Namibia Road Network

By | October 31, 2022

The B4 between Keetmanshoop and Lüderitz.

According to wholevehicles, Namibia had a classified road network of 47,555 kilometers in 2018, of which 7,893 kilometers are paved. The paved road network is quite basic, but adequate given Namibia’s very low population density. All places of any significance are connected by paved roads. The Namibian road network is considered the best in Africa. Traffic in Namibia drives on the left.

The road network is divided into trunk roads, main roads and district roads. The trunk roads comprise 5,007 kilometers of road, which is 100% paved. The main roads comprise 11,357 kilometers of road, which is 22% paved. The district roads cover 31,191 kilometers of which only 1% is paved.

There is one major north-south axis, the B1, which has several east-west branches. There is one main road all the way to the east of the Caprivi Strip. There is a small border crossing with Angola and one with Zambia, one of the few bridges over the Zambezi. There are several border crossings with Botswana, such as at Bagani and Buitepos. There are two border crossings with South Africa, the B3 at Nakop which turns into the N10 to Upington and the B1 which turns into the N7 to Cape Town at Noordoewer. Windhoek’s road network is well developed and almost all streets are paved and main roads are marked with road markings. Multi-lane roads crisscross the city, with a single grade separated intersection.

There are no toll roads in Namibia. This makes Namibia one of the few countries in southern Africa without tolls. Tolls have sometimes been proposed as a financing method.

Major Roads in Namibia
freeways:A1 • A2 • A6

National road:

B1 • B2 • B3 • B4 • B6 • B8 • B10 • B11 • B14 • B15

Freeways

Namibia has two motorways, the A1 from Windhoek to Okahandja and the A2 between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. The highways in Namibia are more modern than in many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Motorways are called freeways in Namibia, although the term dual carriageway is also used. The maximum speed on the motorway is 120 km/h.

Several freeways are planned in Namibia. Under construction is the A1 from Windhoek to Okahandja in 50 kilometers. A freeway is also planned between Windhoek and Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport (approximately 45 km), south of Windhoek to Rehoboth (92 km), and between Omuthiya and Ongwediva north of Etosha National Park (approximately 80 km).

Road management

The national road authority is the Roads Authority. The Roads Authority was established in 1999, with the mission “To manage the national road network of Namibia and to provide for matters incidental thereto.”

History of road construction in Namibia

The trunk roads of Namibia.

History

The first land transport took place from the middle of the 19th century in the form of paths suitable for ox carts. In pre-colonial times, these trails were used by individuals and companies exploiting mines, particularly in central and southern later Namibia. As early as the 1840s there was an improved connection between Walvis Bay and Windhoek. Already during this period, north-south routes from the Cape Colony to Namibia emerged, a trend that would later continue into modern times.

The German Colonial Roads (1884-1915)

After the Germans colonized Namibia from 1884, the roads were initially not developed further than the routes suitable for ox carts. In the later years of the 19th century, more such roads were developed to the north of Namibia. In 1897, the journey from Walvis Bay to Windhoek (382 kilometers) took two to three weeks. Between 1897 and 1902 the railway from Walvis Bay to Windhoek was built. During the German colonial period the focus of transport was mainly on the development of railways, given the very low population density and the lack of cities of any status, quite an extensive network of railways was built. Only 2,600 Germans lived in Namibia.

In 1902 a network of roads was documented by the Germans. 116 different roads were established, with a length of 18,826 kilometers. The first motorized vehicles arrived in Namibia in 1904, the first passenger car in 1909. From 1907, signage was installed on the roads. At the time, most roads were hardly improved dirt roads or tracks, at the beginning of the 20th century little was done to build improved dirt roads with drainage. Until the First World War, no attempt was made to build structures such as culverts and bridges in the Namibian road network.

First road construction in South West Africa (1915-1945)

After South Africa conquered the area from the Germans in 1915, it became a mandated territory that would be under long-term South African rule, but was never formally annexed, although it was de facto governed as if it were an integral part of South Africa.. In 1923, the South African Road Ordinance was enacted for South West Africa, which established public roads. From 1927, Road Boards were established that operated the maintenance of the roads and collected taxes for this. From 1933, road construction was mechanized with the introduction of graders. Road construction came under the South West Africa Administration’s Works Branch from the 1930s.

In 1937 the Road Boards were abolished again. The Department of Works was responsible for road construction from then on. From this point on, some modernization in road construction began to take place, especially through the planning of the first fixed bridges over rivers. 23 bridges were built between 1937 and 1945, including two larger bridges and two grade separated railway crossings, most of them in the Windhoek area.

Modernization and large-scale road construction (1945-1990)

The B1 between Otjiwarongo and Outjo.

From 1945 onward, larger numbers of vehicles were available for road construction, which was significantly mechanized. After the war, more money and personnel were also made available for planning and designing the roads. This started the modernization of road construction in Southwest Africa. Construction began on a more modern road between Walvis Bay and Windhoek in 1946. In 1950, the construction of tarmac roads was seriously discussed for the first time, rather than the improved dirt and gravel roads up to that time. The network of ‘roads’ in 1949 was 34,100 kilometers, of which no road had yet been paved.

In the first post-war years, the priority was mainly on the construction of bridges. In 1952 South West Africa had 60 bridges of any status, mostly over rivers and a number of railway crossings. A Roads Department was established in 1951. In 1953 the road network was divided into four classes: trunk, main, district and public roads. The network was defined as 3,020 kilometers of trunk roads, 7,354 kilometers of main roads, 14,413 kilometers of district roads and 24,569 kilometers of public roads. This last road class was not actively funded and maintained by the government.

Between 1952 and 1955 a gravel road was built to Ondangwa, which is considered to be the first road connection in South West Africa that did not exclusively serve the interests of the white population. At the time, the north of Namibia was a disadvantaged region in terms of road construction. In 1956 the first roads in Southwest Africa were paved, namely three approach roads from Windhoek. In 1960, South West Africa had 100 kilometers of tarmac road.

The development of the paved road network accelerated considerably in the 1960s, with priority being given to the B1 and B2, Namibia’s most important economic corridors. As part of this, a large number of bridges were also built. At that time, there was a standardized bridge design that made bridge design and construction a lot faster. The focus of road construction was mainly on the connection from South Africa to the cities that were mainly populated by whites. Little attention was paid to integration towards Angola and Botswana, or to opening up areas mainly inhabited by the indigenous population. The focus of road construction was mainly on connecting isolated towns in the south and center but much less on the development of the much more densely populated north of Namibia,

In the early 1970s, most of Namibia’s trunk roads were paved, as were some main roads and a small number of district roads. The design requirements of the time provided for high travel speeds. The focus was still on the center and south of the country, the Ovamboland in the north of Southwest Africa was the most densely populated region, but received almost no money for road development. The development of road construction stagnated after 1980. The military conflict that South Africa fought in Angola and the border region demanded a larger share of the budgets. Traffic was also unsafe in the north of Southwest Africa, especially in the Caprivi Strip and along the border with Angola, so no roads were built there. In addition, the road network was already relatively developed in view of the very small population in the center and south of Southwest Africa. Traffic censuses in 1986 showed that on almost all trunk roads no more than 500 to 1,000 vehicles were driven per day, only at Windhoek the traffic volumes were 1,000 to 2,000 vehicles per day. In that year there were only 120,000 motor vehicles in all of Southwest Africa.

Independent Namibia (1990–present)

After independence, Namibia inherited one of the most modern road networks in Africa, with an adequate road network of paved roads, mostly in good condition and capable of high driving speeds. After independence, the focus was mainly on road construction in northern Namibia, a traditionally backward area, but with the highest population density in the country. In the 1990s, the B6 and B8 were built up to the border with Botswana. This created two road connections through the Kalahari Desert. A bridge link over the Zambezi to Zambia was also built and an improved road to Angola was built in 2013. This promoted regional integration, something South Africa had no interest in before 1990.

After 2010, Namibia started building more highways. Originally there was only a short motorway from Windhoek to Brakwater, opened in the period 1979-1981. A plan was made to extend the highway to the nearby town of Okahandja. The first part of this opened in 2017, this was the first new motorway to be built in 40 years and the first since independence. In 2020, this highway was extended a little further to just south of Okahandja. Also in 2020 a new motorway opened between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, which mainly serves as a bypass of Swakopmund. Many investments have been financed and implemented by China since 2010.

Road numbering

Road numbering in Namibia is divided into A, B, C and D roads. However, they have a completely different name in written language, the B-roads are usually called ‘trunk roads’ with the prefix ‘TR’ and the C roads often ‘main roads’ with the prefix ‘MR’. A roads are freeways. B-roads are paved main roads, a D-road is usually a dirt track and C-roads are in between. In 2017, A numbering for freeways was introduced.

The main axes of Namibia have been developed as B-roads.

Trunk Roads

# No. alt. Route Length
A1 Windhoek – Okahandja 50 km
A2 Walvis Bay – Swakopmund 36 km
A6 Windhoek – Hosea Kutako International Airport 40 km
B1 TR1 Border South Africa – Kotzenshoop – Grunau – Keetmanshoop – Mariental – Windhoek – Otjiwarongo – Tsumeb – Oshikango – border Angola 1,545 km
B2 TR2 Okahandja – Swakopmund – Walvis Bay 320 km
B3 TR3 Grunau – Ariamsvlei – border South Africa 180 km
B4 TR4 Keetmanshoop – Lüderitz 335 km
B6 TR6 Windhoek – Gobabis – Botswana border 315 km
B8 TR8 Otavi – Grootfontein – Rundu – Katima Muilo – Ngoma – Botswana border 930 km
B10 TR10 Ohangwena – Rundu 435 km
B11 TR11 Nkurenkuru – Katwitwi – border Angola 14 km
B14 TR14 Grootfontein – Okondjatu – Otjinene – Gobabis 389 km
B15 TR15 Tsumeb – Katwitwi 239 km

Signage

A distance sign to Keetmanshoop on the B1 in southern Namibia.

The signage in Namibia is based on South African style. All directional signage in white letters against a green background. Road numbers are stated in plain text on the signs, in golden yellow letters. The font is German DIN1451.

Freeways have been signposted with blue signposts since 2017.

Maximum speed

The speed limit in Namibia is comparable to that of other southern African countries, i.e. 60 km/h in built-up areas and 120 km/h on paved roads outside built-up areas, regardless of whether this is a single carriageway with opposite traffic or a motorway. The maximum speed limit is 100 km/h on gravel roads.

Namibia Road Network