Namibian default status set to OPEN, and the resulting stories from it

(Suburban backyard in Windhoek)

The first action-packed five days in Namibia have uncovered the blended ingredients of a country with not only deep European influence, from the Fins, Germans and the Brits, but also interactions with diverse Asian states, which include China and also North Korea. Throughout the conversations with the kind-hearted locals snippets have revealed how Namibia has continued to evolve through until modern times to establish an identity founded on historical trade, modern industry, and focus on the future.

Whether you are sat on a Safari jeep in the scorching African sun viewing the enormous imposing elephants of Etosha, or strolling through the stone clad passageways of Windhoek city, you cannot help to notice the heavy influence that Europeans have had on Namibia. The deliciously fried Schnitzel continuously appears on the menu, whether in the traditional chicken or in the exotic crocodile form, frequently accompanied by a refreshing light lager. The orders are placed either in German, English, Afrikaans or local dialects. And whoever the customer, the service is surprisingly prompt and friendly.

Tourism in Namibia generating over US $300MM, and accounting for over 4% of GDP, and will continue to keep growing. Safari is big business. But throughout the last 5 days it was not only those involved in tourism that have opened up and contributed their perspective on evolution of Namibia, but also many members of the business community, willing to engage in debates on past and future policies.

During the visit to FABLab, Namibia’s first advanced manufacturing, prototyping and design lab, the Sloan group was introduced to Bjorn and Kristin, who have both pioneered education of local students from young ages of 12 through to university graduates. Having both relocated from Cape Town in early 2000s, the dynamic duo have challenged the traditional uses of plastics, wood and wool, leading a drive for use in furnishings, clothing and industry. Both Bjorn and Kristin have opened doors of FABLab for everyone that wished to participate, but unfortunately had to scale back due to large operating costs. Their open door policy is reflective of Namibia’s default setting. In the last 15 years the FABLab duo were welcomed by many members of current and past administrations.

Similarly, our group was welcomed throughout Windhoek, most notably when our driver opened the doors to his suburban home and introduced us to his family. We were showcased how despite the tall standing sky scrapers in the centre, the life for locals is still deeply rooted in the communities. As the Japanese imported taxis ferry passenger in and out of the urban centre, locals across all strata partake in the growth of the economy.

The past 120 hours have been a truly immersive experience, giving an overview of a country that continues to evolve. Living in the rapidly changing 21st century economy presents many difficulties and Namibia has not only embraced the advances in technology, as demonstrated by FABLab, but also done so in its own unique welcoming way. The first-hand experiences demonstrated the benefit of witnessing economic development first hand to capture the fabric of society that no case study or literature truly can. A picture may well be worth 1000 words, but the experience is worth 1,000,000.

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