Namibia’s economy is driven by mining and fish processing. Since independence in 1990, exports of diamonds, uranium, zinc and fish products have grown strongly. Most people in rural areas of this vast country, however, remain largely unaffected by these activities. Government policy is to raise per capita income, to develop the private sector and to encourage diversification into manufacturing activities, such as clothing and textiles, and eco-tourism. It is also committed to restraining growth in public spending and controlling inflation.
Having fallen short of the national development plan target of five per cent p.a. in the latter 1990s and early 2000s – due to environmental factors such as drought and the finite stocks of fish – growth picked up from 2002 on account of increased diamond production, the opening of a new zinc mine and refinery, and increased textiles output. It averaged 5.7 per cent p.a. during 2004–08. But in the face of the world economic downturn and consequent falls in demand for Namibia’s minerals, the economy stalled in the latter part of 2008, recovering in 2010 (6.0 per cent) and continuing with growth of four to six per cent p.a. 2011–15.
The sector is the largest source of export earnings. Namibia has great mineral wealth, including diamonds, uranium, copper, zinc, gold, silver, phosphate and oil. Zinc production rose rapidly from the mid-1990s. Onshore reserves of diamonds are becoming depleted, but offshore output has risen quickly, helped by new mining technology. Namibia is one of the world’s largest producers of uranium. Large offshore phosphate deposits have been discovered near Walvis Bay. Offshore oil and gas exploration is also under way and there are plans for several new exploration wells to be drilled in 2015–16.