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Key points

  • Namibia's economy is extremely diverse. This largely reflects change over the past 50 years as more and more people moved from subsistence to cash economies, people moved from rural to urban areas, money flowed from urban to rural areas, and as new industries and economic activities developed.
  • While much of the economy operates along formal, measured lines, large parts of the economy are unseen and undocumented in: remittances; the capital values of livestock, village land and families; human happiness; the informal economy; and different types of natural resources.
  • Measures of expenditure and access to services and assets show that most people in rural areas are poorer in terms of cash income and deprivation of basic needs by a substantial margin than most urban residents.
  • Economic gains since independence are recorded in declining poverty, greater equality and less unemployment. However, the number and proportions of unemployed young people has increased.
  • In 2018, 28.2 per cent of the labour force was formally employed, 17.4 per cent were informally employed, 21.0 per cent were employed in vulnerable occupations, and 33.4 per cent were unemployed.
  • Monetary incomes – from salaries, pensions and other grants, trade and remittances – exceed incomes from farming in most rural households. Only about one in five rural households derive their main income from farming.
  • Namibia is endowed with numerous natural capital resources, including minerals, soils, air, sun, water, wind and all living organisms. Estimates of the economic value of these resources demonstrate the high value of Namibia for tourism, wildlife products, carbon storage, livestock production, and electricity production.
  • Conservancies and community forests developed over the past 25 years and are valuable mechanisms for their residents to earn income in places where few incomegenerating activities had been available. Much of the revenue is from tourism and wildlife.
  • About 77 per cent of the energy used in Namibia is imported. Namibia's local energy resources are numerous, in approximate order: plant biomass, hydropower, solar and wind. Uranium mined in Namibia is used to produce more energy than Namibia's total energy needs, but all the uranium is exported for use elsewhere. Other, untapped sources available in Namibia are geothermal, wave, coal, waste, and oil and gas energy.
  • Of all the energy used in Namibia, 61 per cent is provided by liquid fuels (diesel, petrol, kerosene and heavy fuel oil), 20 per cent by biomass (firewood and charcoal, and animal fodder) and about 18 per cent by electricity.
  • Namibia has well-developed and well-maintained road, air, shipping and rail transport systems. Roads carry more passengers and freight than all other infrastructure.