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Namibia’s GDP needs to grow at 8.5% per annum over the next five years to halt unemployment

Namibia’s GDP needs to grow at 8.5% per annum over the next five years to halt unemployment

By Josef Kefas Sheehama.

We need to be less wasteful. We need to economize our resources. The sooner we start tackling it, the better. Furthermore, there should be substantial structural change in the economy that would unlock growth and allow for development.

The Namibian economy has experienced stagnation for almost six years now. This has put a strain on the efforts to tackle the historical structural inequalities, unemployment and poverty. Many people lost their jobs, many have gone without income for extended periods, and many are going hungry every day. Inequality is expected to widen and poverty to deepen. Given the extent of the devastation, the economic response required should match or even surpass the scale of the disruption caused. Namibia, like other emerging markets, has a critical need to attract foreign investment while at the same time driving economic transformation. Infrastructure investment, delivery and maintenance will play a leading role in Namibia’s economic stimulation.

There is a clear need for leaders to see the value in creating an enabling environment for young people to tap into blue and green economic pathways to drive sustainable development and create jobs. Economic reforms together with structural and technological change should bringing about new business opportunities and with them, demand for new skills. This is an opportunity to provide the youth with quick and affordable reskilling and upskilling opportunities while also building the long-term data framework to expand the number of valuable credential pathways in Namibia.

Namibia’s economic policy must include developing a better-educated and more skilled workforce, enhancing competition, promoting innovation, halting and reversing de-industrialization, diversifying the economy into new sectors, building strong relations with other emerging economies and boosting intra-regional trade.

The hope is that such broad-based industrialization will promote employment growth and increase the participation of historically disadvantaged people and marginalized regions in the mainstream economy. It must address the problem of chronic unemployment and the recent decline in the country’s industrial and manufacturing capacity. The plans outline cross-cutting actions that are crucial for industrial development, such as industrial financing schemes and skills development programmes, and pinpoint sectors which are to be promoted through targeted support for investment, infrastructure and industrial upgrading.

Policies that undermine property rights must also be rolled back, while the government will have to rethink its attitude to business, the role of markets and the size of the state. The willing buyer, willing seller principle has not delivered results and the Second National Land Conference calls to intensify implementing an accelerated land delivery. Land reform is important from the social and economic viewpoints. From the social point of view redistribution of land and creation of small farms is important for promoting not only equity or distributive justice but also for increasing efficiency and productivity of agriculture. The rural poor constitutes a significant segment of the population. The inverse relationship between farm size and productivity implies that land reforms could raise productivity by breaking less productive large farms into several more productive small farms.

In order to create and shape technologies, the government must be armed with the intelligence necessary to envision and enact bold policies. I expect new technologies and even physical work spaces to all play into a new way of transforming the traditional public sector and these disruptive innovation accelerators could possibly have the most long-term potential to impact human culture overall.

Previous technological revolutions occurred because governments undertook bold missions that focused, not on minimizing government failure but on maximizing innovation. In introducing technology means that the work conditions are changed and the environment is modified, therefore existing policies, practices, and regulations may need to be updated or even created. Revisiting current policies to make certain that they are still valid and appropriate for the new environment, is critical.

The rise in agricultural output and income can expand the market for the manufacturing sector. The migration of surplus labour from agriculture to manufacturing calls for re-industrialization in the economy based on improving performance through innovation, skills development and reduced input costs.

Promoting agriculture for the development agenda requires fast-tracking the productivity of smallholder farming by supporting small farmers to access land, farming inputs and post-harvest facilities. Agricultural productivity is an important factor in labour reallocation to other sectors of the economy. In this regard, promoting access to fertilizer, expanding irrigational facilities, promoting non-tillage farming and investing in agriculture are pivotal to promoting agricultural productivity that could help link agriculture to poverty and inequality reduction in Namibia.

Furthermore, improving government efficiency, accountability, and responsiveness, controlling corruption and establishing ethical norms, making public, strengthening judicial institutions and decentralizing government, all need to be implemented. All these measures have to be taken by the government as a step to promoting good governance and ease of doing business which strengthens corporate governance.

The reason why I am stressing corporate governance is because we have seen that there is still a need for a corporate governance audit and the role of various organizations to bring in more transparency, accountability and effectiveness in the system. Strengthening corporate governance policies and frameworks will help both existing and new companies access the capital they need.

To conclude, it is true that uncertainties in the global business ecosystem will send crippling headwinds to Namibia. Inflation and supply chain disruptions will remain entrenched for some time. However, domestic demand and the desire of global businesses to look for more resilient and cost-effective investment and export destinations, among other factors, will help Namibia ride this tide of headwinds. The general optimism about Namibia’s economic recovery, although slightly bruised, remains intact.


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