A TRANSFORMATIONAL JOURNEY TO CREATE ORANJEMUND’S FUTURE
After 81 years the last of the diamond towns in Namibia is now open and with it some of the most pristine desert wilderness areas that have been hidden in the Sperrgebiet for more than a century.
For the first time since 1936, Oranjemund unlocked its gates in 2017 to let visitors in. This strange little place in the middle of the biggest sandpit in Namibia, where for decades one had to be screened and apply for a permit to enter, became the object of a transformational journey to a new future. All to ensure that the town will not be dealt the same fate as the rest of the diamond ghost towns along the coast of the southern Namib. And for the first time ever, the Tsau //Khaeb National Park will also be accessible to visitors.
For almost a century Oranjemund was a mining settlement created to house workers and their families employed by Consolidated Diamond Mines (CDM) for extensive diamond mining operations along the Orange River and the Atlantic Ocean. After independence the Namibian government became a 50% shareholder in the company, which then became NAMDEB. Since mines have a limited lifespan, NAMDEB realised that for the town to survive without diamonds, economic diversification was essential. But first, the settlement had to become a proclaimed and normalised town. The process already started in 1990, but only culminated in the formal ‘opening of the gate’ in 2017.
But that was just the beginning. Realising the challenges, and with enough examples of towns that failed to realise their potential after mining activities ceased, NAMDEB chose a different route. Economic transformation was essential to create a future for the people who live there. All stakeholders – civil society (the inhabitants), the public sector (national and regional government) and the private sector (NAMDEB and investors) – have to play a role in creating and unlocking opportunities for the economy to be transformed and to attract investment.
And so OMDis was formed. A Section 21 company tasked to stimulate economic development and diversification through growing and supporting SME development, as well as facilitating the establishment of other large industries such as agriculture, renewable energy and tourism. OMDis aims to attract investment which will unlock the potential of the town. This includes making full use of the formidable infrastructure, the natural attributes such as the beautiful 300 km shoreline, the Orange River and its abundant water supply, lots of arable land, the proximity to the Tsau //Khaeb National Park, as well as the optimal location of an existing international airport halfway between Windhoek and Cape Town.
“We are in a unique position to write a different story for this diamond town. We have the opportunity to show the positive legacy of the role diamonds have played in building a future for Namibia and Oranjemund,” says Tony Bessinger, longstanding proud citizen of Oranjemund.