Namibia: business and country information

Type of Government / Political Development

The Constitution of Namibia is the supreme law of the country. In terms thereof a sovereign, secular, democratic and unitary State is founded upon the principles of democracy, the rule of law and justice for all. It entrenches the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms and defines the powers of government. An independent judiciary is vested with the responsibility and authority to uphold and enforce the rights framed in the Constitution.

Natural Resources & Gross Domestic Product

Mineral resources, such as diamonds, gold, uranium, copper, tin, lead and zinc as well as marble are abundant and have formed the basis of the country's commercial economy. Based to some extent on German Colonial Mining legislation, mineral rights are owned by the State and not by private persons or bodies but are passed on to them for prospecting exploration and mining in the form of licenses grants or concessions. The applicable Act is the Minerals (Prospecting and Mining) Act which came into operation on 1 April 1994.

Economy

Namibia's economy is still largely influenced by that of South Africa due to the historic ties between the two countries. Until September 1993, when Namibia introduced its own currency, The Namibia Dollar (N$), the South African Rand was also the currency of Namibia. The Rand remains legal tender for a transitional period of two years, and the two currencies are traded at parity subject however to a service charge of 1% levied by South African Banks when the N$ is converted to the South African Rand in that country. After independence Namibia remained part of the South African Rand monetary area. The Stock Exchange Control Amendment Act introduced a stock exchange in Namibia which opened in September 1992 and has forty listings to date. There is a good infrastructure with modern telecommunications systems and good road, rail and air links.

The Legal System

When South Africa was given the mandate over the former German colony and the common law as applied in the Cape Province (Roman Dutch Law), was introduced as the common law of Namibia in 1920. English law has also had a bearing, mainly on commercial law. The Constitution of Namibia preserved all laws in force immediately before the date of independence until repealed or declared unconstitutional by a competent court. Consequently many laws passed by the South African legislature prior to independence still apply and there are areas of statute law in which no or minimal differences exist between the two countries.

Forms of Business Organisations

Various forms of enterprise are available to the businessman, both under common and statute law. These are as follows -

Statute law

companies 
close corporations

Common law

agents, licenses and distributors 
partnerships 
trusts

Formation of a Business

It is necessary for enterprises intending to conduct business in specific areas to obtain licenses or other permits, irrespective of the nature of the enterprise.
Examples are road carrier permits for transportation of persons or goods, prospecting licenses for mining concerns, import and export permits, liquor licenses for businesses selling liquor and registration of certain industries. Formalities and procedures in obtaining licenses or permits vary significantly. Work and residence permits must be obtained before entering Namibia.

Customs & Excise

On independence Namibia elected to remain part of the South African Customs Union and as such is bound by the applicable regulations as determined by the member states. The Export Processing Zones Act came into operation on 18 April 1995. The first and only zone so far is in Walvis Bay. The idea behind the Act is to encourage export manufacture and production in such areas. This entails inter alia tax holidays, duty and G.S.T and exemptions and employees' salary subsidies.

Foreign Investment

The Namibian Constitution expressly encourages foreign investments. Realising the importance of foreign investments to the country, the Namibian government passed the Foreign Investments Act in 1990. The Act establishes an Investment Centre as part of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, to assist in the administration of the Act.

Intellectual Property

Rights to intellectual property are protected under Namibian law, largely by statute, but also at common law. The statutes applicable are basically identical to those of South Africa, which in turn are based on internationally accepted principles. Note [as at Sept.2000] : Namibia is currently in the process of reviewing and obliged to amend its current legislation in order to comply with the Trips Agreement as well as the Wipo and WTO requirements.

Labour

Like most other African countries, Namibia experiences high unemployment, essentially of unskilled labour, and has shortages of skilled labour. Expertise is often obtained from outside the country.
The Labour Act, is applicable to all employees in the private sector, and stipulates basic conditions of employment, prohibits discrimination on various grounds in relation to a person's employment or occupation, and authorises affirmative action.

Taxation

The relevant legislation is similar to that applicable in neighbouring countries, notably the Republic of South Africa. There is no Estate Duty and Donation Tax in Namibia. Namibia has double-taxation treaties with the United Kingdom, the Republic of South Africa and Germany, which may have a bearing especially on income tax and other such treaties are being negotiated. Capital gains are not taxable, and although municipalities and similar local authorities levy rates and taxes based on the valuation of immovable property in order to cover for municipal expenses, these are moderate.
The principal statute is the Income Tax Act, which was recently amended during 1993. Income tax is presently levied at 35% in respect of companies. This is also the highest rate of tax for individuals, who are taxed on a sliding scale.
Transfer duty is payable by the purchaser of immovable property, be it improved or unimproved ranging from 1%, 5% and 8% for land value in excess of N$250 000.
Stamp duty is levied on various legal documents at specified rates in terms of the Stamp Duties Act. 
VAT was introduced in November 2000.

Legal Disclaimer: This information is not intended for use without professional advice.

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