Guest Contributor | Jan 17, 2023 | 0
Infrastructure connects people to people, people to commerce and commerce to markets
By Josef Kefas Sheehama.
Fundamentally, Namibia must maintain developmental goals as the primary purpose of infrastructure investment. Infrastructure development must seek to close critical gaps in both social and economic infrastructure provision.
At the 14th Theo Ben Gurirab lecture series under the theme, “Katima Mulilo a gateway to SADC: Unlocking the Economic potential of the Zambezi Region” on Thursday 10 February 2022, Hon Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah asserted that “Infrastructure investment has the effects of contributing to increase the productivity and it is expected to contribute to future economic growth in the Zambezi region where the majority live in rural areas.”
With regard to economic infrastructure, the need for structural transformation of the economy must not be overlooked. Infrastructure development must drive sustainable development and the government must take a leadership role in this regard. The government’s responsibility for meeting obligations on human rights, poverty reduction, as stipulated in the Constitution and key policy documents such as the NDPs, HPP’s and V2030 must not be transferred to private corporations, who are concerned primarily with making profit.
While infrastructure development in Namibia is much-needed, the emphasis on de-risking for private sector buy-in overshadows the key role the state must play in leading on structurally transforming the economy. However, current fiscal consolidation measures undermine the government’s ability to do this, and has opened the economy to the fiscal risks associated with greater private sector participation.
An infrastructure initiative would not provide quick relief, but it would support stronger growth in the future. To attract the level of investments required to transform Namibia’s infrastructure, not only must the government properly execute target infrastructure plans, it must lay the groundwork for private investments through a regulatory framework which tackles the availability of private funding and protects private investments in infrastructure.
Infrastructure is an essential building block of any economy, and it plays a significant role in all spheres of the economy from the affordability of goods and services to ease of doing business. It enables trade, powers businesses, connects workers to their jobs and creates opportunities for struggling communities. Economic growth of any country is hinged on its provision of infrastructure to connect supply chains and efficiently move goods and services.
But for all its economic promise, infrastructure development is also a massive employer of labour.
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement represents a major opportunity for countries to boost growth, reduce poverty, and broaden economic inclusion. As the global economy is in turmoil due to the COVID-19 pandemic, creation of the vast AFCFTA regional market is a major opportunity to help Namibia diversify exports, accelerate growth, and attract foreign direct investment.
Namibia faces important infrastructure challenges, including improving road conditions, boosting the national rail network, updating electricity infrastructure, and boosting the pace of expansion of water supply and sanitation. While significant progress was achieved with several desired outcomes, some were not achieved due to a combination of factors including inadequate public sector capacity, funding and insufficiently progressed policy frameworks to facilitate private investment and PPPs.
Through innovative funding and improved technical capabilities, infrastructure will become a key driver of the economy. It is responsible for propelling Namibia’s overall development and enjoys government’s focus for initiating policies that would ensure time bound creation of world class infrastructure in the country.
This can also be a chance for the public sector to improve funding in healthcare infrastructure and in digital infrastructure to generate demand for extra items and other providers, all of which is required to restart the economic engine.
All 14 regions will be the engines for growth, driving prosperity and propelling the economy. Our 14 regions are crucial to ensure that people are proud to live and raise their families, with good schools, vibrant high streets, and access to jobs that give everyone a fair chance to achieve their full potential.
Therefore, high quality infrastructure is crucial for economic growth, boosting productivity and competitiveness. More than this, it is at the centre of our communities. Infrastructure helps connect people to each other, people to businesses, and businesses to markets, forming a foundation for economic activity and community prosperity. Well-developed transport networks allow businesses to grow and expand, enabling them to extend supply chains, deepen labour and product markets, collaborate, innovate and attract investment. Digital connectivity is unlocking new and previously unimaginable ways of working, and is now essential to facilitate public services, including healthcare and education.
To conclude, combining new approaches with our well-established strengths, Namibia will create quality jobs. There are many challenges today that remain unpredictable as we cope with the ongoing effects of COVID-19. Infrastructure projects need to be able to withstand this uncertainty to be viable and to deliver long term benefits.
Despite the complete economic disruption and how we live our lives, the core critical infrastructure such as power, water, communications and most transport systems has kept the economy broadly operational. Pulling together, connectivity, risk sharing, investment and a deep alignment with the needs of evolving societies while addressing current concerns about the impact of this crisis on inequality can help ensure that infrastructure not only keeps the lights on, but paves the way for societies that are reinforced by sustainable and resilient growth.