The pillars of Namibia's economy are mining, fishing, tourism and agriculture. Of these tourism is the fastest-expanding industry. The largest single contributor to Namibia's Gross Domestic Product is general government, while agriculture is the largest provider of employment.
The mining industry has been the backbone of Namibia's economy since the turn of the century, with diamonds being the largest earner of foreign exchange. While Namibia is only a medium-sized producer, it has the highest average carat value output in the world. Since onshore diamond reserves are becoming depleted, diamond-mining activities are increasingly moving offshore. The Namdeb Diamond Corporation is involved in onshore and offshore mining operations and recovery plants, and has satellite mines at Elizabeth Bay and Auchas. Other major marine diamond companies are Ocean Diamond Mining (ODM) and Diamond Fields Namibia (DFN).
In addition to the world-class deposits of gem-quality diamonds, Namibia also has uranium, base metals such as copper, lead, zinc, magnesium, cadmium, arsenic, pyrites, silver and gold, lithium minerals (fluorspar, salts, wollatonite), dimension stones (granite, marble, blue sodalite) and many semi-precious stones, including agate, amethyst, tourmaline, rose quartz, aquamarine, garnet, chrysolla, chalcedony and dioptase.
The Government has created a modern and enabling legislative, fiscal and institutional environment in which exploration and mining companies can operate. It regulates the allocation of licences for prospecting and mining activities, and has an appropriate strategy in place to address the environmental implications of such operations.
One of the most recent significant foreign investments is by Anglo American plc in the far west of Namibia where the Skorpion Zinc Mine and Refinery has been planned to produce around 150 000 tonnes of pure zinc metal per year. The wholly owned Namibian company, Ongopolo, has reopened one of the country’s largest copper producers.
The energy sector plays a vital role in Namibia's economy, as the various sectors - agriculture, mining, fishing, tourism, transport and communication - are largely dependent on petroleum fuel for transporting goods and services. The country is endowed with natural energy resources such as natural gas, wind, sun and biomass. Namibia's water resources, however, are limited and the country, therefore, depends to a large extent on imports of electricity to meet national demand. Opportunities for hydrocarbon exploration are offered on- and offshore
The Kudu Gas Field was discovered in 1973 off the Orange River in the southern offshore area about 170 km from Oranjemund. Production is scheduled to start by mid-2005. The natural gas produced will feed a power station in Oranjemund to generate electricity for the local and international market.
Namibia has undertaken a rural electrification programme to provide electricity to the rural communities. It is envisaged that by the year 2025 about 20% of rural people will have access to electricity.
Namibia has no refining capacity to procure petroleum crude and imports all petroleum products consumed in the country mainly from South Africa. All development within the energy sector will be carried out according to Namibia's Energy White Paper, which encourages private-sector participation, security of supply, development and growth, and sustainability.
Namibia’s marine resources are among the richest in the world, due largely to the cold Benguela Current, which creates an especially beneficial ecosystem with year-round temperate conditions. As a result of the sparsely populated coast and absence of heavy industry, the fishing grounds are unpolluted. This has prompted Spanish, French and other foreign companies to invest in the sector.
The proclamation in 1990, the year Namibia became independent, of the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) became a turning point in the industry. Effective conservation and fisheries management policies have ensured the recovery of the country's seriously depleted fish stocks. Today Namibia is one of the top 10 countries in the international fishing industry for the value of its catches. Some 600 000 tonnes of fish and shellfish are landed annually for processing onshore.
The main commercially exploited species are demersal fish such as hake and monkfish, and pelagic species such as pilchard, anchovy and Cape horse-mackerel. Other commercially valuable species are rock lobster, orange roughy, cod, alfonsino, kingklip, tuna, sole, crab and snoek. Oysters (raft culture) and mussels are farmed at Swakopmund and Lüderitz.