Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Out and About Namibia

As the aircraft descends at the Hosea Kutako Airport, the huge tracts of land, take me aback... they just lay there, fallow and under-utilized... mmh! I wonder about land ownership here...

The kind Namibian gentleman chauffering me to my new base of operation comes to the rescue. He informs me that rural Namibia is largely communally owned and controlled by the local Councils. For a ‘barely-there’ sum of cash, residents get the right to live in and graze on the land.

However, it is not all 'free-range'. There have been calls for land reforms as most of Namibia's commercial land is still owned by European farmers who make up six percent of the country's population.

Now, Kenya's population is nearly 20 times that of Namibia (2.1 million). History records the tragic genocide (between 1904 - 1907) of nearly 70% of the Namibia's population in German concentration camps built in Africa for Africans.... Behold, the savagery of European colonial ideology!

Back to the land question: If we were to distribute the land equitably, each Namibian citizen would bag 300 sq. meters of land, compared to their Kenyan counterpart, who would have to eke out an existence from the 10 sq. meters. (This translates to an acreage allocation ratio of 30:1).

The abundance of land notwithstanding, Namibia has the most uneven income distribution on the planet. With a Gini co-efficient of 70.7, the gap between the rich and the poor begs for urgent action.

Anyway, 40km later, we get to Windhoek CBD. It has a very European feel to it. Unbeknownst to the 'pedestrian' traveller, poverty lurks in the periphery, meaning that you have to go out of your way to find it.

And find it, I did. It is alive and well in townships such as Katutura and Babylon, only a few minutes from the squeeky clean city. (Ironically, Namibia has been declared a middle income country... the paradox of International Development ratings!)

Later in the afternoon, I make my way past three metal gates and two dogs (I dunno, but this dog-phobia has got to go... cold-turkey!) and prayerfully navigate my adrenaline-pumping self into my new 'home' (or shall we say Fort Knox?), unharmed.

Tootsie (Afrikaans for bye)!