Why I’m considering a move to Namibia


You may have heard of it, but I bet you’d be hard-pressed to point out Namibia on a map, and even more to spot its flag or to name its capital. (It’s Windhoek, by the way.)

Yet for my money, it’s one of the half-dozen most attractive countries on earth. In fact, if I feel the urgent need of sun and sea in a few years’ time, I shall be very tempted to pack up and settle there. The pound isn’t much against the Euro now, but against the Namibian dollar it’s riding high, and living there is extraordinarily cheap.

Namibia isn’t Africa as you probably think of it. The towns and cities (well, city) are clean, tidy and peaceable. This is one African country that doesn’t suffer from over-population; it’s huge. The standard journalistic scale of national measurement usually contains three gradations: countries are either the size of Wales, France or Western Europe.
At 318 000 sq miles, Namibia is a third bigger than France. It’s smaller than Nigeria or Pakistan and quite a bit smaller than South Africa; but all three of those countries are bursting at the seams, while Namibia is virtually empty: its total population is only 2.1 million.

It’s also heart-stoppingly beautiful. Whether you venture to the Namib Desert, with its red sand and gigantic, designer-scaped dunes, or trek across the Kalahari, or spend time in the heavily German-influenced towns, or sit by the watering-holes in Etosha National Park or the Fish River Canyon, or battle against the wind on the immense sandy beaches along the Atlantic coast, you will see some of the most magnificent sights on the entire African continent.

I once flew from south to north across virtually the whole of Namibia in a small private plane, and every time the pilot and I saw some sign of human life we would shout out and point: it was that rare. This means no pressure on land, no competition, no angry demands for sequestration of property. There’s enough for everyone, with a huge amount left over. As a direct result, Namibia is a stable, relatively prosperous, multi-party democracy: exactly the kind of thing a lot of people seem to think Africa doesn’t produce.

South Africa, its neighbour and former colonial power, is wonderful, but the pressure of population there has created one of the highest crime rates in the world. In Namibia, by contrast, violent crime is rare. Ovambo, Kavango, Herero and Damara live peacefully alongside the seven per cent who are white.

I suspect most Brits aren’t particularly aware of Namibia because we never really owned it; I say “really” because in 1920 the League of Nations gifted it to Britain as part of the spoils of war, but the British handed it directly on to South Africa, in gratitude for its willingness to fight alongside Britain during the First World War.

Before that, Namibia’s rather nasty colonial master had been imperial Germany, and after the massacres, punishments and tortures that accompanied the Kaiser’s rule it was quite a relief to be governed by the Union of South Africa.

This advantage disappeared after 1948, when South Africa adopted apartheid, and eventually there was a vicious colonial war there. Today, Namibia still looks and sounds like a province of South Africa, though with architecture that is clearly German in origin. It’s got a lot of the good things of South Africa, with none of the bad.

Namibia’s size and emptiness can be a problem. Once, when I was doing some research on the Bushmen, who are well treated in Namibia by comparison with the brutality with which its neighbour Botswana treats them, a Dutch nurse volunteered to drive me the 300 miles to a Bushman camp I wanted to visit. (They prefer the term “Bushman”, by the way, as it is traditional. The politically correct “San” is almost as derogatory, but because it’s in a language we don’t understand, we think it’s more acceptable.)

As she was driving, the nurse pointed out the place where a couple she knew had broken down in their car, and who had died of thirst. I tend not to suffer from too many phobias, but found myself feeling the pressures of agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces.

But there are some open spaces which are magical. Once I stayed in a house at Cape Cross, on the Skeleton Coast. The aquamarine waves broke on the white sand with deafening loudness, and the sea birds screamed overhead. I wandered along the shore, picking up the calcified white vertebrae of unknown creatures, singing or shouting anything, in the knowledge that no one could hear me.

One of the things I remember shouting was: “One day I’ll come back to live here.” Perhaps I will. – The Telegraph

* John Simpson is the BBC’s world affairs editor.


  1. Why do thousands live in small tin shacks?
    Who works in the toxic mines and under what conditions?
    Where does all the Uranium go to and who profits
    Why is the justice system so corrupt?
    Why are so few rich and so many poor?
    The plight of the Bushman???/
    The plight of the other indigenous tribes ?

    I believe you’ve got blinkers on ………..Why do you think there are so few people….. half the country is sealed off by the rich and ruthless Diamond extractors…..Go back and do your homework if you dare!!!!

  2. I am a Uk citizen/passport holder and hold a 4 yr temporary residence/retirement visa for South Africa.
    I have visited Namibia twice in the past 6 months as a solo traveler and immediately noticed the peace/tranquility between people of all races here, contrary to neighboring ZA. The desert is attractive, the towns/cities diverse & cosmopolitan and I would have no problem with residing here on a permanent basis depending on visa procedures but preferably at the coast, Swakopmund & Henties bay are great examples of a place to live.

  3. Wonderful! Being born in Africa I felt encouraged reading this. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless You! 🌍⭐️🌾

  4. I was in Namibia three years ago and I can tell you now, of all the African countries i visited, Namibia is the best,very neat and the people are also friendly, you will be amazed that if your car gets stuck on the side of the road, everybody wants to stop and help even though you didn’t ask anyone to stop. Amazing, I love that country, I would like to settle there one day

  5. Yes, indeed it is a unique and beautiful country. My wife and I had the chance three years ago to drive from Windhoek to Wallvis Bay and upto Etosha National Park, and were surprised to see the real nature of the Namibian Desert and its friendly Bushmen.
    During the three weeks, we drove almost everywhere and it was a magic period having the best contact with locals . It’s a country to revisit more often and why not, to settle in.

  6. As a visitor living on foreign earned money as a pensioner, this is paradise. But to make a living in Namibia is as harsh as the desert is at noon – but Namibians are friendly even then.


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