Last updated in April 2015
Since Namibia gained independence in 1990, particularly intensive bilateral relations have developed between the two countries. These are based on
- their shared colonial history (1884-1915) and Germany’s consequent special responsibility towards Namibia
- close cultural ties with the German-speaking community in Namibia
- more than two decades of enduring and substantial bilateral development cooperation worth over EUR 800 million.
A milestone in German policy on Namibia was the German Bundestag’s 1989 resolution that underlined Germany’s historical and political responsibility towards Namibia. In another resolution dating from 2004, the German Bundestag remembered the victims of the colonial war (1904-1907/8) and reaffirmed its intention to strengthen Germany’s good bilateral relations with Namibia. In 2007 the Speaker of Namibia’s National Assembly, Gurirab, visited Berlin and in 2008 German Bundestag President Lammert travelled to Namibia. Relations between the two countries’ parliaments have been further strengthened by the establishment of a Namibian-German Parliamentary Friendship Group, which visited Berlin for the first time in March 2013. The German Bundestag also fosters relations with the Namibian parliament through the Parliamentary Friendship Group for Relations with the SADC States.
The special relationship between Germany and Namibia is also reflected in the numerous other high-level political contacts at government level. High points were the visits to Namibia by Chancellor Kohl in 1994 and Federal President Herzog in 1998 and the visits to Germany by Namibian Presidents Nujoma in 1996 and 2002 and Pohamba in 2005. Former Federal President Köhler represented Germany at the celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of Namibia’s independence and the inauguration of the new Namibian President Geingob in 2015.
Then Federal Foreign Minister Fischer visited Namibia in 2003. In January 2013, Namibian Foreign Minister Nandi-Ndaitwah made her first official visit to Berlin, holding talks with then Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle and the Federal Foreign Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development. She visited Berlin again in June 2014, meeting with Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier.
In 2004, then Federal Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Wieczorek-Zeul attended the main ceremonies commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the terrible colonial war in Namibia. Her successor in office, Niebel, visited Namibia in 2010, 2011 and 2013. In April 2012, then Federal Minister of Education and Research Schavan was in Windhoek for the signing of a declaration to establish the Southern African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management.
Similarly lively contacts are also maintained at federal state and municipal level, for example the town twinning arrangements between Windhoek and Berlin and Bremen. There is also intensive exchange between church-affiliated groups, non-governmental organisations and scientists and academics from the two countries.
In 2013, bilateral trade between Germany and Namibia was worth approximately EUR 272 million, German imports from Namibia amounting to around EUR 106 million and German exports to Namibia approximately EUR 166 million. Germany’s principal imports from Namibia are copper, zinc, earths and stone, fish and fruit. Germany’s main exports to Namibia are aircraft, machinery and mineral fuels.
Tourism is a particularly important element in Namibia’s service exports: the more than 80,000 Germans that visit Namibia every year are by far the largest group of tourists from a non-African country.
Germany is also responsible for one of the largest foreign investments in Namibia: in February 2011 the Schwenk Group subsidiary Ohorongo Cement (Pty) Ltd was officially opened at a ceremony attended by the Namibia’s President, Prime Minister and numerous cabinet ministers. A total of approximately EUR 250 million was invested in the project. The plant provides some 300 jobs and has indirectly helped to create another 2,000 or so jobs in the region. With an annual production capacity of 700,000 tonnes, it is designed to supply large sections of the market throughout southern Africa. Aggregate German direct investment in Namibia amounts to approximately EUR 1 billion.
The two governments are keen to step up bilateral economic relations. To this end, in August 2012 the Namibian Cabinet adopted a resolution that sets the course for the future. An investment promotion and protection agreement and a double taxation accord are in force.
Bilateral development cooperation is an integral element and cornerstone of the special relations between Namibia and Germany, more than EUR 800 million having been provided for this purpose since 1990. German engagement is not confined to official development assistance but also typically includes a variety of private initiatives and activities by non-governmental organisations.
The ongoing aim is to support the Namibian government in its efforts to gradually close the rifts that still divide Namibian society as the legacy of colonialism and apartheid, with the resultant widespread poverty and high unemployment, and to support the country’s policy of national reconciliation. Here, Germany and Namibia are working together in three priority areas:
- management of natural resources
- sustainable economic development
These are complemented by vocational training measures and HIV/AIDS prevention efforts. In addition, funding is being provided to promote renewable energy under the Initiative for Climate and Environmental Protection (IKLU). Since 2008, the Federal Government has also supported climate protection projects in developing, threshold and transformation countries, including Namibia, as part of its International Climate Initiative (IKI).
As part of the Namibian-German Special Initiative, the Federal Government is promoting local development measures in those parts of the country that were particularly affected by colonialism. In 2012, the Special Initiative’s budget was increased from an initial EUR 20 million to EUR 31 million. The choice of projects is closely coordinated with the affected communities and Namibia’s National Planning Commission is tasked with their implementation.
At the intergovernmental negotiations held in Swakopmund in November 2013, the two governments agreed to continue their cooperation in the three existing priority areas management of natural resources, transport and sustainable economic development.
For the period up to 2015, Germany has pledged a total of approximately NAD 2 billion (EUR 147.5 million) in development cooperation with Namibia.
Germany’s foreign cultural and education policy in Namibia is based on the 1991 bilateral cultural agreement. The German-speaking community there fosters a vibrant cultural life, boasts a close-knit network of institutions and plays a key role Namibia’s economic life. It is recognised by the Namibian government as an integral element of society. The German language still enjoys a very high profile in Namibia – as the mother tongue of German Namibians, in the Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, in the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation’s German-language radio and TV programmes and that of the commercial radio station Hitradio Namibia, but also in the tourism sector with its vastly growing importance for the future of Namibia’s economy.
To mark the 25th anniversary of Namibian independence and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the German Embassy organised German Weeks in Namibia, featuring more than 30 cultural events, in cooperation with numerous German and Namibian partner organisations.
Goethe Centre/Namibian-German Foundation for Cultural Cooperation (NaDS)
The Goethe Centre is housed in a historical building in the centre of Windhoek that was provided by the Namibian government. It is run by the Namibian-German Foundation for Cultural Cooperation (NaDS), which receives financial support from the Federal Foreign Office via the regional Goethe Institute in Johannesburg. A focus of the Goethe Centre’s work is the topic Culture and Development. The Goethe Centre offers highly popular German courses attended by nearly 600 participants each year. Language courses in English, Afrikaans and Oshivambo are also offered.
In the second half of 2015, the Goethe Centre is due to be turned into a regular Goethe Institute with a seconded director.
German Private School Windhoek (DHPS)
The DHPS is a bilingual international school with 12 grades, leading either to the Namibian Secondary School Leaving Certificate (complemented by the DSD II German Language Diploma) or to the German International Abitur DIAP (with a strong foreign-language component). Of the school’s approximately 1,000 students, some 800 are Namibian nationals and 300 students have a mother tongue other than German. The Federal Foreign Office provides the school with personnel support through the secondment of (currently 21) German teachers and financial support through annual school subsidies.
The DHPS was founded over 100 years ago. With its high standard of teaching, the DHPS is among the country’s best schools and has an important bridge function for the German-speaking community in Namibia, as well as reflecting Namibia’s multi-ethnic society in its capacity as an international school. In 2011, the DHPS was awarded the Excellent German School Abroad quality seal after successfully passing an inspection by a Federal-State Commission.
German language/PASCH network
In Namibia, there are some 7,000 pupils learning German as a foreign language at 50 schools. Some 1,500 pupils receive German mother-tongue instruction at ten (private and state) schools. Besides supporting the DHPS as a German School Abroad, Germany promotes use of the German language in Namibia in a number of ways, including:
- support of the schools at which German is taught as a foreign language by the Goethe Centre
- seconding German teachers to the Namib High School Swakopmund and the Delta Secondary School Windhoek
- integrating four Namibian schools – the DHPS, the Martin Luther High School Okombahe, the Namib High School Swakopmund and the Delta Secondary School Windhoek – into the global PASCH network of partner schools
- co-funding school exchange programmes and scholarships
- seconding a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) academic teacher to the German Department of the University of Namibia (UNAM)
- further-education courses and programme offerings by the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle for the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation’s German-language radio programme.
Science and academia
Since 2004, the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg has been jointly operating the H.E.S.S. Automatic Telescope for Optical Monitoring to explore high-energy cosmic radiation on the central Namibian Khomas Highland plateau together with the University of Namibia (UNAM) and several European partners. The telescope was inaugurated in September 2012 at a ceremony attended by the Namibian Education Minister. Germany is engaged in wide-ranging cooperation with Namibia’s two universities – the University of Namibia (UNAM) and the Polytechnic of Namibia – including the secondment of lecturers, university partnerships and joint institutions such as the Namibian-German Centre for Logistics, which was set up in 2009 as part of the Aktion Afrika excellence initiative and is run jointly by the Polytechnic of Namibia and Flensburg’s University of Applied Sciences. During a visit to Windhoek by then Federal Education and Research Minister Schawan in April 2012, a declaration of intent was signed to set up a regional Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) in the Namibian capital. Germany is making a significant contribution of approximately EUR 50 million to its establishment.
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) awards postgraduate scholarships in Germany for young Namibian academics as well as "sur place" grants.
Since 1985, more than EUR 1 million has been invested in Namibia under the Federal Foreign Office’s Cultural Preservation Programme. The projects supported range from the restoration of the rock paintings in the Brandberg mountains and the restoration of historical steam locomotives and coaches to projects to preserve and document oral traditions and musical heritage to the preservation of German colonial architecture (the Estorff House, the Officer’s House at Warmbad and the Namibia Scientific Society House in Windhoek), which are regarded by both the Namibian government and the general public as part of Namibia’s own history and cultural heritage.
Germany and Namibia cooperate closely to promote sport. The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) regularly seconds sport experts to Namibia with Federal Foreign Office funding, e.g. to conduct short-term projects to promote track and field athletics, basketball and women’s football. As part of long-term projects, German coaches regularly work in Namibia to support sport there on a lasting basis. The work focuses on promoting young people and training coaches. In addition, a number of Namibian coaches receive further training in Germany every year, the courses being held at the German Football Association’s Sports Academy in Hennef and at the University of Leipzig. The Federal Foreign Office supports Namibian partners’ efforts to promote popular sport by making regular donations of sports equipment.