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People and the River



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A large percentage of Namibia's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is generated by mining. Agriculture (in particular livestock), fishing and tourism are also playing an increasingly important role, while manufacturing industry remains small. Although Namibia is one of the richest countries in Africa, Namibia's economy is also characterised by high unemployment, low wages, and a very unequal distribution of income.

Economic Sectors


Namibia is one of the largest exporters of uranium in the world and one of the largest diamond producers relying predominantly on growing offshore diamond mining. Other available mineral resources include lead, zinc, copper, silver, tungsten, tin, lithium, cadmium, and suspected offshore oil deposits (CIA 2009). The mining industry has been hard hit by the world financial crisis. Many people lost their jobs, particularly in copper production (AfDB/OECD 2009b).

Agriculture & Fishing

Agriculture contributes roughly 6 % to Namibia's GDP. A considerable percentage of the crops are irrigated and the government has approved a Green Scheme Policy to increase irrigated agriculture along its perennial rivers forming Namibia's northern and southern borders. A major crop is maize, which is used to a great extent for domestic consumption. Cattle industry and dairy farming are also important (AfDB/OECD 2009b).

The majority of Namibians (64 % of the rural population) are subsistence farmers susceptible to food shortages during times of drought (Adongo and Deen-Swarray 2006). Most subsistence farming occurs in the northern areas of the country and is concentrated on food crops with livestock produced for local consumption. Commercial agriculture is dominated by livestock ranching in the southern and central regions. Irrigation is used along the Orange River to support the production of table grapes and dates for the European and American markets. Export of table grapes creates several thousand seasonal jobs (Davidsen 2006).

The fishery sector, while one of Namibia's most important economic pillars, has been declining over the past years because of high oil prices, fish migration and depleting fish stocks (AfDB/OECD 2009b).


Over the past decade industrial production has steadily increased contributing up to 20 % of Namibia's GDP. The textile, mineral processing (mainly zinc refining and copper smelting), and diamond cutting/polishing industries have performed particularly well (AfDB/OECD 2009b).


The construction industry has expanded over the past ten years partly due to the development of new mining sites, an extended railway line to Angola, the extension of the electricity grid to the north east, and more residential and office blocks. (AfDB/OECD 2009b)

Tertiary Sector

Tourism, government activities, wholesale and retail trade, real estate and business services dominate Namibia's tertiary sector. Wholesale and retail trade showed strong growth between 2004 and 2007. Tourism has been amongst the fastest growing, most employment-intensive sectors and continues to be one of Namibia's largest foreign exchange earners. Over the past decade, the transportation and communication sectors have shown double-digit growth (AfDB/OECD 2009b).

Gross Domestic Product by sector in 2007.
Source: AfDB/OECD 2009b
( click to enlarge )


Namibia's most important infrastructural developments are concentrated in the electricity sector. Investments have concentrated on power transmission, distribution and rural electrification. There has also been an important infrastructure development in the water sector, triggered by the uranium mining rush: a desalination plant has been built and a second one is planned.


Hydroelectric power generated at the Ruacana power plant is of primary importance to satisfying Namibia's energy needs, however the output from the plant is currently variable and insufficient to cover all the country's needs. While obtaining energy from neighbouring countries, such as South Africa and Zimbabwe, Namibia has had to rely increasingly on coal-fuelled domestic electricity generation in the last years. There are several new projects and ongoing plans to meet Namibia's increasing energy demand and reduce the dependency on its neighbours (AfDB/OECD 2009b). NamPower (Namibia's national power utility) has selected an energy mix to face this challenge. The following key projects are proposed (ERM 2009):

  • Fourth turbine generator at Ruacana hydropower station (80 MW, anticipated 2011);
  • Lower Orange River small hydro stations (100 MW, anticipated 2011);
  • Diesel peaking station at Walvis Bay (70-270 MW, anticipated 2011);
  • Combined cycle gas-fired power station Kudu (450-800 MW, anticipated 2013);
  • Coal-fired power station at Walvis Bay (200-800 MW, anticipated 2014);
  • Wind turbine parks (35 MW, anticipated 2012) and solar power; and
  • Baynes Hydroelectric Scheme (250 MW, anticipated 2015).




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