For so long regarded as a holiday destination and a ‘poor cousin’ to South Africa, Namibia is finally flexing its business muscles and announcing itself as a serious African business travel destination.
Namibia is quietly making its presence felt in the Southern African Development Community, as it reaps the benefits of mineral wealth and looks to diversify its economy. With excellent air connectivity and modern infrastructure, this sparsely-populated country is increasingly drawing corporate investors and canny entrepreneurs. Contributing to this expansion is a focus by the Namibian government on diversifying an economy that’s long been dependent on exporting raw materials. Chief amongst those traditional sectors has been mining (diamond, zince, manganese, marble, uranium, copper), which contributes over 12 percent of the GDP. The other economic pillars are tourism, agriculture and fisheries. At the moment there’s a major focus on growing Namibia’s manufacturing industries.
Windhoek is the largest and the capital city, and enjoys a quaint cafe culture. The tourism industry is centred on the coastal holiday town of Swakopmund, where desert adventure is a popular drawcard, but the dunes of Sossusvlei – among the highest in the world – and the wilderness haven of Etosha National Park, are also popular escapes. Walvis Bay is the centre of the fisheries industry.
Namibia has more than 300 days of sunshine per year. The winter (June – August) is generally dry and both rainy seasons occur in summer – the small rainy season between September and November, and the big one between February and April. Humidity is low.
Citizens from the following African countries are exempt from visa requirements: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe. All others must consult their local embassy or consulate.
Cell phone coverage is provided by Mobile Telecommunications Ltd (MTC) and Cell One through their GSM network. All major towns in Namibia are covered, as well as most portions of the national highway. International roaming agreements with more than 218 networks in 102 countries are in place. But, signal strength varies across the country and is not always reliable.
Golf – If you can make time, try Omeya, the new golf estate, 15 minutes south of Windhoek. It’s a luxurious residential golf estate due to open in February 2012. Design guru Peter Matkovich has laid out the 18-hole course, and there’s a brand-new clubhouse on the cards.
Hosea Kutako International Airport, situated 48 kilometres east of Windhoek, is the main gateway with flights to domestic, regional and international destinations. Eros Airport, in downtown Windhoek, is a secondary airport and an important hub for air charter traffic. Walvis Bay Airport serves domestic and regional flights. Over 350 airstrips are dotted across Namibia, allowing charter aircraft to quickly and easily access remote parts. Although the distances between towns can be daunting, self-drive is a good option, thanks to Namibia’s mostly well-maintained road network and a good selection of international and local car hire companies, offering a range of vehicles well suited to Namibia’s harsh terrain.
Medical services are of a high standard, but are restricted to main towns and cities. Emergencies or accidents that occur in remote areas do attract a high cost when transport to the main towns is required. The north of Namibia, including Etosha National Park, is a malaria area. Travellers are advised to take the necessary prophylaxis and carry insect repellent.
Population: 2.3 million
Time zone: GMT+2
Plugs: Three-prong round
Dialling code: +264 + area code + number required
Currency: Namibian Dollar and SA Rand – US$1=8.3NAD
GDP growth rate (2010): 4.2%
Language: Predominantly English and German