Gaining Ground Since Independence

In collaboration with Nedbank.

Almost three decades after her independence, Namibia has made progress across many socioeconomic indicators. Overall, poverty has declined significantly from 58.9% of the population in 1993/94 to 10.7% in 2015/16, while over the same period the Gini coefficient has fallen from 0.701 to 0.572. The infant mortality rate has dropped significantly, from 49.6 (per 1,000 live births) in 1990 to 32.8 (per 1,000 live births) in 2016 while the average life expectancy at birth has increased from 61.5 years to 64.9 years over the same period, recovering from a massive drop due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The proportion of Namibian households with no toilet facilities fell from 61% in 1991 to 43.8% in 2017. Access to safe drinking water for households increased from 59.0% to 92.7% over the same period. Access to services, such as electricity for lighting and cooking, has also seen an improvement. The nation has made significant progress in areas such as poverty, basic healthcare, and access to safe drinking water. Notwithstanding these tremendous achievements, progress has been slower across some other indicators.

The nation’s population has grown markedly since independence, from 1.4 million in 1991 to 2.4 million in 2018. The population has also become more urbanized, shifting from 73% inhabiting rural areas in 1991 to become almost evenly balanced at just 50.1% rural as of 2018. This shift developed as more people moved to urban centers in the hopes of finding work there, while unemployment remains high at 33.4%. This has resulted in some problems for urban centers, particularly increased demand for basic services and housing.

From 1991 to 2011, a marginally larger share of Namibian households progressed into formal housing. The proportion of Namibian households in informal housing, however, more than doubled over the same period. This was the result of the increasing urbanization experienced in the country, also reflected in the significant decrease in traditional housing. The Namibia Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2016 (NHIES) provides the latest comprehensive data for this, showing that progress made in housing since independence has regressed from 2011. The share of households living in informal housing in 2016 rocketed to 26.6% from 16.0% just 5 years earlier. Those who live in formal housing decreased, from 43.4% to 36.9%, while even fewer made use of traditional housing which fell from 37.7% to 32.6%.

There is evidently a need for more formal housing, as ever more Namibians move to urban centers in the hopes of making a better life for themselves, only to end up living in informal settlements. The issue of housing is not a new one. While many call on the authorities to provide housing, there are ever more efforts from individuals and groups within the private sector to actively solve this issue. In places like Windhoek the demand for housing, particularly on the low-to-middle income side of the spectrum, far outstrips the supply. Thus there is not only an increasing need for housing, but solutions to provide affordable and decent housing for all Namibians.

One such undertaking is the Ongos Valley project, a planned mixed-use village situated on 1,743 hectares of land and located just 13km from the capital’s central business district. The project plans to provide in excess of 20,000 housing units over the next 15-20 years, with the first phase set to begin in August 2019 seeing the construction of 4,500 housing units over 5 years. The project will offer a wide range of housing units, namely apartments, sectional titles, and single residential homes. The focus is to provide affordable housing for Namibians, but at the same time will not compromise on quality. Nedbank Namibia’s Corporate and Investment Banking division stepped on board in 2017 as lead arranger for this trailblazing project.