Marianne Young

Marianne Young

High Commissioner, Windhoek

Part of UK in Namibia

25th August 2011 Windhoek, Namibia

Taking care in Namibia

One of the more marvellous traits of human kind is how communities pull together to support each other during times of crisis. We have seen wonderful examples of this in the aftermath of the recent vandalism and arson attacks in London and elsewhere in the UK. Whole communities have mobilised themselves using the same social media means that looters used to coordinate attacks on shops. But, in this case, communities have effectively marshalled local support to organise clean up operations.

It is this same spirit of team working and mutual support for each other that I am keen to tap into amongst the British community in Namibia.

We estimate that there are up to 2,500 Brits living in Namibia. (It is always hard to pin down exact numbers.) You mention this number to resident Brits and they are amazed. They all individually know of quite a lot of local Brits dotted about, but noone has ever done much of a study to find out more about who or where they are, and what they are doing. Having started a basic mapping exercise, it turns out that many are running fantastic local ventures, employing significant numbers of Namibians and contributing positively to the local economy.

A fair number are involved in the local tourism sector and partly responsible for bringing the 30,000 plus flood of British tourists into the country each year. (Nambia Travel Advice)

Namibia is a vast country with very few people. At 824,269 sq km, it is more than three times the size of the UK and yet is the second least densely populated country in the world after Mongolia.

The appeal of this magnificent country lies in its very remoteness. Tourists are able to escape the chaos of modern city life and disappear for days into the desert to enjoy real solitude or head up to the vast stretches of bush to see some of the best African wildlife and game on the continent.

This is all fantastic – until something goes wrong. In Namibia, one of the biggest problems for those travelling vast distances between sites is traffic accidents. This is not because of high traffic volumes (in fact, it is quite the opposite in many cases) but because people fall asleep on long desert highways or blow tyres travelling too fast and roll off roads. Then people can find themselves in real trouble, stuck miles away from anywhere and anyone.

Providing adequate consular coverage for such a large country with a small embassy staff is always challenging. The capital, Windhoek, is located slap bang in the middle of Namibia, so if something serious happens in any direction, we can immediately send help out from the centre. But, even so, staff can sometimes be facing an 8 hour drive before reaching the spot.

This shared challenge is why I invited a good representation of Brits active in the local tourism industry around to the Residence for an informal meeting last week.

I wanted to introduce myself and my local team who would be dealing with any consular issues that their British clients or they themselves might require. I encouraged them to contact the High Commission in Windhoek as soon as they became aware of serious problems involving British nationals. Being seasoned tourist operators, most already had extensive crisis handling plans. So the evening provided a useful opportunity to exchange information and encourage them to dovetail their own contingency plans better with ours.

We now have a better understanding of who is here and what they are doing. We are using the community’s extensive British and local networks to help identify individuals that can help serve as our eyes and ears on the ground, particularly in deep rural areas. This is helping us to start to put together an informal wardens’ network nationwide to enhance our national coverage in Namibia.

One key issue to emerge was the need for visitors to keep travel insurance and medical cover details on their person at all times to avoid being refused treatment at local medical facilities due to potential quibbles over payment. This has happened in a number of incidents. It means that vital minutes, and sometimes hours, of medical assistance can be lost for those in need.

I was encouraged to discover that most of the operators held copies of their clients’ insurance details centrally and could fax them quickly to regional hospitals to unlock treatment if the need arose. Others provided their clients, particularly the self-drive ones, with discs to display in their hire cars to highlight key contact details.

The key issue was that Brits abroad need to ensure they have adequate travel insurance cover: see Know Before You Go.

Namibia is a relatively safe corner of Sub Saharan Africa – but accidents do happen. When they do, the British government can’t pay the medical bills of British nationals involved or organise better treatment in hospital (or prison) than is given to local people: see Help for British Nationals.

So be prepared. Read our Travel Advice and be assured that we are working hard here to provide a range of well plugged-in consular services if you should ever require them.

About Marianne Young

Marianne Young is the current British High Commissioner to the Republic of Namibia. She arrived in Windhoek in June 2011 and presented her credentials to the President of the Republic of…

Marianne Young is the current British High Commissioner to the
Republic of Namibia. She arrived in Windhoek in June 2011 and presented
her credentials to the President of the Republic of Namibia on 3rd
Mrs Young joined the FCO in 2001 following a career in international
journalism, including time spent running an Asian maritime press office
in Singapore and a traineeship on the UK’s Times newspaper.
Her first role in the FCO was as a Press Officer in News Department,
after which she went on to be Head of the Great Lakes Section in Africa
Directorate and then Head of the East Africa & Horn Section.
In 2005, she became the first Head of Communications for the Engaging with the Islamic World Group.
She moved to the British High Commission in Pretoria in February 2007
and served as the Head of the External Political Section and Deputy
High Commissioner to the Kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland.
Mrs Young moved across to the British High Commission in Windhoek in
June 2011, and presented her credentials to the President of the
Republic of Namibia on 3rd August 2011.
On her appointment as British High Commissioner to the Republic of Namibia, Mrs Young said:
“I am honoured and delighted to be appointed Her Majesty’s High
Commissioner to Namibia. I look forward to working to strengthen the
many commercial, political and cultural ties between our two countries,
and to help the many British nationals who holiday there. My family and I
are particularly thrilled to be remaining in southern Africa – and to
have the opportunity to explore this beautiful country further and
discover more about its people and culture.”
Curriculum vitae

Full name:
Marianne Young

Married to:
Barry Young

Two daughters and one son

June 2011
Windhoek, British High Commissioner

2007 – 2011
Pretoria, Head of External Political Section and DHC for the Kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland

2005 – 2006
FCO, Head of Communications, Engaging with the Islamic World Group

2004 – 2005
FCO, Head of East Africa & Horn Section, Africa Directorate

3/2003 – 8/2003
FCO, Head of Great Lakes Section, Africa Directorate

2002 – 2003
FCO, Press Officer, Press Office

2001 – 2002
FCO, Departmental Report Editor, Press Office

Joined FCO

Senior Correspondent, Fairplay Group, UK

Staff Editor and then Asia Editor, Fairplay Group Singapore

Graduate Trainee at The Times newspaper, UK

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