Nambia vs Namibia: how a fictional country became more popular than a real one

namibia nambia flag

You can always trust US President Donald Trump to say something controversial, whether it be on Twitter, or at the UN General Assembly. But beyond this week’s comments about North Korea, Trump had enough free time to invent an African country.

While speaking at a conference hosting African leaders in New York City, the President praised “Nambia” and its advancements in healthcare.

But there’s no country called Nambia on the continent, nor the planet for that matter. (Double check with Google Maps, or better yet, have CNN explain it to you).

As they do, social media users soon picked up on the blunder, propelling the imaginary country into internet stardom.

There were some great memes.

Not laughing along, the White House issued a corrected transcript suggesting that the country Donald Trump was alluding to was Namibia.

But more interesting is what Google Trends had to tell us.

For much of Wednesday and Thursday, the search term “Nambia” outweighed “Namibia” worldwide. And while search traffic for the latter also experienced a notable spike, Nambia saw a far greater increase.

nambia searches

But Trump wasn’t the first person to rob Namibia of a vowel. The graph shows a number of blips throughout the week, suggesting that people often misspell Namibia whilst searching.

In terms of regional traffic, the United States and South Korea saw marked increases in “Nambia” searches as opposed to “Namibia”. We also included “Zambia” and “Gambia” — a country in East Africa — in the search results, and the former was notably more prominent in France, Turkey and Australia.

google trends countries

For the UK, Thailand and Saudi Arabia, “Gambia” featured more prominently than the three other terms.

And speaking of the UK, “where is nambia” is a phrase that saw a marked rise in traffic in the country, as in the United States.

google trends nambia nambia

Other related searches included: “is nambia a country” and “wakanda” — a fictional country in Africa created by Marvel Comics. You know, the country that Black Panther is from?

Ultimately we don’t think that Namibia is hurt by the blunder, and even if the country’s name had been changed by a president that wasn’t theirs, it did experience a jump in search traffic.

And having millions of users searching for your country can’t be bad for your national brand.

Feature image: Alex Smith via Flickr (CC BY 2.0, resized)

Andy Walker, former editor


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