Namibians are of diverse ethnic origins. The principal groups are the Ovambo, Kavango, Herero/Himba, Damara, mixed race (Coloured and Rehoboth Baster), white (Afrikaner, German, and Portuguese), Nama, Caprivian (Lozi), Bushmen (San), and Tswana. The Coloureds and Basters share similar genealogical origins and cultural attributes (such as home language) but nonetheless maintain distinctly separate communal identities, as do most white Namibians and black Namibians, respectively.
The Ovambo make up about half of Namibia’s people. The Ovambo, Kavango, and East Caprivian peoples, who occupy the relatively well-watered and wooded northern part of the country, are settled farmers and herders. Historically, they have shown little interest in the central and southern parts of Namibia, where conditions do not suit their traditional way of life.
Until the early 1900s, these tribes had little contact with the Nama, Damara, and Herero, who roamed the central part of the country vying for control of sparse pastureland. German colonial rule destroyed the warmaking ability of the tribes but did not erase their identities or traditional organization. People from the more populous north have settled throughout the country in recent decades as a result of urbanization, industrialization, and the demand for labor.
The modern mining, farming, and industrial sectors of the economy, controlled by the white minority, have affected traditional African society without transforming it. Urban and migratory workers have adopted Western ways, but in rural areas, traditional society remains intact.
Missionary work during the 1800s drew many Namibians to Christianity. While most Namibian Christians are Lutheran, there also are Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, African Methodist Episcopal, and Dutch Reformed Christians represented.
Modern education and medical care have been extended in varying degrees to most rural areas in recent years. The literacy rate of Africans is generally low except in sections where missionary and government education efforts have been concentrated, such as Ovamboland. The Africans speak various indigenous languages.
The minority white population is primarily of South African, British, and German descent, with a few Portuguese. About 60% of the whites speak Afrikaans (a language derived from 17th century Dutch), 32% speak German, and 7% speak English.
Population: 1,927,447 (July, 2003 est.), 1,771,327 (July 2002 est.)
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected
0-14 years: 42.5% (male 414,559; female 404,346) (2003 est.), 43% (male 384,900; female 375,282) (2000 est.)
15-64 years: 54% (male 517,469; female 522,549) (2003 est.), 53% (male 468,942; female 475,504) (2000 est.)
65 years and over: 3.5% (male 30,038; female 38,486) (2003 est.), 4% (male 28,905; female 37,794) (2000 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.49% (2003 est.), 1.57% (2000 est.)
Birth rate: 34.1 births/1,000 population (2003 est.), 35.23 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)
Death rate: 19.17 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.), 19.49 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female (2003, 2000 est.)
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female (2003, 2000 est.)
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female (2003, 2000 est.)
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female (2003 est.), 0.76 male(s)/female (2000 est.)
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2003 est.), 0.99 male(s)/female (2000 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 68.44 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.), 70.88 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.) female: 65.06 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.) male: 71.72 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 42.77 years (2003 est.), 42.46 years (2000 est.)
male: 44.27 years (2003 est.), 44.33 years (2000 est.)
female: 41.22 years (2003 est.), 40.53 years (2000 est.)
Total fertility rate: 4.71 children born/woman (2003 est.), 4.89 children born/woman (2000 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 22.5% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 230,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 13,000 (2001 est.)
Ethnic groups: Black 84%, White 8%, Mixed 8%
note: about 50% of the population belong to the Ovambo tribe and 9% to the Kavangos tribe; other ethnic groups are: Herero 7%, Damara 7%, Nama 5%, Caprivian 4%, Bushmen 3%, Baster 2%, Tswana 0.5%
Religions: Christian 80% to 90% (Lutheran 50% at least), indigenous beliefs 10% to 20%
Languages: English 7% (official), Afrikaans common language of most of the population and about 60% of the white population, German 32%, indigenous languages: Oshivambo, Herero, Nama
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 84% (2003 est.) 38% (1960 est.)
male: 84.4% (2003 est.), 45% (1960 est.)
female: 83.7% (2003 est.) 31% (1960 est.)