Series Editor: Jonathan Crush
Southern African Migration Project
Migration Policy Series No. 38
PLEASE NOTE: Readers are welcome to reproduceand reference
this article as long as appropriate acknowledgments are given.
Namibia shares its borders with five other SADC countries: South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola. Communities in southern Angola and norther n Namibia share deep cultural roots and people along the border have similar cultural practices, languages and relatives in both countries. Now that peace has returned to the area, it is necessary to re-examine the role of the bor der as a barrier or conduit to interaction and greater cooperation between Namibia and Angola. Exactly what kinds and volumes of cross-border traffic in people and goods now flow across the border? How is movement across the border managed? Does border management facilitate or inhibit the movement of people and goods? What kinds of pressures exist at official border crossing-points and how could these be better managed? How much irregular border-crossingt akes place and with what results?
These, and like, questions related to movement and management on the Angola-Namibia border prompted a request from the Namibian Department of Home Affairs to SAMP for a study of the country’s northern border. SAMP was unable to conduct a study of the border in its entirety but focused instead on the zone of greatest cross-border interaction around Oshikango. As this was a Namibian government initiative, the study concentrated only on the Namibian side of the border. However, the study has important policy implications for both countries. The study was conducted at the Oshikango border post and its surrounding area in October 2003. Official data on border crossings was supplemented by an Origin and Destination (O&D) Survey. A total of 495 questionnaires were completed. Of those interviewed, 206 (41%) were Namibians, 270 (55%) were Angolans, and 12 (3%) were from other SADC countries. Supplementary qualitative research included detailed case studies of migrants, in-depth interviews with border officials, councillors, financial institutions, clearing agents and the business community. Border officials included Immigration Customs and Excise, Police, Road Administration Fund and Veterinary officials.
Amongst the key findings from official border-crossing data
supplied to researchers at the border were the following:
• There has been greatly increased cross-border traffic betweenthe two countries in the last 5 years. Each year, however, the flow is much higher from Angola into Namibia than the reverse.The annual number of foreign citizen arrivals at Oshikangon nearly doubled from 143,992 in 1999 to 267,504 in 2003. In thecase of Namibians moving to Angola, the number more than
doubled from 25,876 in 1999 to 61,222 in 2003.
• Oshikango border post handles by far the greatest number of legal travelers between Namibia and Angola. Overall, traffic
from Angola is much higher than vice-versa. Between 1999 and2003, for example, ther e were a total of 1,321,365 arrivals from
Angola and 780,050 departures from Namibia. The arrivals aredominated by foreign citizens (86%) but included 189,432
Namibians returning from Angola.
• There is a striking discrepancy between arrivals and departures of Angolans. In the case of Namibians, for example, some
200,300 people crossed into Angola and 189,452 returned (a minor discrepancy) between 1999 and 2003. However,
1,131,933 foreign citizens (most but not all Angolans) crossedinto Namibia but only 579,750 left (a discrepancy of 552,183).
In other words, over half a million more foreign citizens entered Namibia from Angola through Oshikango than left during this
• Cross border movement at Oshikango has distinct gender characteristics.Overall, men dominate cross-border movement from
Angola. In the case of Namibian migrants, the pattern is somewhatdifferent: there is little difference between the numbers of
male and female border-crossers although women do dominate during some months. During the course of 2003, the number of
Namibian women crossing into Angola did increase significantly.
Of the 495 people interviewed in the Origin & Destination
(O & D) survey, about 65% were coming from Angola, and the remainder inthe
direction. About 60% of the migrants interviewed were male while the remaining
40% were female. Most of the respondents were relatively young: 35% were in the
20-25 age group and another 30% were between 30 and 40. Nearly 10% of border
crossers were under20 years of age. The profile of border users emerging from
the survey included the following:
• The majority (55%) were crossing the border on foot, suggesting a local origin point. Around 43% were traveling by motor vehicle (car, bus or truck). Although only 2% said they crossed the border using bicycles, this is a crucial local mode of transport for moving goods between the two countries.
• Most Angolans crossing the border came from the southern part of the country. The survey showed that 25% of the respondents were from Santa Clara, while 11% and 8% were from Ondjiva and Onamakunde respectively. A smaller number came from Lubango (6%) and Luanda (3%). Similarly, most Namibian migrants were from the surrounding villages in nor thern
Namibia with a much smaller number of respondents having traveled longer distances from within Namibia and South
• A large number of people crossing the border into Namibia at Oshikango are engaged in local, circular movements within the
border vicinity. Most people from Angola were also going to local destinations such as Oshikango (around one third). Only
6% were proceeding on to Windhoek or other urban centres such as Oshakati (4%), Ondangwa (3%), Ondjiva (6%) and
Lubango (3%). The majority of respondents (76%) were in possession of a border pass, a permit given at the Namibian border
for travelers who do not possess any other traveling documentation and restricted to travel within 30km of Oshikango border
post for a fixed period of time.
• The local, circulatory character of much cross-border movement is confirmed by the frequency of crossing. Nearly 20% crossed
the border every day; 16% a couple of times per week; 17% once a week and 16% once a month or a couple of times per month
(17%). Only 21% were first-time or infrequent users of the border post. Over a third stayed only a few hours in the other country
(Table 10). Others said they normally stay for half a day (15%), a whole day (15%) or a few days (16%). Only 9% said
they were going for six months or longer.
• Almost 55% of Angolans and 42% of Namibians said that they had immediate family across the border who they visited frequently. Over a third of Namibians with immediate family in Angola tended to visit them on a daily basis. Angolans preferred
to visit their families in Namibia a couple of times per year (24%) or once a year and less (31%). Shopping was by far the
most popular reason for crossing the border (mentioned by 34% of respondents). About 21% of those crossing the borders purported to be visiting family members and friends. About 23% mentioned business as the primary reason for their traveling. Of
these, approximately 16% were on “personal business” and only 7% on “employer’s” business.
The analysis gives a clear picture of the migration patterns and activities at the main border between Namibia and Angola. With the current prevailing economic situation in Namibia, and Oshikango in particular, an ever-increasing growth in cross-border traffic can be expected. This raises many challenges of efficient management for both governments. Consideration could certainly be given to facilitatinggreater freedom of movement between the countries.