Although slowed by the global economic crisis in 2008, which dampened demand for its exports of diamond and gold, Namibia’s economy has grown steadily since independence in 1990. The country’s economy is closely tied to that of South Africa, and similarly dependant on extractives. And, like South Africa, Namibian society is marred by extreme income inequality. About 40 percent of Namibian households depend on subsistence farming or other forms of non-formal employment as their primary source of income.
Shortly after independence, the new Namibian government initiated a comprehensive land reform process to address the inequitable access to and ownership of land. This inequality stemmed from more than a century of German colonization and subsequent occupation by apartheid South Africa. At independence, nearly all commercial land in Namibia was owned by the white minority, which constituted less than 0.5 percent of the population, while 70 percent of the population lived on what is now classified as communal land.
The government held a high-level conference on land issues in 1991, and mandated the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement to implement the land reform process and to “manage, administer and ensure equitable access to Namibia’s land resources.”
The National Land Policy (NLP) of 1998 further lays the foundation for land ownership and reform. It is based on “a unitary land system, which provides for equal rights and opportunities across a range of tenure systems” on both communal and commercial agricultural land. The NLP established basic principles for the governance of all land in Namibia, with a strong emphasis on protecting the rights of the poor and women and promoting transparency and accountability in land administration.
Namibia is also one of the only countries in the world to include habitat conservation in its Constitution (Art. 95); the 1975 Nature Conservation Ordinance and its 1996 Amendment allow for the creation of nature conservancies on commercial or communal land and grants the owner, which can be a community, the right to profit from wildlife and tourism activities in the area.