Through Namibian colonial history, the country’s economy has largely come to have a strong export orientation, with a focus on mineral extraction and large-scale agricultural production. However, the economy is weakly integrated; About 90 percent of total production is exported, while 90 per cent of consumption is imported. There are also very large economic differences between the white minority and the African population. Diamond exports have historically played a major role.
During the first half of the 1980s, Namibia suffered a deep economic recession with falling demand and prices for the most important export products. From the mid-1980s, the economy was characterized by growth, which leveled out around the turn of the century, but which gained momentum during the 00s. However, the global financial crisis of 2008–09 hit hard on the mining industry, mainly diamond exports.
The agricultural sector consists of livestock farming households in the middle and southern parts and self-sustaining agriculture in the northern parts of the country. In addition, there are approximately 4,000 larger commercial farms (ranches), which are owned almost exclusively by whites. The land reform, based on voluntary sales and fragmentation of large goods, which the government has been pursuing since 1990 is very slow. This is mainly because the large farms are profitable and mean a lot to the country’s agricultural production. Due to the country’s special ecological conditions, commercial agriculture is more than 90 percent focused on livestock and sheep farming. In the southern parts, breeding of caracal sheep is especially important.
Commercial cereal production on a larger scale is conducted only in the areas around Tsumeb and in connection with the irrigation project at Hardap in central Namibia. The most important commercial agricultural products are meat and hides from caracal sheep. The most important self-sustaining crops are beans, potatoes and corn. The agricultural sector’s contribution to GDP has increased despite the negative impact of armed conflict, drought and overworking on the sector.
Namibia’s fishing waters are among the richest in the world. The fishing industry is about as important to the economy as agriculture, together they are Namibia’s second most important export sectors, after the mining industry. Most of the catch is processed in the country by domestic companies. After independence, the previous problems with overfishing from foreign fishing fleets have been addressed.
Namibia is the world’s largest producer of jewelry diamonds. The most famous diamond mine is in Oranjemund, from which almost 98 percent of the diamonds are jewelery quality. Since 1991, diamonds have also been mined at Elizabeth Bay and south along the coast. Diamonds mined at sea now account for a majority of total production.
The uranium, although relatively low-grade, is mined in, among other things, the Rössing mine, the world’s largest mining mine for uranium extraction. Namibia is also a major producer of lead, cadmium, zinc and copper. In addition to already used mineral deposits, the country is attempting to diversify the mining sector by extracting previously unused mineral deposits; Namibia’s reserves of tin and lithium are among the world’s largest. Furthermore, there are large deposits of natural gas on the continental shelf outside Lüderitz. In 2011, large oil deposits were discovered offshore in the south.
The industrial sector in Namibia is very small and mainly focuses on the processing and processing of food, including meat and fish for export. Traditionally, the country has been dependent on South Africa for manufacturing products. This and the limited local market, fluctuations in the fishing and livestock industry, high energy and transport costs, and a lack of educated business leaders have had a negative impact on industrial development. However, some industrial investments have been made; Among other things, the processing of natural resources in the country is increasing, especially diamond grinding. In 2011, Africa’s largest cement factory in Namibia was inaugurated in 2011.
According to Countryaah, Namibia’s exports are dominated by primary products, especially in the mining sector, but fish and beef are also exported. A large part of the exports goes to South Africa, but also to Botswana and Switzerland. Imports are dominated by, among other things, food and machinery, which come mainly from South Africa. Namibia is a member of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).