Sunday, April 01, 2007

Namibia

Namibia is a country along Africa's southwest coast, just north of South Africa. Namibia is one of the world's most sparsely populated nations.

My knowledge of Namibia came from the fact that it was a Germany colony prior to WW1. During WW1, a German officer by the name of von Lettow-Vorbeck fought an amazing guerrilla war against Allied forces that outnumbered his by 20-1. He was never defeated and surrendered after capturing a British soldier with news that the war had ended. I am not one of those guys that just lionizes WW1 / WW2 German military prowess, but von Lettow-Vorbeck was pretty universally admired, for his on-the-ground leadership and touch with the common soldier. The British even put together a pension for him after WW2...

Namibia is adjacent to unstable countries. They share a border with Angola, a notoriously unstable and oil-rich country. South Africa controlled Namibia for years as a buffer state in their proxy war against the Marxist rebels in Angola.

Nowadays Namibia is known as the country where celebrities (can't name them or our site will be full of crappy traffic) go to adopt babies, and where the former CEO of Comverse fled to avoid charges on backdated stock options.

The joy of the web, however, is that there is a treasure trove of information available online. I started researching it and here is what I found:

  • Wikipedia has a decent entry. There is geographic and demographic data available, along with a series of links and maps
  • A paper in Namibia, "The Nabinian", has a decent online web site. Their motto is "Still Telling it Like It Is". The paper is not afraid to criticize neighboring regimes like Mugabe in Zimbabwe... don't know if they go after their own government, however.
  • The Namibian government has a web site in English. Particularly interesting is their military web site - apparently they have 9000 under arms, with 6 planes, and a ship. Not too bad for a country of 1.8 million
  • Namibia apparently has a reasonably well developed stock market, with a home page here.
    I was not able to dig in and get market data but may do some analysis on their companies. In general, Namibia has a good location (next to Angola, which has tremendous oil wealth) and will be a likely place for new companies to set up. Finland does a lot of business with Russia - companies set up within Finland and then trade within Russia. I am not comparing the development or laws of Namibia with Finland but some elements of the analogy make sense
In going through the web site for Namibia's government I noticed that all of the leaders were black and that there were frequent references to how badly the South Africans treated them during the proxy war with Angola's SWAPO rebels. Yet there is a substantial white / mixed race presence in Namibia today (the highest percentage outside of South Africa) and a decent infrastructure for a market economy. These facts could be a good jumping-off point for Namibian growth and building of complex institutions such as the stock market. They would also be able to effectively interact with Germany who takes interest in their former colony. Alternatively, Namibia could go down the Zimbabwe path and expel them or make it so that they want to leave through subtle and unsubtle means. Best of luck to Namibia...

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