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Past and present

About 2.1 million people were counted in the 2011 population census, the most recent count before this book was published. Population projections by the Namibia Statistics Agency predict there to be about 2,600,000 people living in Namibia in 2022.1

While the number of people living in Namibia will remain modest by comparison to other countries – and, indeed, even some cities in the world – the way in which the population is structured and distributed has many dimensions. So, too, does population growth, and the considerable changes that take place as more and more Namibians move from rural livelihoods dependent on subsistence goods to urban livelihoods reliant on cash incomes. Most Namibians are young, and many live far from the rural homes where they or their parents and grandparents were born. This continues a history of migrations that previously brought many of their ancestors and earlier predecessors to Namibia.

Namibian homes today are spread across the country in surprising ways, reflecting the availability of resources, the country's history and people's changing priorities and values. Many are aggregated in small villages close to water or along roads or rivers. Others are spread widely and evenly across rural areas. Many more are densely packed in formal and informal urban settlements.

Before examining these current, yet ever-changing, dynamics of Namibia's population, this chapter first illustrates aspects of Namibia's prehistory and history. These provide snapshots of where people first settled, and insights on the strategies they adopted to live. It also depicts migrations that first brought many people to this land, and more recent historical events.

Photo: Namibia's people are extremely diverse. Indeed, there is no such thing as a typical Namibian. Namibians are also changing their way of life rapidly, moving from one area to another, adjusting the ways in which they make a living, and becoming increasingly educated and dependent on modern telecommunications, consumer products, medical services, financial management and systems of government. Much has changed; and much will change in the years ahead.