Namibia’s western border is the Atlantic Ocean; it shares land borders with Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. Although it does not border Zimbabwe, less than 200 metres of the Zambezi River separates the two countries.
The country is a prime destination in Africa and is known for ecotourism, which features Namibia’s extensive wildlife. There are many lodges and reserves to accommodate eco-tourists. Sport and trophy hunting is also a large and growing component of the Namibian economy.
Extreme sports such as sandboarding, skydiving and 4x4ing have become popular, and many cities have companies that provide tours.
The most visited places include the capital city of Windhoek, Caprivi Strip, Fish River Canyon, Sossusvlei, the Skeleton Coast Park, Sesriem, Etosha Pan and the coastal towns of Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Lüderitz.
The name of the country is derived from the Namib Desert, considered to be the oldest desert in the world. The name Namib itself is of Nama origin and means “vast place”.
Being situated between the Namib and the Kalahari deserts, Namibia has the least rainfall of any country in sub-Saharan Africa. It has the second-lowest population density of any sovereign country, after Mongolia.
Namibia was inhabited since early times by the San, Damara and Nama people. Around the 14th century, immigrating Bantu peoples arrived as part of the Bantu expansion. Since then, the Bantu groups, the largest being the Aawambo, have dominated the population of the country; since the late 19th century, they have constituted a majority.
In 1878, the Cape of Good Hope, then a British colony, annexed the port of Walvis Bay and the offshore Penguin Islands; these became an integral part of the new Union of South Africa at its creation in 1910.
In 1884 the German Empire established rule over most of the territory, forming a colony known as German South West Africa. It developed farming and infrastructure. Between 1904 and 1908 it perpetrated a genocide against the Herero and Nama people. German rule ended in 1915 with a defeat by South African forces.
In 1920, after the end of World War I, the League of Nations mandated the administration of the colony to South Africa. It imposed its laws, including racial classifications and rules. From 1948, with the National Party elected to power, South Africa applied apartheid also to what was then known as South West Africa.
In the later 20th century, uprisings and demands for political representation by native African political activists seeking independence resulted in the UN assuming direct responsibility over the territory in 1966, but South Africa maintained de facto rule.
In 1973 the UN recognised the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) as the official representative of the Namibian people. Following continued guerrilla warfare, South Africa installed an interim administration in Namibia in 1985. Namibia obtained full independence from South Africa in 1990. However, Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands remained under South African control until 1994.
Namibia gained independence from South Africa on 21 March 1990, following the Namibian War of Independence. Its capital and largest city is Windhoek.