia is nestled in between to large deserts – the Namib and the Kalahari – which have been dry for several millennia. This location makes the country one of the sunniest in the world with its more or less 300 days of summer. At the same time, this also means that the country receives the least amount of rainfall in the area of Sub-Saharan Africa, an interesting fact about Namibia. Rainfall can range from zero – nothing – to an average of 600 millimeters per year.
Precipitation varies according to location though. The Caprivi strip receives the highest amount of rain at 600 to 800 millimeters per year. Windhoek, on the other hand, has a 20-year average of 370 millimeters. While the Namib desert is almost completely dry, it can get as much as 85 millimeters of rain in its eastern parts. A measly 5 millimeters of precipitation, on the other hand, is sometimes noted in the western region of the Namib.
3. Namibia has been inhabited since the early times.
The first settlers of the country were the Namas, Damaras, and Sans. They were later on joined by the Bantu People in the 14th century. Four centuries later, the Oorlam people settled in the southern parts of the country. This hodgepodge of cultures helped create the population that it has today.
4. Europeans first explored the region in the late 15th century.
The Portuguese navigators Diogo Cao and Bartolomeu Dias were the first two Europeans to explore the area of Namibia. However, they did not try to colonize the country. A fun fact about Namibia is that the full exploration of the region, mostly by the Germans and Swedes, was only accomplished in the mid-19th century.
5. The Germans committed the “first genocide of the 20th century” against tribal Namibians.
Genocidal killing seems to be a habit for Germans. The colonists ordered the systematic killing of the OvaHerero and Namaqua tribes from 1904 to 1908 after the said people tried to revolt against brutal German rule.
Approximately 10,000 Namas – half the population – were killed. The OvaHerero suffered a worse beating, with 65,000 tribespeople – or 80% of the population – exterminated. The survivors endured an equally bad fate, as they suffered from forced labor, deportation, racial discrimination, and segregation.
Historians argue this to be the model from which the eventual Nazi genocidal killings would be based on.
6. It was once named South West Africa.
From 1884 to 1915, Namibia – formerly South West Africa – was under strict German rule. All that changed when the Germans lost World War I. The country was placed under the League of Nations Mandate which allowed the Union of South Africa, a British colony, to rule over the country.
Despite the abolition of the mandate in 1966, South Africa illegally governed over Namibia until 1978. The country was eventually awarded a limited form of home rule – the Transitional Government of National Unity –from 1978 to 1985.
7. Namibia was granted independence in 1990.
After decades of South African rule, Namibia was finally granted its freedom on March 21, 1990, an interesting fact about Namibia. This was made possible by the Tripartite Accord, where South Africa would give Namibia its independence in exchange for two things: Cuban military withdrawal, and Angola’s commitment to stop supporting the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia.
The accord saw the withdrawal of South African troops, the release of prisoners of war, and the repeal of racist legislation. It also fostered the return of 42,000 Namibian refugees to their homelands.
Although late, South Africa finally returned the territories of Walvis Bay and Penguin Island to Namibia in 1994.
8. Anti-Apartheid Activist Sam Nujoma became the first president of the country.
In 1960, Nujoma became the president of the South West Africa People’s Organization or the SWAPO, which led the independence movement against the South African colonists. Tired of the United Nation’s (UN) inability to help free Namibia from a racist rule, Nujoma organized armed resistance against the South Africans. This marked the start of the Namibian War of Independence.
The SWAPO party eventually won the UN-supervised elections of 1989. As president of the party, he was unanimously declared as president of Namibia. During his rule, Nujoma promoted the policy of “national reconciliation”, which aimed to improve relations between the different ethnic groups in the country.
Despite the controversies, Nujoma was reelected in 1994, and again, in 1999. In 2004 he was replaced by Hifikepunye Pohamba, who was said to be his hand-picked successor.
9. The country’s constitution emphasizes the protection of natural resources.
Article 95 of the Namibian constitution states: “The State shall actively promote and maintain the welfare of the people by adopting international policies aimed at the following: maintenance of ecosystems, essential ecological processes, and biological diversity of Namibia, and utilization of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future.”
With that being said, such makes the constitution one of the few in the world that emphasizes environmental conservation, a fun fact about Namibia. One of Namibia’s actions was to grant its communities the right to form conservancies, where they are enabled to protect their resources. To date, there are 44 conservancies in the country.
Namibia may be dry and hot, but it is rich in natural resources. With its commitment to environmental conservation, the country has become the best place to see zebras, gazelles, and other endangered species.
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