Tim Olson reflects on his visit to Namibia

I was fortunate to be able to travel with my family this past summer to visit my brother, Benjamin, who is serving in the Peace Corps. Ben is teaching English in the local school of the village, he resides in. While traveling to Namibia for two weeks, I was immersed into an array of local tribal cultures and a new language.  We were able to drive all across the mid and northern part of the country to explore what the country had to offer.


I learned from my brother that 58% of the population works for the government and 30% of the country is unemployed. The remainder of the population lives the tribal life as village people. The country is the second least populated country in the world, only behind Mongolia and yet, is about twice the size of California. Historically, the country has only had its independence for 26 years..and we thought the United States was young. However, they still do not have any factories and are considered an agricultural-based society. They are still recovering from the Apartheid and change has been slow as they transition from tribal to a more modern society.


Now, let’s look at it through a homeland security lens, there is really no standing military or true security force in the country. During the apartheid era, there were military patrols and many of the people were suppressed. That being said, the government is trying its hardest to move away from recreating that feeling.

The health care system is unique; medical practitioners are either Cuban or Russian in Namibia because that is where the doctors are from and receive their education. Another concern is that a majority of Namibians that go overseas for their medical education do not return which creates an education bubble known as brain drain in their home country.


Religion is important to Namibians and they “put their fate in the hands of God.” If a local farmer wants to grow crops, they would dig their heel in the ground, drop a couple of seeds, cover it up and then wait for it to rain. They do not water their plants or have a proper system for farming that supports the growth of healthy crops.


In their culture, they have the Namb currency but trade amongst each other more in cattle than in coin. Cattle are their livelihood; if a man was to murder another man, he would serve a sentence for about 6-10 years. However, if a man were to steal cattle from a farmer, that farmer would have the right to kill the thief without any penalty.  The legal system, culture, language and way the country functions as a whole is truly remarkable and fascinating.

Written by: Timothy Olson, Undergraduate Student in Criminology with a Minor in Homeland Security and Emergency Management, University of South Florida.




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