Demographics of Namibia

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This article is about the demographic features of the population of Namibia, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

Namibians are of diverse ethnic origins. The principal groups are the Ovambo, Kavango, Herero/Himba, Damara, mixed race (Coloured and Rehoboth Baster), White Namibians (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, especially Lutheranism. 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.


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