Namibia : Society


Population density (per sq. km): 


Life expectancy: 
64 years
Primary enrolment: 

2,303,000 (2013); density is extremely low overall and 45 per cent of people live in urban areas; growth 2.1 per cent p.a. 1990–2013; birth rate 26 per 1,000 people (43 in 1970); life expectancy 64 years (53 in 1970 and 62 in 1990).

The Ovambo and Kavango together constitute about 60 per cent of the total population. Other groups are the Herero, Damara, Nama and the Caprivians. The San (Bushmen), who are among the world’s oldest surviving hunter-gatherers, have lived in this territory for more than 11,000 years. The Basters, who settled in Rehoboth in 1870, stem from marriages between white farmers and Khoi mothers in the Cape. The ‘Cape Coloureds’, immigrants from South Africa, tend to live in the urban areas. Of the white group of approximately 90,000, about 50 per cent are of South African and 25 per cent of German ancestry; about 20 per cent are Afrikaners (longer-established migrants); and a small minority are of UK ancestry.


English, Oshiwambo, Herero, Nama, Afrikaans and German. The official language is English, first or second language to only about 20 per cent. Oshiwambo is spoken throughout most of the north. The Caprivians speak Lozi as their main language. Afrikaans is widely spoken and is the traditional language of the Cape Coloureds and Baster communities.


Christians 80–90 per cent (predominantly Lutherans), the rest holding traditional beliefs.


Public spending on health was five per cent of GDP in 2012. Some 92 per cent of the population uses an improved drinking water source and 32 per cent have access to adequate sanitation facilities (2012). Tuberculosis and malaria are widespread in the north. Infant mortality was 35 per 1,000 live births in 2013 (129 in 1960). AIDS is a serious problem. In 2013, 14 per cent of people aged 15–49 were HIV positive.


Public spending on education was 8.4 per cent of GDP in 2010. There are ten years of compulsory education starting at the age of seven. Primary school comprises seven years and secondary five, with cycles of three and two years. In 1993 English replaced Afrikaans as the main language of instruction. The Namibian Constitution provides free education until the age of 16 or completion of primary education. Some 84 per cent of pupils complete primary school (2009). The school year starts in January.

The principal tertiary institution is the University of Namibia, established in 1993, with its main campus in Windhoek and nine other campuses across the country. The university offers courses in agriculture and natural resources, economics and management sciences, education, engineering and information technology, medical and health sciences, and law. There are also polytechnic, technical and agricultural colleges, and four national teacher-training colleges. Namibian College of Open Learning provides open and distance learning. The female–male ratio for gross enrolment in tertiary education is 1.30:1 (2008). Literacy among people aged 15–24 is 93 per cent (2010). There are extensive adult literacy programmes.


Daily newspapers include The Namibian (in English and Oshiwambo), Namibia Economist, New Era (government-owned), Die Republikein (in Afrikaans) and Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Namibian Sun and Windhoek Observer are published weekly.

The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation provides public TV and radio services. Several private and international TV channels are available via cable or satellite and there are many private radio stations broadcasting in the country.

Some 42 per cent of households have TV sets (2009). There are 239 personal computers per 1,000 people (2007).


Country code 264; internet domain ‘.na’. Mobile phone coverage is good in the towns but patchy in rural areas. Internet connection is available in main towns; there are internet cafés in Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Windhoek; and a good postal service.

For every 1,000 people there are 80 landlines, 1,102 mobile phone subscriptions and 139 internet users (2013).

Public holidays: 

New Year’s Day, Independence Day (21 March), Workers’ Day (1 May), Cassinga Day (4 May), Africa Day (25 May), Heroes’ Day (26 August), Human Rights Day (10 December), Christmas Day and Family Day (26 December).

Cassinga Day remembers those killed in 1978 when the South African Defence Force attacked a SWAPO refugee camp at Cassinga in southern Angola. Africa Day commemorates the founding of the Organization of African Unity in 1963 (now African Union). Heroes’ Day commemorates the start of SWAPO’s armed struggle against South African rule and those killed in the struggle. Human Rights Day remembers those killed in 1959 when residents of a black township near Windhoek resisted forcible removal to the present-day Katutura.

Religious holidays whose dates vary from year to year include Good Friday and Easter Monday.