Located in southwestern Africa, Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990, after 24 years of armed struggle. It regained the territory of Walvis Bay in 1994.
Geography: The Namib Desert stretches along the coastal strip. Inland, a ridge of mountains rises to 8000 ft (2500 m). The Kalahari Desert lies in the east.
Climate: Almost rain-less. The coast is usually shrouded in thick fog, unless the hot, dry berg wind is blowing.
People and Society: The Ovambo, the main ethnic group, live mainly in the more populous north. Some 100,000 whites, many of German descent, are centered around Windhoek and still control the economy. The minority San and Khoi bushmen are among the oldest human communities in the world. The ban on homosexuality is contentious.
The Economy: Varied mineral resources, notably uranium and diamonds. Rich offshore fishing grounds. High unemployment. HIV/AIDS epidemic. One of Africa’s most skewed distributions of wealth.
Insight: The Namib is the Earth’s oldest, and one of its driest, deserts
Official Name: Republic of Namibia
Date of Formation: 1990
Population: 2.17 million
Total Area: 318,694 sq. miles (825,418 sq. km)
Density: 7 people per sq. mile
Languages: Ovambo, Kavango, English*, Bergdama, German, Afrikaans
Religions: Christian 90%, traditional beliefs 10%
Ethnic Mix: Ovambo 50%, other 25%, Kavango 9%, Damara 8%, Herero 8%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Namibian dollar = 100 cents