Last updated in June 2018
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 totalling circa one billion euros, the highest per capita assistance provided by Germany to an African country
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) while reaffirming its intention to strengthen Germany’s good bilateral relations with Namibia. In 2007 the then Speaker of Namibia’s National Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab, visited Berlin and in 2008 the then President of the German Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, travelled to Namibia. Parliamentary relations between the two countries have been further strengthened by the establishment of a Namibian-German Parliamentary Friendship Group in the Namibian Parliament, 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 have been the visits to Namibia by Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl in 1995 and Federal President Roman Herzog in 1998 and the visits to Germany by Namibian Presidents Sam Junoma in 1996 and 2002 and Hifikepunye Pohamba in 2005. Former Federal President Horst Köhler represented Germany at the celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of Namibia’s independence and the inauguration of the new Namibian President, Hage Geingob, in 2015.
In 2004, Germany’s then Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul attended the main ceremonies commemorating the centenary of the beginning of the horrendous colonial war in Namibia.
Since December 2015, special envoys appointed by the German and Namibian Governments have been conducting negotiations aimed at healing the wounds of the past.
Lively contacts are also maintained at regional 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 2017, bilateral trade between Germany and Namibia was worth approximately 212 million euros. Germany’s main imports from Namibia are non-ferrous metals and other raw materials as well as food. Germany’s main exports to Namibia are machinery and food.
Tourism is a particularly important element in Namibia’s service exports: the approximately 100,000 Germans that visit Namibia every year are by far the largest group of tourists from a non-African country.
Germany is also the source of one of the largest foreign investments in Namibia: in February 2011 the Schwenk Materials Group’s subsidiary Ohorongo Cement (Pty) Ltd was officially opened. A total of approximately 250 million euros was invested in the project. The plant provides more than 300 jobs and has indirectly helped to create another 2000 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 nearly 90 million euros.
The German and Namibian Governments are keen to deepen bilateral economic relations. An investment promotion and protection agreement as well as a double taxation agreement are in force.
Bilateral development cooperation is an integral element and cornerstone of the special relations between Namibia and Germany, with almost one billion euros 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 assist the Namibian Government in its efforts to eliminate the disparities that still divide Namibian society due to the legacy of colonialism and apartheid ‒disparities that are manifested in widespread poverty and high unemployment ‒ while also supporting its policy of national reconciliation. Here, Germany and Namibia are working together in three priority areas:
- natural resources management
- sustainable economic development
All of these priority areas include vocational training measures. There is close cooperation here with the University of Namibia (UNAM) and the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) in the areas of road construction, logistics and environmental sciences, as well as with the Namibia Training Authority (NTA) in the areas of road construction and agriculture. With HIV/AIDS threatening the country’s social and economic development at all levels, German development cooperation is helping its partners to do preventive work in the above-mentioned priority areas. In addition, special funding is being provided to promote renewable energy under the Initiative for Climate and Environmental Protection (IKLU). Since 2008, the German Government has also been supporting climate protection projects in developing, newly industrialised and transformation countries, including Namibia, as part of its International Climate Initiative (IKI).
As part of the Namibian-German Special Initiative Programme (NGSIP), the German Government has been promoting local development measures in those parts of the country that were particularly affected by colonialism. In 2012, the NGSIP’s budget was increased from an initial 20 million euros to 36 million euros. 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 Namibia in September 2017, the two Governments agreed to continue their cooperation in the three existing priority areas ‒ natural resources management, transport and sustainable economic development.
Germany’s cultural relations and education policy in Namibia is based on the 1991 bilateral cultural agreement. The German-speaking community in the country fosters a vibrant cultural life, has 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-speaking Namibians, in the Allgemeine Zeitung daily paper, 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.
On 1 January 2016, the Goethe-Zentrum in Windhoek, which had been run by the Namibian-German Foundation for Cultural Cooperation (NaDS), became a Goethe-Institut. This fulfilled a promise that the German Government had made back in 1991. The Institut has been fully operational since April 2017, and its German courses are highly popular.
German Private School Windhoek (DHPS)
The DHPS is a bilingual international school with 12 forms, leading either to the Namibian Senior Secondary Certificate (NSSC), with pupils in the English stream also receiving the German Language Certificate II (DSD II), or to the German International Abitur (DIAP) that has a strong foreign language component. Of the school’s approximately 1000 students, some 800 are Namibian nationals and 300 students have a mother tongue other than German. The Federal Foreign Office is providing support to the school through the secondment of German teachers and through annual school subsidies.
German language/PASCH network
The German language enjoys great popularity, mainly due to economic considerations. At the end of 2016, approximately 9000 pupils at 53 mostly state-run schools were learning German as a native or foreign language. The German Embassy, the Goethe-Institut and the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA) are currently providing support to eight partner schools under the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH). The German language is also promoted through activities such as:
- co-funding school exchange programmes and scholarships
- seconding a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) lector to the German Department of the University of Namibia (UNAM)
- further education courses and programme provided 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 (MPIK) 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 Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) – 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 NUST and Flensburg University of Applied Sciences (FUAS). During a visit to Windhoek by Germany’s then Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan 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. The German Government is making a significant contribution of approximately 50 million euros to its establishment.
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) awards postgraduate scholarships in Germany for young Namibian academics as well as sur place scholarships.
Since 1985, more than one million euros 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 are cooperating closely to promote sport. With financial support from the Federal Foreign Office, the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) regularly seconds experts to Namibia to work on short-term projects that promote athletics, basketball and women’s football. German coaches regularly play an active role in long-term projects that aim to support sustainable sport development in Namibia, with priority areas being the promotion of young athletes and the training of coaches. For example, a number of Namibian coaches receive further training in Germany every year. The Federal Foreign Office is helping Namibian partners to promote popular sport by making regular donations of sports Equipment.
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.