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Oshikango : the dynamics of growth and regulation in a Northern Namibian boom town

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  • Economics
  • Political Science


Angola's economic re-integration into the Southern African region profoundly changes the economic and political landscape in the neighbouring countries. Apart from the country's new political influence, Angolan buying power leads to an economic boom in formerly marginal places along its borders. Oshikango, the main Namibian border post to Angola, is perhaps the most impressive example of that change. Over the last 12 years, a forgotten outpost has developed into a sprawling boom town. In the first part of this article, I trace the town's development and give an outline of the different economic activities that were instrumental in it. A second part concentrates on the role of the border for the town's development and the construction of Namibian political and economic identity. While state regulations are enforced on both sides on the border, the transit between them is under-regulated and provides the economic opportunities that fuel the boom. The third part then looks at regulation within the boom town and its growing integration into the Namibian political landscape. The capacity of local administrators to profit from the boom rests on two interlinked factors: they are seen as bureaucratic representatives of state power, which lends legitimacy and leverage to their efforts of domination; but there is always too much to regulate in a boom town, which makes it possible to choose where and how to apply official rules without losing legitimacy. Through these dynamics of legitimacy and opportunity, the boom town of Oshikango is a place where state authority is reinforced, fuelled by the private interests of state representatives.

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