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Working in Namibia

Find out how to get a job and work in Namibia

In Namibia’s stable and growing economy, there are many jobs for expats working in Namibia’s main sectors, such as mining and tourism. In addition to information on the economy and job search, this guide on working in Namibia also has tips on taxation, social security, and customs and etiquette.

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Employment in Namibia

  • The tertiary sector is the largest part of Namibia’s formal market economy
  • Skilled expatriates are needed in many Namibian job sectors due to a shortage of qualified locals.
  • Personal income is taxed at a rate of 18% to 37%, depending on which tax bracket your income falls into.

An Economic Overview

Namibia enjoys a high level of economic stability. In 2013, Bloomberg named Namibia the top emerging market economy in Africa, and it came in as 13th best in the world. In recent years, the government has been taking measures to attract foreign investment, and the World Bank ranked it 101st out of 189 countries in ease of doing business. Its per capita income — over 6,000 USD — is about fifteen times that of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the poorest African country.

Despite this, Namibia suffers from one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world. This is partly due to the fact that about half of the people working in Namibia do not participate in the formal market economy and instead live in a rural, cashless economy fueled by subsistence agriculture. Official unemployment figures vary, ranging from 25% to 50% of the population, depending on if one includes the large percentage of the population who rely on subsistence agriculture or not.

Currently, there are more than 200,000 skilled laborers working in Namibia in addition to a small, well-trained professional and managerial class. The government aims to keep increasing this number in the years to come. It is also pursuing measures to create more jobs and bring more Namibians into the economic mainstream.

Tourism and Services

Namibia’s tertiary sector makes up the largest part of its formal market economy, accounting for a large percentage of the country’s GDP and labor force, 64% and 54% respectively. Tourism is a major part of the services sector, providing jobs for 18% of those working in Namibia’s formal sector.

Namibia attracts thousands of tourists each year who visit popular tourist destinations such as the Caprivi Strip, Fish River Canyon, Sossusvlei Nature Reserve, Etosha Pan, and Ai-Ais Hot Springs. Extreme sports and game hunting are also popular. One of the fastest-growing areas of the economy is the opening up of new wildlife conservancies, which provides jobs for people living in Namibia’s rural areas.

Mining and Industry

Namibia’s industrial sector provides jobs for 22.4% of the people working in Namibia and accounts for 11.5% of the country’s GDP. Mining is Namibia’s most important industrial activity. Diamonds are its most lucrative export, although the onshore supply is dwindling, and the costs of mining diamonds offshore is cutting into profits. Namibia is the world’s fifth-largest producer of uranium. Mining operations also extract zinc, gold, and other minerals from Namibian soil.

Other industrial activities mostly have to do with processing Namibian agricultural products, and include fish processing, meatpacking, as well as the manufacture of dairy products, pasta, and beverages.

Agriculture

Although, as mentioned above, about half of the population depends on subsistence agriculture, the primary sector only makes up about 7.7% of the formal market sector’s GDP and 16.3% of the labor force. At the moment, about 75% of Namibia’s arable land (which only makes up about 1% of its total land area in the first place) is owned by descendants of white settlers in Namibia.

The government is currently pursuing a land reform process with plans to resettle landless native black Namibians. Namibia’s main agricultural products are millet, sorghum, peanuts, grapes, livestock, and fish. The country’s fishing operations are concentrated at Walvis Bay, as it is the country’s only sizeable natural harbor.

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Jobs and Taxes in Namibia

The Job Search

Many expats who move to Namibia are transferred there by their current employer. If you would like to move to Namibia, but have not yet found a job, this can be difficult due to the government’s policy of giving preference to Namibian citizens and permanent residents. In 2010, the Namibian government announced that 100% of unskilled and semi-skilled labor must be sourced from within Namibia. However, skilled expatriates are sought after in many sectors due to a shortage of qualified locals. Another option is to invest in Namibia and/or start a business here (such as, in tourism).

Taxes

Personal income in Namibia is taxed at a rate of 18% to 37%, depending on which tax bracket your income falls into. Income under 50,000 NAD is not taxed. The highest tax rate is applicable for people with annual income above 1,500,000 NAD. The tax year runs from 1 March to 28 February and tax returns are due each year on 30 June.

Namibia taxes income based on source principle and not residency, so the possibility of double taxation for expats is very real. At the time of writing, Namibia had signed double taxation agreements with Botswana, France, Germany, India, Malaysia, Mauritius, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, and the UK. If you will be earning income from another country, you should check with a professional tax adviser to see how you can avoid having to pay income tax in both countries.

Namibia follows the PAYE tax system, where tax is withheld monthly from your paycheck by your employer. Of interest to expatriates who are sent abroad by their company is the fact that you must also pay income tax on the value of any fringe benefits included in your contract, such as housing or a car.

Social Security

Social security contributions are mandatory for all employees in Namibia, but they are quite low. They amount to 1.8%, half of which is deducted from your gross salary and the other half of which is paid by your employer. The minimum earning used to calculate social security contributions is 300 NAD per month and the maximum is 9,000 NAD. Those who are self-employed can voluntarily choose to pay the full 1.8% themselves. These contributions also cover sickness and maternity benefits.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Namibia is relatively high — for the average Namibian — since most items need to be imported. Business monopolies in some sectors also lead to an increased cost of living. Despite this, Windhoek ranks quite favorably when compared to other expat hotspots; in 2016 Windhoek was ranked one of the least expensive cities for expats to live.

Although it is not an expensive country to live in, prices have been steadily increasing in the housing market in recent years. You should also budget in more money for a car and furniture than you may have been planning, since these items are also usually imported. Expats moving to Namibia from European cities will find the cost of living in Namibia comparable or less than before, although different items may cost more or less than they did in your home country.

Namibia: Business and Social Etiquette

Business Etiquette

When greeting a Namibian colleague, you may be initially surprised to experience a so-called African handshake. This type of handshake consists of three parts, starting with a firm Western handshake, followed by both individuals locking thumbs while still clasping hands with the thumb pointed upwards, before returning to the original Western handshake. You will most commonly see this type of handshake in greetings between two men.

Women tend to greet other women solely with words, shaking hands only with a woman of higher seniority. Men and women will usually share a normal Western handshake or greet each other with a nod and words. Of course, this varies between the city and the countryside, with men and women in the city more accustomed to the Western style of doing business. After two men shake hands, it is common for them to keep holding hands during their conversation. This is not common between people of the opposite sex, although two people generally stand closer together in Namibia than you may be used to in your home culture.

When entering the room for a meeting, it is polite to greet everyone in the room. Even though the other participants may be late, you should try to arrive on time. Before getting down to business, you should engage in some small talk, sticking to safe topics like family, work, and sports. Namibians tend to practice an indirect style of communication, and will be offended if you use a harsh or confrontational tone, although they may not openly show it. Bargaining is common and expected during business negotiations. While bargaining, try to remain calm and never appear desperate to make a deal.

Social Etiquette

Namibians are a very welcoming and open people, who are known for being particularly kind to foreigners. It is considered common courtesy to greet people in the street and ask how they are. If you need to ask someone for help or directions, you should first greet them and ask after their welfare, and not plunge right into your request for assistance. Any attempts to communicate in an area’s local language, even if you just say a simple greeting, will be met with much enthusiasm.

In this society of sharing, time is a very flexible concept. It is perfectly acceptable to show up late to a social function because you stopped to talk with someone on the way there. Cultivating and maintaining relationships with other people is considered much more important than adhering to a strict and rigid schedule.

At street markets and in small shops, haggling is expected and part of how a normal business transaction is completed in Namibia. If you ask around, you should have no trouble finding out what a reasonable price for something is, and after a bit of negotiating, you should be able to get an honest deal.

There is still a marked gender gap — especially in Namibia’s rural areas — with women expected to stay home and take care of the household. Women tend to dress themselves very conservatively, with long skirts and loose clothing. Although foreign women are not expected to follow local customs, it is respectful to be aware of these customs when traveling in rural areas. Gender norms and perceptions of women are changing rapidly in Namibia, however, especially in the country’s towns and cities.

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: September 30, 2016
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