The Urban Structure of South West Africa/Namibia Viewed within a Third-World Framework

  • Izak Johannes Van Der Merwe University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
Keywords: Third World, Urbanization Patterns, Urban Structure, Urban Land Use, Colonial Town


In comparison with the urbanization patterns of developed Western countries, Third World countries present quite a different urban fabric and set of problems. In this article, the Third World framework is used to analyse the urban structure of South West Africa/Namibia with regard to: (1) the unbalanced spatio-temporal pattern of national urbanization; (2) the primacy role of Windhoek in the national hierarchy; and (3) the colonial basis of town formation. The results of this study show that this urban system has developed in a heavily unbalanced way temporally, spatially, and ethnically. As opposed to the highly urbanized saturation level of the white population, black population groups are presently undergoing accelerated urbanization. The immaturity of the urban hierarchy is demonstrated by the parasitic primacy of Windhoek, which overwhelmingly dominates other urban centres in population, economic, administrative, and infrastructure characteristics. The country's German colonial past and South African involvement are in part responsible for this unsatisfactory state of affairs, as well as for the imprint left on the internal layout and urban land use patterns. Thus, Windhoek is found to be an amalgam of Third World colonial and Western European urban structures. Because the nation is currently undergoing social and economic development, the full impact of urbanization has not yet been experienced. This study concludes that this country faces the dilemma that definitive development strategies and corrective measures for the urban system are not possible before the ever-elusive political-administrative settlement brings internal stability to SU/l/Namibia.


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