Namibia Economic Geographic Overview

By | May 21, 2021

The economic geographic map of Namibia shows in a somewhat simplified form the spatial distribution of various economically relevant developments, development potentials and projects i as well as the most important growth poles and development axes of the country.

Some of the projects shown have now been implemented (e.g. the Neckartaldamm near Keetmanshoop, which was officially opened in March 2020 ), other projects are currently or are being discussed again and again without concrete steps having already been taken. The latter applies, for example, to the development of the Kudu gas field, which has been discussed for many years but has never been tackled off the South Namibian coast and the railway line between Walvis Bay and the large coal deposits in Botswana, which has so far only been discussed in simulation games. The offshore resources (or suspected resources) of oil, gas and phosphate shown on the map only show the approximate location of these deposits. They do not lay claim to precise positional accuracy and primarily serve to round off the overall picture of the economic situation and the economic potential of Namibia.

From the main map it becomes clear that the economic activities in Namibia are mainly concentrated in four larger regions in the central and northern parts of the country, supplemented by a few isolated or small-scale economic ‘hot spots’ in southern Namibia. The four larger economic regions are:

  • the area around Windhoek, which extends mainly northwards towards Okahandja and eastwards towards the airport,
  • the so-called ‘Otavi triangle’ between Tsumeb, Grootfontein and Otavi, which is increasingly becoming an industrial development center in addition to its favorable agricultural location,
  • the Erongo region with the coastal towns of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Henties Bay as well as (a little inland) the mining town of Arandis and
  • the north of Namibia with the Oshakati / Ondangwa agglomeration and Rundu as the second largest city in the country.

These regional economic zones are supplemented by isolated isolated or small-scale economic activities in the south and south-east of the country. Oranjemund (center of off-shore diamond mining), Rosh Pinah (zinc extraction in the Skorpion Mine) and Lüderitz (fishing and, for some years now, also a wind power location) should be mentioned here. In addition, there is the cultivation of high-quality table grapes along certain stretches on the northern bank of the Orange River, the river border with South Africa.

Windhoek and the surrounding area

According to internetsailors, Windhoek is due to its size (currently (August 2020) probably around 450,000 E. (estimated or extrapolated on the basis of the 2011 census data) still the undisputed economic center of Namibia. Almost all larger domestic and foreign companies, organizations, Banks etc. have their headquarters here.

With the current expansion of the B1 section from Windhoek to Okahandja to the first motorway in Namibia (large parts have already been opened), Windhoek’s growth dynamic will continue to increase, particularly to the north and east towards the international airport Hosea Kutako. Okahandja in particular should benefit greatly from this in the medium term, as it is now even better connected to Windhoek thanks to the new motorway and is located at the intersection of the country’s two main traffic arteries, the B1 to the north and the B2 to the coast.

Otavi triangle (‘corn triangle’)

In the central north of the country, the Otavi triangle is developing into a further pole of growth. Due to the relatively high rainfall (by Namibian standards), agriculture is also possible here in addition to cattle breeding. Because of the comparatively favorable agricultural conditions, the area is therefore often referred to as the ‘Maize Triangle’ . In addition to agriculture, ore processing in Tsumeb (copper), the large army base in Grootfontein and the Ohorongo cement works near Otavi have created the necessary critical mass here, which favors further economic growth.

Central coast / Erongo region

Swakopmund is the tourist center of the central coastal region, a ‘must see’ for every Namibia vacationer. Approx. 30 km south of Swakopmund, Walvis Bay with its large and well-functioning deep-sea port is the undisputed economic center of the region. The much smaller Henties Bay, about 60 km north of Swakopmund, benefits (in addition to tourism) above all from its popularity as a retirement home. Many farmers move to Henties Bay (or Swakopmund) to retire. Many still working (wealthy) Windhoekers own a house or an apartment as a second home and holiday home on the coast.

Due to its history as a former South African enclave, Walvis Bay is still strongly ‘afrikaans’, in contrast to Swakopmund, where the German influence is still noticeable today at every turn. Walvis Bay and Swakopmund complement in an ideal way: Swakopmund is the more attractive city to live and live in, Walvis Bay, on the other hand, is primarily a ‘business’ city, with a focus on the trade and logistics sector. Swakopmund is the tourist hot spot, while Walvis Bay is dominated by its harbor. A large part of the goods imports and exports are processed through this, not only for Namibia, but also for some of its neighboring countries, especially the landlocked countries Zambia, Zimbabwe and partly also Botswana.

Walvis Bay benefits in three ways from its port: firstly from fishing and the processing fish industry, secondly from its function as a ‘cargo hub’ and thirdly from uranium mining in the Erongo, for whose imports and exports Walvis Bay is also extremely important. Should there be offshore oil production at some point in the future, Walvis Bay in particular would benefit particularly from this. The same applies to a possible exploitation of the offshore phosphate deposits north and south of Walvis Bay, which, however, has so far been successfully blocked by the fishing sector and nature conservationists.

Environmentalists, the fishing industry and many coastal residents are very concerned about the developments on the coast and especially uranium mining (the existing as well as the planned) and offshore phosphate mining, which is constantly being discussed anew. They fear that these projects will have a significant negative impact on the environment and the quality of life on the coast, and above all they fear bottlenecks in the water and electricity supply.

Northern Namibia

About half of the residents of Namibia (well over a million people) live in the north of the country, especially in the area of the more and more merging cities of Oshakati and Ondangwa, the core area of Owambo country. Then there is Rundu, the economic and population center of the Kavango region and, with around 90,000 residents, the second largest city in Namibia. The residents of northern Namibia live mainly from agriculture (mainly small-scale subsistence agriculture) and from trade with the northern neighboring countries Angola and Zambia.

'On Pad' in southern Namibia